Hey. Have we named a Secretary of Rustproofing yet? LOL. I couldn’t stop chuckling about that during my running tour of the neighborhood this morning. Actually, credit for that goes to Dana Milbank, writing in The Washington Post:
Minutes before the president’s arrival in the Grand Foyer of the White House, a technician in the back of the room tested the teleprompter for Obama’s speech. “Fourscore and seven years ago,” announced one of the screens in big letters, “our fathers brought on this continent a new nation . . .” In the actual event, Obama opted for a more modest text — less Lincoln at Gettysburg than Krystal Koons cutting an ad for the family car dealerships.
“If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always,” the president promised yesterday morning from the executive mansion.
And that’s not all, folks! “Your warranty will be safe,” the salesman in chief went on. “In fact, it will be safer than it’s ever been, because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.”
Incentives? Obama’s got ’em. “If you buy a car anytime this year, you may be able to deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes,” the president offered. And nobody beats Obama on trade-ins; he wants a “generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less-fuel-efficient cars.”
OK. Back to reality — or at least the reality as I see it standing firmly in my own little echo chamber. Obama got it right yesterday. Good to save the auto companies — and the thousands of jobs that go with it. But at some point Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer have to stop tossing megabucks down a rat hole. (Note to self and Eugene Robinson: Check in a few months to see if that standard applies to the Wizards of Wall Street.)
So now it is up to GM and its new chief, Fritz Henderson, another company lifer, to come up with Plan B. By the way, I like the sound of “Fritz.” That strikes me as a take-charge kind of name. I digress. And Chrysler is gone — at least as we know it. I’m starting to look at the Italian-at-a-glance books in anticipation of my next service call to the Jeep dealer.
And Obama was also correct yesterday when he talked about the crisis in Detroit being a failure of leadership — there and in Washington. The Prez said:
The pain being felt in places that rely on our auto industry is not the fault of our workers; they labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed. It’s not the fault of all the families and communities that supported manufacturing plants throughout the generations. Rather, it’s a failure of leadership — from Washington to Detroit — that led our auto companies to this point.
Year after year, decade after decade, we’ve seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us. Well, we’ve reached the end of that road. And we, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer. Now is the time to confront our problems head-on and do what’s necessary to solve them.
A failure of leadership — responsibility — and ethical conduct. Gee. Just like we used to talk about in those media ethics classes at Kent State. I guess there were some lessons there after all. Bush and team never seemed to understand any of that.
Remember a year ago when Bush could not even admit that we were in a recession — economic or moral?
And as I mentioned yesterday, Michael Moore flagged the decline of the auto industry as well as any historian or commentator in his 1989 film, Roger and Me. Take another look at that documentary. You’ll see the devastation that had already been done to many communities in Michigan that relied on autos. And you’ll see the arrogance — and lack of public concern — demonstrated by GM management and its PR staff.
Lack of leadership. That, to paraphrase Obama, is the can that kept getting kicked down the road.
And by the way, baseball season opens next week. And Citi Field in opening in NYC — at a time when we are closing GM and Chrysler in Detroit.