Chain Reactions

In the Detroit Bailout Debate, Irony Is the Only Winner

Here’s just a snippet from an AP report issued today. Feel free to play along as I count up how many ironies can emerge from a mere two paragraphs:

“The chief executives of the Big Three automakers appealed personally to lawmakers for the loans this week, and warned that their industry might collapse without them. In testimony, they said their problem was that credit was unavailable, and not that they were manufacturing products that consumers had turned their backs on.”

Apparently, it’s no longer required that CEOs actually read their own annual reports. If they had done so, they’d see quite clearly that consumers long ago turned their backs on most of their products. The Detroit Three have been bleeding red ink for years, long, long before the availability of financing dried up in the wake of the financial crisis.

It’s also fascinating that the CEOs would appeal for help from the same legislators who have been on their backs for years for various reasons (their cars aren’t green enough, their concessions to the unions aren’t wide enough, their product designs aren’t innovative enough).

“But whatever support they found sagged when it became known that each of them had flown into Washington aboard multi-million dollar corporate jets. Reid observed that was ‘difficult to explain’ to taxpayers in his home town of Searchlight, Nev.”

This private jet decision has to rank extremely high on the “what were they thinking?” meter of bonehead decisions. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that they may have feared that had they flown in on a commercial plane, they would’ve been subjected to questions like, “So obviously Delta, and Northwest, and United were able to emerge successfully from bankruptcy, and you didn’t seem to have any problems in getting here. So why can’t your companies retrench the same way the airlines did?”

I also found Reid’s comment delicious, that bit about trying to explain wildly indulgent overspending to his hometown neighbors. Take a look on a map at where exactly Searchlight, Nev., is located. It's not exactly some hole in the wall up near Idaho; in fact, Searchlight is only about a half-hour or so outside of the metro Las Vegas area. There's probably not a single community in the whole world that better understands why the Detroit Three CEOs took private jets than Vegas.

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