Last weekend’s Saturday Night Live opened with what I thought was a pretty funny spoof of the House Financial Services hearing with the CEOs of Detroit’s “Big Three.” (Here is the only video link I’ve found, posted on Crooks and Liars.) I have to admit I felt a little guilty for laughing at it though, because it struck me as a little unfairly harsh–even understanding that it’s comedy and a video caricature, after all.
Then one of my personal connections to the Detroit auto industry sent me this column by the Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom (most famous for his brilliant books, Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven). Mitch provides some insight into the “Detroit perspective” on the automakers’ request for federal aid, with a bit of wit and anger. An excerpt:
And the rest of you lawmakers. The ones who insist the auto companies show you a plan before you help them. You’ve already handed over $150 billion of our tax money to AIG. How come you never demanded a plan from it? How come when AIG blew through its first $85 billion, you quickly gave it more? The car companies may be losing money, but they can explain it: They’re paying workers too much and selling cars for too little.
AIG lost hundred of billions in credit default swaps — which no one can explain and which make nothing, produce nothing, employ no one and are essentially bets on failure.
And you don’t demand a paragraph from it?
Well, it seems to me that at least some members of Congress do understand the Detroit perspective on this, including Barney Frank, if you go to this video of the (real) hearing (courtesy YouTube).
And many of us inside-the-Beltway types also sympathize with Mitch’s closing point:
Besides, let’s be honest. When it comes to blowing budgets, being grossly inefficient and wallowing in debt, who’s better than Congress?
So who are you to lecture anyone on how to run a business?
Ask fair questions. Demand accountability. But knock it off with the holier than thou crap, OK? You got us into this mess with greed, a bad Fed policy and too little regulation. Don’t kick our tires to make yourselves look better.