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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why don't we just all save everybody the time and

nuke my home State instead? The unemployment rate just hit 9.3%. I guess some folks are nostalgic for 20%.

Yes, the leaders of the Smaller-by-the-Day 3 are tone-deaf louts.

And for that, we'll drop the hammer on everybody? In every associated industry across the country?

Say, I don't remember people questioning how AIG or Bear Stearns' CEOs tooled around the country.

Lest we forget, not everybody on the Hill is Mr. Smith, either.

Oh, and here's a solid rebuttal of Romney's "Let 'em eat Chapter 11" argument, which made (a few) good points:

But what Romney got wrong in his piece badly undercuts his strong points.

First, he gives the industry no credit for the huge steps already taken to restructure. He cites the inflated price of vehicles due to high benefits costs for retirees, but doesn't mention the significant off-load of those costs that was achieved with the latest labor contract. Certainly, the companies can do more, but the new cost structure, which kicks in next year, goes a long way toward making them competitive with foreign automakers.

Romney doesn't discuss the excess capacity that has been yanked out of all three automakers' production, so much so that they'll be able to more competitively price cars in a way they haven't for decades. He says nothing of the dramatic shift to making high-efficiency vehicles, which should kick into full gear by 2010.

Romney also fails to address how exactly he'd get rid of the expensive retiree benefits he decries, or what effect that would have in other parts of the economy. Yank health care from retired GM workers, for example, and they'll have to go elsewhere for those benefits, probably at a government expense that would exceed the cost of the assistance the auto companies are seeking. Does that make any sense?

Romney also suggests other things the industry has already done.
He insists management must recruit leaders from "unrelated" industries. But both Alan Mulally at Ford (Boeing) and Robert Nardelli at Chrysler (Home Depot) spent most of their careers doing other things. If outside expertise were a magic pill, both of those automakers would be healthy companies today.

Romney says management and the UAW must end the "enmity" that dooms their relationship, but doesn't even acknowledge the grand progress made on that front just in the last year. The labor contracts signed in 2007 were a wonderful example of both sides recognizing the others' needs, and their common interests.

What Romney gets most wrong, though, is the assumption that bankruptcy will somehow fix the problems he cites rather than exacerbate them and cause a raft of others.

How will the companies restructure when a bankruptcy obliterates sales? How will millions of job losses at the auto companies and their suppliers make it easier for the government to invest in the industry's technological future? Or for that matter, to sell cars?

Yes, this is personal. Rachel's godfather works at Ford and a lot of our friends are either Big 3 employees or work in associated industries.

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