Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Rogue's Gallery

If you are wondering who these three unappealing men are, and why they merit your brief attention, here is the answer: they are Mr. Wagoner of GM, Mr. Nardelli of Chrysler and Mr. Mulally of Ford, all come a-begging for your tax dollars at a hearing in Washington this week. They claim that without billions in immediate aid, their automobile companies will wilt like Mayflies in early June and disappear altogether.

Having arrived each in his own corporate jet, and each fortified by a paycheck that earns him in a week what many will never see in their best-paid years, they put aside their competitive differences, set out their tin cups before them and proceeded to disgrace themselves and their companies in ways that could never have been imagined.

Had anyone attempted to concoct a world's-worst script for beggary, it certainly would have included arrival at the begging location by personal jet. It would also have included very recent assurances from the board of GM that "nothing has shaken" the confidence they have in the fine gentleman now overseeing their disaster; in response to which no less a friend-of-business than George Will wondered: "not even the destruction of nearly all shareholder value"?

This arrogant, unimaginative, unsuccessful triumvirate deserves no quarter. They have built wretched vehicles for over thirty years--squandering the devotion of a willing consumer base that would have bought their cars out of patriotism if only they weren't expensive, poorly-constructed, poorly-serviced, poor on gas mileage, and especially if they only stopped looking like the tail ends of donkeys compared to the trim, attractive offerings from overseas.

When asked if they would reduce or eliminate their own salaries as part of the "plan" for eventual success should they get bailed out, they demurred. When asked if they had done anything wrong, they said they had not. When asked to describe how they would use the money to transform their companies, they could not.

All of the above notwithstanding, I actually do believe their companies should, somehow, be rescued--or at least their workers' jobs should be.

My question to Congress is: why ask these guys to tell you anything at all? They clearly know nothing about running, and especially rescuing, a car company.

How about getting someone else up on the hill to testify? How about getting testimony from, say, two or three men and women from the production line? Doesn't it seem like the taxpayer would be a thousand times more willing to give these companies a shot if, instead of sending in these pampered clowns to beg for stuff they cannot genuinely care about (their fortunes already assured), the companies sent in (or Congress called in) some folks whose livelihoods actually depended on, and who might actually deserve, a helping hand from the electorate?

I am waiting.