Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama Taking the Wheel

"The first step is half the longest journey."

In this case, the longest journey is back from the rusting gates at the junkyard of our economy if the U.S. automobile industry collapses.

The first small, but significant, step is "Rep. Dingell Loses Energy Post - Waxman to Head Key Panel; Change Is Blow to Automakers." (WaPo)

Why, you may ask, is this change a blow to automakers. Because in Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) they are losing from the House Energy and Commerce Committee chair their premier gas-gussler enabler to no-nonsense Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) fresh from the chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Waxman's victory signaled the rise of a younger, more environmentally conscious party eager to support the policies of President-elect Barack Obama. Waxman's supporters said his win probably would mean a smoother ride through Congress for Obama's energy agenda, which focuses on spending $150 billion on research for producing renewable fuels and 1 million new plug-in hybrid cars.

"Dingell, 82, who was first elected to represent his Dearborn-based district in 1954... has been chairman or ranking Democrat of the energy committee since 1981, at times feuding with fellow Democrats, including Waxman, over efforts to impose fuel-efficiency standards on cars."

Dingell kept the better-gas-mileage-brakes on for the the resistant, short-sighted Detroit manufacturers.

For the automakers who jetted into D.C., the hearings before Congress were a car wreck.

Eugene Robinson points out today in "Detroit: Get a Clue".... (WaPo) The Detroit CEOs "could have hitchhiked to Washington to beg for alms and they still would have been raked over the coals. But the fact that they came in their corporate jets was a bit much."

So the CEOs were sent home with a roadmap for reaching their $25 billion bridge.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) demanded of the jetsetters, "Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future... we cannot show them the money." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed: "We can only help if they (the automakers) are willing to help themselves." (WaPo) The plan is to be submitted to Congress on December 2.

Robinson suggested that "Richard Wagoner of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford should begin the inevitable cost-cutting by firing their public relations consultants.

"They left Capitol Hill empty-handed, but they're bound to get some kind of federal help, however grudging. In the end, I don't think either George W. Bush or Barack Obama wants to be remembered as the president who lost the auto industry."

Or needlessly lost millions of jobs in an unforgiving economy.

(It was just announced that GM is selling two of its private jets.)

All of these course corrections are just baby-steps tottering toward an uncertain future for the U.S. auto industry, an industry that is a critical keystone underpinning the rescue of the American economy.

The longest journey can be successful if it travels.... at last.... in the right direction.

No comments: