I had a guy in here yesterday from China who was talking about the fact that they've quickly reached the point where they'll soon be producing almost 10 million cars a year. Then it won't be that far down the road when China will be producing 20 million units a year -- this contrasted with good years here, we've been doing about 16 million.
And so I think there are, apparently, just looking at it from a distance and not being a expert by any means in the automobile industry, that the American elements of General Motors, Chrysler, and I suppose to a lesser extent Ford, have encountered significant difficulties, I think for a number of reasons. But I'm told they are profitable in many places around the world, but not profitable in the United States. And then I think you've got to analyze -- if you're going to try to solve that problem, you've got to analyze why that might be, and see what changes need to be made in order for those U.S. companies to become economically viable.
And we -- the President, as he's made clear, doesn't want to see any more economic disorder added to the current problems we've got out there of both the financial crisis and being on the downside of the recession. So he's looking at all the options.
Q Is there anything in those discussions about what's wrong with the industry that the government might try to prod along? Is there a couple of things that are on the table that the administration feels is wrong with them?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there are a lot of suggestions that have been made. Congress had some; the House Democrats added some to their package; Bob Corker from Tennessee had some ideas that he tried to get approved on the Senate side. I think the -- I guess the way I would state it is there may well be some steps that need to be taken with respect to improving the industry, but at the same time that I look at that, I'm reluctant to see -- well, let me restate that -- I'm cautious about suggesting that government somehow has all the answers here.
In the end, it really depends upon the board of directors and the management of the company. And they're really the only ones who can guarantee long-term viability. And I'm always a little cautious when getting into the business that politicians in Washington have got all the answers as to how the automobile companies ought to function. I don't think that's always helpful.
Q Sort of along those lines, you've been a long-time fiscal conservative. How do you feel, what do you think about the markedly larger size of the government that this administration is leaving behind -- the size of the deficit, financial commitments that the government now has to a lot of private industries?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, given your druthers, you'd rather not have a growing government in terms of spending, or in terms of authority over the economy. But there are exceptions. And the exceptions historically have been wars. We've been faced since 9/11 with a war, more than one in the sense that you count Iraq and Afghanistan separately.
Defending the nation against further attacks from al Qaeda has been a preeminent concern of ours, and we've spent a lot of money doing that: creating the Department of Homeland Security, enhancing the security of our shipping container business and the airlines, and all of the other things we've done that have made us a safer nation. And then when you talk about what we've had to do in Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of the commitment of troops, the cost of those wars, those have all added to the burden.
But I think it's better to do that than it would be to have ignored those needs and requirements, and seen us not respond the way that the President and I believed we needed to respond to those basic fundamental threats to our nation. I think what al Qaeda represents is a strategic threat of considerable significance. What happened on 9/11 was you had 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters come into the country, destroy 16 acres of downtown Manhattan, do major damage to the headquarters of our military over here at the Pentagon, and kill about 3,000 people. If they had been armed or equipped with a deadly biological agent or a nuclear weapon, we'd have a much larger problem than we did.
So I fully support the spending we did because I think it was essential. And it obviously has, as a byproduct, the fact that it increases the deficit and the overall size of government, but I think this is one of those occasions like World War II when that was appropriate.
Q So much of the debate on the war on terror, particularly as Democrats have encapsulated in Congress, is focused on the legality of the tactics. Could you talk a little bit behind the scenes of some of the discussions that might have focused on the morality and the ethics of the tactics, and whether those things weighed into the discussions that went into --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What kind -- which tactics?
Q Oh, anything from rendition to waterboarding to --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sleep deprivation.
Q -- to deprivation, tactics that were used at Gitmo. Is there any -- I'm sure -- were there discussions that also focused just on American values and whether those can be preserved in the course of trying to protect the country from terror attacks?