Detroit, Mich. – Washington’s lap-dog press obediently wagged their tails yesterday at The One’s announcement that autos would have to achieve an absurd 35 mpg in six years (a 40 percent increase in little over one product cycle). Even the Detroit Free Press — which might ask whether the bankrupt industry in its backyard could afford government edicts that will increase their per vehicle costs from $2,500 to $8,000 — fell in line.
“President Barack Obama announced a historic compromise on tough fuel economy rules,” gushed Washington reporter Justin Hyde, that “were a ‘harbinger of a change’ for Washington.”
The only dissonant note in the Free Press account was a stray thought about whether anyone would actually buy Obama’s dream cars. “The wild card remains consumers,” allowed the Freep. In a consumer-based market economy, consumers are a “wild card?”
Fortunately, media watchdogs still exist.
Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Tankersley took the novel approach of calling sources to find that the “great victory” (as Obama pal Guv Schwarzenegger put it) reached by automakers, greens, and pols was not all hugs and kisses.
In fact, Ford had cold feet about the deal right through the weekend. As the only Detroit company without a direct line to Uncle Sugar, Ford faces the massive costs of new mandates alone.
On Sunday, just two days before Obama’s big Rose Garden announcement, reports Tankersley, “a senior Ford executive said the company had run the numbers again and concluded it might not survive if it accepted the deal.”
Ford might not survive.
“In the end, with more number-crunching and another application of White House pressure, Ford did not bolt,” continued the Times report. And since we know the Obama adminstration threatened Chrysler secured debtholders into submission, “White House pressure” is a loaded term.
Whatever pressure was brought, Ford also likely got guarantees that it would have access to the 3 percent of cap-and-tax revenue Mich. Rep. John Dingell has negotiated as part of the upcoming energy bill.
In an industry where government wields unprecedented power, we need watchdog journalism.
The Times report also bucked its media brethren by actually talking to Republicans and the picture got even more chilling.
“These exact companies were fighting this . . . tooth and nail six months ago, and now suddenly they love it?” Rep. John Campbell (R., Calif.) said, accurately reconstructing the recent past. “No, they don’t love it. This is what this administration is doing: This administration is autocratically forcing people to do whatever it wants.”
Even Schwarzenegger pointed out the 800-pound Rottweiler in the room.
“All of a sudden, the car manufacturers needed . . . the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “So in order to get that help, I’m sure that President Obama said: ‘OK . . . here’s what you need to do.’ “
Translation: Let me make a deal youse Detroiters can’t refuse.