Detroit, Mich. — You asked for it, Detroit.
The Detroit Three won a temporary victory over the weekend when Speaker Pelosi and her green allies relented on freeing $15 billion in DOE money — previously earmarked for retooling plants to produce small cars — to be used as a broader loan to keep the companies solvent into the new year.
But the price of that bailout cash may mean that Congress will tie the money to radically greening the companies’ entire business model – not just the odd production facility.
“You want my tax dollars?” asked influential green columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times this weekend. “Then I want to see the precise production plans and timetables for the hybridization of all your cars and trucks within 36 months.”
Friedman’s diktat was echoed last week from senators like Florida’s Bill Nelson to Democratic mouthpiece David Friedman (no relation to Thomas) of the leftist Union of Concerned Scientists. Taxpayers may think restructuring auto companies means making them more competitive, but the radical green crowd now in power in Washington thinks restructuring means making them more moral.
“They do not have a sustainable business model right now, and if they expect taxpayers to help in that adjustment process, then they can’t keep on putting off the kinds of changes that they should have made 20 or 30 years ago,” said Barack Obama Sunday.
But by “sustainable” he means environmental sustainability. By “adjustment process,” he doesn’t mean axing his union labor allies’ contracts to make them competitive; he means forcing automakers to drop lawsuits against California’s emissions rules mandating a pie-in-the-sky 44-mpg average fuel economy by 2016. And by “changes that should have happened 20 or 30 years ago,” he means investing in expensive battery technology, not affordable internal combustion engines that actually sell.
To this end, Washington Democrats are floating the idea of an oversight board that would include five cabinet agencies including — wait for it — the EPA. In return for a short-term loan to resist bankruptcy, in other words, Detroit’s Three are sacrificing their future to a government-imposed, politically-correct business model.
This is a recipe for nationalization of the domestic auto industry.
“The future survival of the Detroit auto industry depends on the ability to deliver the products consumers need in a world of volatile oil prices and a changing climate,” the leftist Concerned Scientist’s David Friedman told the House Finance Committee.
Note he wants the Detroit Three to produce cars consumers “need,” not the ones they want.
“I also strongly believe that we need a viable domestic auto industry,” continued Friedman, “to tackle America’s oil addiction while avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.” That is, in return for financial sustainability, the Detroit Three will produce cars the government wants (at considerable taxpayer expense), while Japanese and German transplants will produce the cars consumers want.
A New York Times editorial on December 5 said the Detroit Three must “transform themselves into businesses that make fuel-efficient cars, even when gas is cheap.”
This is economic illiteracy. And only government can sustain an economically illiterate business model. The taxpayers are not about to loan to the Detroit Three, they are on a course to own the Washington Three.
– Henry Payne is an editorial writer and cartoonist for the Detroit News.