"GOP to Detroit: Drop Dead!"
So may have read the headline Friday, had not President Bush stepped in to save GM, Ford and Chrysler, which Senate Republicans had just voted to send to the knacker's yard.
What are Republicans thinking of, pulling the plug, at Christmas, on GM, risking swift death for the greatest manufacturing company in American history, a strategic asset and pillar of the U.S. economy.
The $14 billion loan to the Big Three that Republican senators filibustered to death is just 2 percent of the $700 billion the Senate voted to bail out Wall Street. Having gone along with bailouts of Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie, Freddie and CitiGroup, why refuse a reprieve to an industry upon which millions of the best blue-collar jobs in America depend?
In a good year, Americans buy 17 million cars. A more populous EU probably buys as many. Three billion people in India, Southeast Asia and China, four times as many people as there are in the EU and United States, are moving toward the middle class. They, too, will be wanting cars. And millions of them love American cars.
Is the Republican Party so fanatic in its ideology that, rather than sin against a commandment of Milton Friedman, it is willing to see America written forever out of this fantastic market, let millions of jobs vanish and write off the industrial Midwest?
So it would seem. "Companies fail every day, and others take their place," said Sen. Richard Shelby on "Face the Nation."
Presumably, the companies that will "take their place," when GM, Ford and Chrysler die, are German, Japanese or Korean, like the ones lured into Shelby's state of Alabama, with the bait of subsidies free-market Republicans are supposed to abhor.
In 1993, Alabama put together a $258 million package to bring a Mercedes plant in. In 1999, Honda was offered $158 million to build a plant there. In 2002, Alabama won a Hyundai plant by offering a $252 million subsidy.
"We have a number of profitable automakers in America, and they should not be disadvantaged for making wise business decisions while failure is rewarded," says Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
DeMint is referring to "profitable automakers" like BMW, which sited a plant in Spartanburg, after South Carolina offered the Germans a $150 million subsidy and $80 million to expand.
Be it BMW, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi or Hyundai, the South has become a sanctuary for foreign assembly plants, for which Southern states have been paying subsidies.
Fine. But why this "Let-them-eat-cake!" coldness toward U.S. auto companies? General Motors employs more workers than all these foreign plants combined. And, unlike Mitsubishi, General Motors didn't bomb Pearl Harbor.