Comrade Bush’s Car Bailout
How does a GOP president push for full-scale, union-approved, taxpayer-funded central planning?


Deroy Murdock

As he madly dashes further into socialism, Comrade George W. Bush seems determined to lavish billions of taxpayer dollars on Detroit’s automakers — conservatism, Congress, and the Constitution be damned.

Senate Republicans struck a hard blow for fiscal responsibility and the GOP’s free-market philosophy last Thursday when they killed a $14 billion bailout for the Big Three car manufacturers. The measure scored 52 votes to 35, eight Ayes short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster by GOP senators who spurned this latest adventure in big government. One day earlier, the House passed the measure 237-170 with only 32 Republicans voting Yes.

Bush ignored the Senate’s and therefore Congress’ rejection of this bailout for Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Instead, the White House is busy crafting an even larger rescue of Chrysler and GM. According to news accounts, the Bush administration is arranging a $40 billion payout to these two car makers, just days after the Senate just said, “No.”

This is despicable on three counts:

Comrade Bush once again needs to be reminded that there is nothing conservative about corporate welfare. Bush long ago abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism. But rather than recede quietly into the reeds before leaving the White House January 20, he seems hell-bent on killing with an axe what remains of the Republican Party’s central organizing principle: limited government. Bush’s eight-year-long spending spree, his signature on at least 69,341 earmarks, his barely touched veto pen, his $783 billion Medicare drug entitlement, and his massive financial bailout (so far: $3.35 trillion in actual outlays and $13.35 trillion in total guarantees and commitments) apparently are not enough. Bush believes that what taxpayers really need is yet another $40 billion for Detroit to spend with little assurance that automakers will make the major reforms needed to restore their competitiveness.

If the next deal resembles the last one, Uncle Sam will take a 20-percent equity stake in each car maker in exchange for bailout billions — something unthinkable as recently as Labor Day. If so, these partial nationalizations would turn General Motors into Government Motors.

Bush also embraced (and may reintroduce) the idea of a federal “Car Czar” who would supervise the Big Three, approve all their expenditures above $100 million, and somehow manage the affairs of three companies that compete against each other. This is pure, dirigiste industrial policy.

If Comrade Bush were a horse trader, the other guy would get both stallions, as Bush ended up holding a saddle.

“Americans are getting to see firsthand what it’s like to negotiate with the union bosses at the UAW,” said Senator Jim DeMint (R., S.C.). “It’s heads they win, tails you lose. The unwillingness of the union to accept common-sense reforms to help the American automakers restructure and to save thousands of jobs demonstrates an arrogance that is outrageous.”

DeMint identifies another frustrating facet of Bush’s frantic efforts to cuddle up to the Big Three and their labor union. Bailouts are bad economics and terrible moral policy. (Wave goodbye to social conservatives’ key tenet: self-reliance.) Nonetheless, if there must be an auto bailout, couldn’t Bush at least secure something for his conservative and free-market allies who put him in office and loyally defended him for years as he slowly delivered the thousand cuts that still may be our death? Bush should have insisted on at least one of these proposals as his price for supporting an auto bailout:

End the UAW’s “union shop” monopoly that compels employees to join as a requirement of working for any of the Big Three. “Forced unionism restricts Americans’ right to work and encourages the kind of arrogance we have seen with the UAW,” DeMint added. “Forced unionism is outdated and destructive.”

If not for all auto employees, henceforth protect at least the Right to Work for the Big Three’s new hires.

Excuse the Big Three from the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards that force them to increase their mileage at tremendous cost while simultaneously struggling to stay afloat.


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