Sunday, November 23, 2008


               L to R Rick Wagoner (GM),Robert Nardelli,(Chrysler)Alan Mulally,(Ford)

Diana once referred to herself as "thick as a plank." The ill-fated Princess of Wales obviously never met any auto executives -- management or union. If she had, she would have immediately labeled herself a genius.

As proof, let me offer the spectacle of the top execs of the Big Three U.S. automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, arriving in Washington on Wednesday, each in his own special private jet.

"They got off those private executive jets with tin cups in hand," said one irate Senator, referring to the $25-billion bailout for which the three came begging.

And in an effort to prove he deserves Imbecile of the Year award, Richard Wagoner, GM's CEO, stood up in Congress and announced straight-faced that there was nothing wrong with the GM product.

He went on to blame the entire auto mess -- the fallen stocks, the dearth of buyers, the fact that the company's cash is fast disappearing -- on "the global credit crisis." In other words, if people could just get easy credit they'd buy up GM products crazy fast.

This is the man who, for the last eight years, pushed GM toward bigger trucks and SUVs that slurp gas like an alcoholic on a six-month binge. This is the man who got a $9-million 2007 bonus.

Not to be outdone, Chrysler's Robert Nardelli nattered on about how the auto market got caught up in the general U.S. economic exuberance, catering to people who dined on faux real estate wealth. Alan Mulally of Ford had nothing better to offer.

Note that the Gormless Three were backed by United Auto Workers union president Ron Gettelfinger, who sat there nodding mindlessly in agreement.

Meanwhile, our Canadian equivalents are long-sighted and less dense, right? Not bloody likely. Just listen to Ken Lewenza, newly elected president of the Canadian Auto Workers union. In a TV interview on Monday, he was asked if auto workers will have to make some concessions if the industry is to survive in Canada.

Bristling like a porcupine with eczema, Lewenza huffily insisted workers have already done their part.

"We don't see this as us being the problem," he said, adding he would "absolutely not" accept further cuts after losing tens of thousands of jobs in recent years.

"We've suffered our share of pain," he said petulantly, unable to grasp that both sides must make huge concessions in order to survive. Witless.

But all of these big execs -- management and union -- are eager to point out the damage that will occur if one or all of the Big Three collapse. Auto and union execs alike all sing the same sky-is-falling hymn.

"Three million jobs will be lost within the first year," Wagoner warbled disingenously.

Think of the tax revenue the government will lose and think of the ripple effect, chorused Nardelli and Mulally, hands outstretched for the $25 billion.

And they're right. Trouble is, none of them accepts responsibility, will commit to change or mend their ways. They stubbornly continue to worship at the church of yesterday. And beg for money.

Congressional leaders told the executives to return in 12 days with a concrete plan. They stopped short of ordering them to sell their private jets on eBay.

"It's all about accountability and viability," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference.

"Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable ... until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money."

Good, but she better get it in writing. Anything less is simply too thick for words.

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