The latest agreement to "help" the auto industry is not a "breakthrough" as described, but a fiasco that continues almost 40 years of incompetence and dereliction involving the automotive industry and America remaining on its knees to foreign oil. From the oil crisis of the early 1970s what was needed, on autos specifically and energy generally, was clear. Since then Democrats have failed, Republicans have failed, presidents have failed and Congresses have failed. Only Jimmy Carter made a real effort, and he lacked the clout to make it happen.
And now it continues with a fiasco that provides little more than $15 billion for auto companies, which will barely last weeks, and takes the money away from the most urgent mission, making cars of the future that will sell, that affects generations. If we are talking about only $15 billion, Obama should have called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and said: "I want this and I want it now.” Instead, Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke stiffed the Congress and refused to testify. The chairmen of the House and Senate committees should have told Paulson and Bernanke that they would get subpoenas within hours if they refused to do their job and deal with Congress.
Now, Congress is poised to pass inadequate assistance and the death watch will land on Obama's desk Jan. 20. Money will be taken from modernization that is urgently needed, which will only make the problem worse. Instead of coming to Congress with an aggressive plan to compete in world markets with the cars of the future, the auto executives will drive back to Washington after the inaugural and repeat their pathetic begging for assistance from an even worse position than today.
And now, yet again, a lack of leadership by presidents and Congresses continues. Another inadequate plan will be passed, and America will remain on its knees for foreign oil while the auto industry death watch will return to Washington for the next installment.
America urgently needs an auto industry that will succeed, an emergency plan that has power, an upgrade of the industry that will meet the huge global demand for autos that will continue to explode for a generation with the most likely beneficiaries being Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, which has a giant and growing market with the worse brand of protectionism.
America urgently needs the energy plan that is more than three decades late following failure after failure from both parties.
My last post on this subject received comments from the left and right that were serious and thoughtful, more serious and thoughtful than much of what we heard from the auto industry, the Congress, the current or the next president in recent weeks. I hope our discussion here continues and can further a debate that is now a dialogue about little more than death, that continues the fiasco of America on its knees to foreign oil.
First published on The Hill's Pundits Blog