Last month, major American automakers' CEOs were in Washington, hat in hand, begging for a bailout. Despite the urge to ride the assembled executives out of town on a rail, Congress gave the Big Three an ultimatum. Acknowledging automakers legendary ability to make huge sums of cash vanish without a trace, Congress refused to open the coffers unless they heard some specifics.
Those plans have been dutifully laid out throughout the past few days, but to call the proposals unimpressive may be a slight understatement.
It certainly doesnt help the automakers case that the most significant change in policy is asking for more money. In totality, they are increasing the size of the request to $34 billion from $25 billion. Another emendation is a pledge that each of the CEOs will work for a salary of $1, a generous-looking offer, until one considers that each man will still make tens of millions in executive bonuses and other forms of compensation. Other superficial solutions included the pledge to liquidate the company's private jets and generic statements of purpose to increase hybrid production.
Yet, in the end, it remains abundantly clear that automakers still dont get it. Americans want work and they want good cars. When the big money-saving scheme concocted by Detroit includes cutting tens of thousands of jobs while peddling four-wheeled junk, can they be surprised that taxpayers are loath to help them? In their proposal, GM claimed, GM is woven into the very fabric of America. But despite what CEOs may believe, Americans dont care about the fate of their companies. They care about their pocketbooks. And we certainly shouldnt be emptying them just so we can hear more about how indispensable our automakers are.