McCaskill Tries to Turn the GM Scandal Into a Government-Spending Issue

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

McCaskill Tries to Turn the GM Scandal Into a Government-Spending Issue

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd interviewed Senator Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) yesterday, and she offered a revealing moment. Todd asked whether the government, in particular the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, had some culpability for the failure to inform the public about the faulty switches earlier.

The evidence is compelling:

A senior NHTSA investigator in September 2007 asked his superiors to open a formal investigation into Cobalt cars for stalling after reports of four fatal crashes but his superiors opted against it. Friedman said the Cobalt only had a slightly elevated risk. In early 2008, one of the special crash reports was completed that showed a link between the key position and the failure of the air bag to deploy.

The agency has just 51 people in its defect investigations unit with a $10.1 million budget — a fraction of the agency’s $800 million. The White House has asked for a small increase in the agency’s defects budget to $10.6 million.

McCaskill told Todd the problem is that we’re not spending enough money. She lamented “Ten million dollars to keep up with the engineering challenges of the modern auto industry? That’s ridiculous! Most of the time around this building, everyone’s trying to cut government.” She repeated the claim in the hearing Wednesday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who chaired the hearing on Wednesday, noted that NHTSA’s defect budget — which only funds about 51 people — has remained flat for about a decade. “Do you believe that $10 million is adequate to spend in this country for defects investigation for the entire automobile industry,” McCaskill said. “We need to have the resources and the expertise at NHTSA to find these defects.”

Is there nothing in that existing $800 million NHTSA budget that can be deemed extraneous or unnecessary, with the funds diverted to this? And how, exactly, would more money make the superiors listen to those engineers? The problem here is one of judgment, not funding.

But the Progressive always has an excuse for government failure; we’re not spending enough money. Never mind that this country dramatically increased its spending on public education with no corresponding improvement in student academic achievement. Never mind that Oregon spent more than $200 million on a health-insurance exchange, with nothing to show for it (the exchange doesn’t work), and Maryland spent $125 million, with nothing to show for it (the exchange is so dysfunctional they’re scrapping it and building a new one).

That same Claire McCaskill, back in late November 2008:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said she’s willing to consider an auto bailout, but not before she Congress gets a clear accounting of the companies’ financial situation.

“We need to behave like a bank,” McCaskill said. “And we need to make sure that we get all of those internal financials and that we feel comfortable that this is a good investment for the American taxpayer.”

Clearly, the financials the U.S. government received either didn’t mention the potential liability issue from these switches, or the government didn’t ask, or it didn’t look too hard. After all, the jobs of unionized auto industry employees were at stake.

That same SenatorClaire McCaskill back in 2010: “Look what’s happened at General Motors. We saved ‘made in America’ for domestic auto production. We saved thousands of jobs, we saved entire communities, because of what we did for General Motors.”

So Democrats find themselves insisting, simultaneously, that losing $10.5 billion in bailing out General Motors was absolutely the right thing to do, because GM is a good company full of good people making good cars, and at the same time this is an abominable outrage, because this is a reckless, selfish company full of irresponsible people making cars that kill people if the key chain is too heavy.

Yesterday McCaskill was denouncing GM’s “culture of a cover up” one moment and then telling GM CEO Mary Barra, “You have a great company and an enormous responsibility to get this right.”

How many “great companies” have “cultures of cover-up”?

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