Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Auto Execs’ Private Jet Travel Like Guy At ‘The Soup Kitchen In High Hat And Tuxedo’

Think Progress, with video, links, and comments.

Today, the CEOs of the Detroit Big Three returned to Capitol Hill to ask for $25 billion in loans. Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner insisted, “We’re all slashing back” on non-essential expenses, promising, “We’re going to be dramatically leaner.” The other executives echoed Wagoner’s pledge to be “leaner” in the future.

However, as ABC news reported last night, all three executives flew private jets to Washington, DC, for yesterday’s and today’s hearings:

Minutes after Wagoner claimed to be “slashing back” on expenses, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) evoked their private jet travel, calling it a “delicious irony.” Ackerman said the CEOs’ profligacy made Congress “a little bit suspicious” of their austerity pledges:

There’s a delicious irony of seeing private luxury jets flying into DC, and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. Kind makes you a little bit suspicious as to whether or not…we’ve seen the future. There’s a message there. Couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled to get here? It would have at least sent the message that you do get it.

Later in the hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked if any of the executives planned to sell their private jets; none raised his hand. Sherman was exasperated: “I don’t know how I go back to my constituents and say, ‘The auto industry has changed,’ if they own private jets which are not only expensive to own but expensive to operate and expensive to fly here rather than to have flown commercial.”

That's the way those dinosaurs think: we want billions of taxpayer money but we're special and refuse to give up anything in return, let alone change our way of thinking that has made us all rich, impoverished our companies, and threatened the livelihoods of millions of peasants.

GM needs to be dealt with in a way that puts the writing on the wall for the other two of the Big Three: Fire all these clowns, make 'em stop thinking they're too big to let fail, let 'em go Chapter 11 bankruptcy, loan 'em some money due to the credit crunch so they can restructure and demand it be repaid, make 'em get lean and mean and go green, and get on with it, smaller and wiser.

I'm pro-union, but I haven't bought a new UAW-made car in many years. I've never made more than $10 an hour in my life. Why should I buy a car made by folks who earn three times that when I can get a better vehicle that's made in the U.S. by reasonably well-paid non-union American workers a lot cheaper?

I'm sorry about the effect all this is going to have on UAW members but that's the way it's going to have to be. The old days are gone for management and worker alike.

Since health care costs are part of the old auto industry's non-competitiveness, it deserves a word: Medicare in the short term, single payer universal health care in the long term.

If you would like to read a prescient old book about the American automobile industry's downfall, find a copy of Whatever Happened To The British Motorcycle Industry?. Shorter: complacency, short-sightedness, and greed.

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