Anyone Seen the Guy Who Gave GM $49 Billion in Taxpayer Money?

by Jim Geraghty

Also in today’s Jolt:

Has Anyone Seen The Guy Who Gave GM $49 Billion in Taxpayer Money?

Remember Steve Rattner? From his own biography: “Rattner served as Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury and led the Obama Administration’s successful effort to restructure the automobile industry, which he chronicled in his book, Overhaul: An Insider’s Account of the Obama Administration’s Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry.” You know, the car czar.

Over on his personal website, his most recent article is on challenges to Europe’s economies. He wrote it March 21.

Over on his blog, the most recent entry is from March 17, on the missing Malaysian jet.

Rattner was on ABC News This Week Sunday, but he talked about manufacturing wages, not GM’s problems or the bailout. ABC News did a separate interview with him, asking him how he felt about the “car czar” nickname, but not about GM.

A Google News search reveals Rattner has gone largely unmentioned in the coverage of the GM defective-switch scandal. He’s not saying much on his own venues, and apparently no one wants to ask him any questions about President’s Auto Industry Task Force, just how thorough their review of GM was, and how they managed to miss so many consequential lurking safety issues.

Allow me to spotlight two sentences in Michael Moore’s rant about the GM defective-switch scandal that indicate the mental leap our progressive friends have to make when discussing this story:

Only now, under the newly-configured GM — owned, essentially, by you and me from 2009 through last year — has the truth come out . . . 

I hope someone in the Obama administration will get out the handcuffs, the SWAT teams, or the U.S. army if need be, march into GM headquarters in downtown Detroit and haul away anyone who is there who had anything to do with this. And if they already left town, hunt them down and bring them in to face justice.

“Anyone who had anything to do with this”? Would that include “the owners from 2009 through last year”?

The GM bailout put big government and a big corporation in bed together; now Moore only wants to blame one spouse. To give him a smidgen of credit, he was sufficiently distrustful of GM that he wasn’t cheerleading President Obama’s bailout back in 2009: “Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM?” Of course, Moore wanted President Obama to “immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices” because “things we call ‘cars’ may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.” I guess he walks everywhere. (Friendly reminder: Michael Moore has a $2 million, 10,000-square-foot mansion in Torch Lake, Michigan, that he must somehow heat and cool without any carbon emissions.)

There is plenty of blame to go around here. First there’s the serious accusation that GM hid just how deadly the problem could be:

In particular is the charge from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official that the agency had no knowledge in the link between faulty ignition switches and airbag non-deployments. “GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect,” said David Friedman.

Then there’s the charge that federal safety inspectors and regulators are now blaming GM to divert attention from their own bureaucratic inertia . . . 

However, former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook took her former employer to task yesterday, saying, “NHTSA has fallen into a bureaucratic quagmire that it uses to avoid opening investigations and determining safety defects while people are dying unnecessarily on the highway. . . . It is past time for NHTSA to put the public first in its safety defect decisions.” The NHTSA has been faulted for not fully looking into the issue, as they concluded in 2007 that there wasn’t enough evidence to press for an investigation.

Says Friedman, “We believe our defects investigation program and recalls process has functioned extremely well over the years in identifying defects that create unreasonable risks and ensuring that recalls occur whenever appropriate. Even so, we continually seek ways to improve.”

Remember, this administration tied itself at the hip to General Motors’ leadership. Not many CEOs get invited to the State of the Union.