Thursday, November 20, 2008

Strange bedfellows

I've been trying to get worked up about this CEOs of the Detroit Big Three flying private jets to Washington, D.C. for their congressional grillings, but I'm having a hard time. Not to say it wasn't a monumental error in judgement on their part and, in a sense, underlines how disconnected from reality those folks are ($28 million a year salaries for driving businesses into the ground can do that from time to time ...), but we're in essence arguing over the negative PR impact of this and not really recognizing that the expenditures to fly were mere pennies with regard to their existing budgets and requests for funds.

All of that said, this column by Mitt Romney (!) isn't that bad of a read. I know that's a horrifically bizarre thing for me to say, but there it is. Naturally, I disagree with Romney's heavy focus on the labor agreements as being a primary source of the problem, but I think he provides rather fair commentary with regard to the rest of the mess.

His assertation that management must change is something I agree with, and I think the following is a solid proposal ...

It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. ...

I'm not sold on the bankruptcy notion (but, then again, I'm not sold on the massive bailout package either), but at least there's some rational arguments put forward here.


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