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Opinion: A Waste of a Good Man’s Time

Safety is secondary when politics becomes theater.

by on Jan.30, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson at last week's Congressional hearing on the Chevy Volt.

So much of Washington is political theater, meant to do nothing except entertain, advance political ambition, or provide political cover.

Consider what happened here last Wednesday.

The augustly titled House Subcommittee on Government Reform and Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending called a hearing.

Was it to congratulate Detroit’s chief executives and workers on busting their tails to save the domestic automobile industry, the major component of American manufacturing? Was it to congratulate General Motors Co., three short years after going through bankruptcy, for regaining the global sales crown? Was it even to conduct a cursory review on how GM, 26.5% owned by the federal government, has been using taxpayer money?

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No. It was none of those things. Instead, the Republican-controlled subcommittee, which has subpoena power,  was “investigating” already explained and thoroughly understood, by anyone with the practical sense to understand such things, latent fires occurring in a few plug-in electric Chevrolet Volts days and weeks AFTER they had been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Winners, Losers and American Car Buyers

by on Oct.20, 2011

Who won when GM and the UAW hammered out a new contract? Do consumers really care?

The trouble with our winners-losers society is that it often misses the point of the game.

Consider the recently concluded talks between the United Auto Workers union and Detroit’s car companies.

Critics of those agreements contend that the manufacturers got four years of labor peace for little or nothing. They are missing the point, which is this:

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The American consumer, the third and most important party at the bargaining table, does not give a damn.

As long as that remains the case, the UAW should be happy to have any contract at all.

Here’s why:


What Does Washington Make?

Detroit builds cars, DC makes crises, says capital city columnist.

by on Sep.28, 2011

Crises are built here like an assembly line, says our Washington columnist.

Conventional wisdom says this city makes nothing, that we are just a place of words and bureaucracy.

Conventional wisdom is not quite right.

Washington manufactures crises—big-time crises, completely unnecessary crises, costly crises, the kind that drain money and opportunity from current and future generations while resident politicians complain that we now have a debt crisis stemming from our previous crises.

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What happened here in the last few weeks is sadly representative. Nationwide, fifteen American cities had been devastated by fire and water. People lost lives and property in sweeping Texas wildfires and the flood waters spawned by Hurricane Irene. Folks hurt by those disasters turned to Washington for help. Washington gave them a crisis.


Commentary: Will Common Sense Prevail at the Auto Talks?

Maybe not, if the dust-up at Chrysler is any indication.

by on Sep.16, 2011

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

I have been hoping that the United Auto Workers and the Detroit car companies would reach quick, amicable agreements in their current round of contract negotiations.  Even though Chrysler and GM – where the union seems to be initially focusing its attention – can not be struck under terms of their 2009 federal bailouts, no one needs the drama of an impasse.

But that may be precisely what we’ve got.  As first reported earlier this week, leaders of the United Auto Workers Union have put on hold talks at Ford, where a quick settlement seemed unlikely.

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But more worrisome, UAW Pres. Bob King appears to have created a real dust-up by missing a key appointment with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne – who canceled a European meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to return to Detroit. A letter from Marchionne suggests that the UAW chief only hurt his workers in the process.

It is, to my mind, one more example of the union’s increasingly questionable way of doing business, especially in a recession, especially in the Age of Wal-Mart.  Simply stated, no one gives a damn about organized labor’s notion of “solidarity,” which is why Wal-Mart remains the world’s largest retailer.


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