The Wall Street Journal reports that Washington politicians are close to a bailout for the Big 3 automakers in Detroit. It's a complex deal and details are emerging, but President Bush, in one last great, well-intentioned and deeply destructive act, is about to help Congressional Democrats nationalize the auto industry.
"The auto industry would undergo a restructuring process akin to bankruptcy reorganization, only with fewer rigors and with the government, not a judge, in control, and with many associated political complications," reports The Wall Street Journal. "The program would be overseen by an official, tapped by President George W. Bush, whom congressional aides and lawmakers describe as an 'auto czar.' This person would act as a kind of trustee with authority to bring together labor, management, creditors and parts suppliers to negotiate a restructuring plan. He or she also would be able to review any transaction or contract valued at more than $25 million."
So President Bush, apparently delighted with the success treasury secretary Hank Paulson has had as our banking czar at jump-starting the economy, would replicate that model for another industry and concentrate immense power in one politician's hands in the vain hope that something good will come of it.
What Washington has exacted from the auto industry so far is what Washington specializes in: moral kabuki theater. Oh, they are going to be so especially strict on those awful car executives: No pay for you auto executives! (Oh yes, they will let you failed executives keep your jobs and attempt to bail out your stock price, but they're hoping maybe the voters won't notice.)
I don't want Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel and Mitch McConnell to get together and decide what kind of cars Detroit should make. The idea is absurd. Nationalization of the car industry is a recipe for perpetual bailouts -- paid for by taxpayers -- in exchange for political contributions to the lawmakers who keep the taxpayer money flowing.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.