The auto bailout: an open letter to my congressman & U.S. senators

To: Representative Ruppersberger, Senator Cardin & Senator Mikulski
Re: Congressional hearings on the auto industry bailout

Dear Dutch, Ben and Barbara,

Please vote against any auto company bailout.

The recent congressional testimony of the GM, Ford and Chrysler CEOs and the UAW president have been unimpressive and uninformative. It's been over 30 years since their wake-up call in the 1970s. They've had plenty of time and been given too many chances -- and they have always fallen short .

I've owned two GM cars in the past 15 years and most recently a Ford. With the Ford, I've dealt with too many major repairs, innumerable fit-and-finish problems, and six or eight recalls. My mechanic tells me (over and over), "Never buy a Ford again."

Management at GM, Ford and Chrysler will not make the necessary changes unless they are forced by bankruptcy. This is clear from the CEOs' choice of transport on their visit to DC two or three weeks ago. The US Congress is the last group of people who should be telling car manufacturers which technologies to choose, how many brands they should have, and so on. Such micro-management of an industry by Congress is a disastrous recipe for market dislocations, waste and environmental problems.

Nor will the United Auto Workers make necessary changes without bankruptcy. This is clear from a recent tidbit form Mickey Kaus: despite President Gettelfinger's vague claims of union concessions, the UAW "did not discuss wage and benefit concessions for active employees".

I trust the bankruptcy process to fix the auto industry most quickly and with the least amount of pain. I do not trust current management or union leadership to make changes other than slow and painful ones. If GM is allowed to go bankrupt, the Warren Buffetts of the world will step up, provide funds, and push for quick sensible changes.

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