Democracy in action, badly

The bridge loan package for the Big Three automakers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) failed in the Senate on a procedural vote. On top of all the other nothing that the 110th Senate has done since January 2007, this must ensure their position as the biggest waste of taxpayer money in elective government ever. The session is not yet adjourned, so there is a chance they will revisit the issue, but that chance is very small. Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation have proposed asking President Bush to direct some of the Wall Street bailout money to the automakers—we’re only talking $14 billion of the $700 billion, and all three automakers have huge financing arms so it’s not the biggest stretch to do this. President Bush has already indicated support for the automakers, in the face of vehement opposition from Republican senators from southern states. Lest one thinks I’m going to slam Republicans, it must be known that several Democratic senators voted against the procedural motion that killed the deal. Defeat was a bipartisan effort. Edited to add: See this follow-up entry for some voting details.

It has been incredibly frustrating watching the shenanigans of the Senate over the last few years. It seems that almost nothing gets voted on directly. Bills all fail because of procedural votes. What sank the auto bailout was typical: an attempt to invoke cloture (to end debate, or more specifically to kill a filibuster by one or more senators), which must pass with 60 or more votes. The bill itself would need only a simple majority, but because so often this cloture vote must come up in order for things to progress, it’s as if a supermajority is necessary for everything. That’s why, in the recent election, the Democrats were trying so hard to get 60 senators elected—though it’s obvious that they presently can’t even get the 50 they already have in line.

Anyway, the story isn’t over yet. It sure looks pretty bleak, though. It would be nice if some senators hadn’t thought that it might only look bleak in Michigan, and who cares about Michigan. Truth is, the auto industry is a little bigger than three buildings in Wayne and Oakland Counties. But I suppose they’ll have an opportunity to learn that soon enough.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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5 Responses to Democracy in action, badly

  1. Anonymous says:


    General Motors had offered buyouts to all of its 74,000 U.S. hourly employees. [5] Those workers could have elected to take a lump-sum payment of $45,000 or $62,500, depending on their job description, and retire with full benefits. [6]

    Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a strong bailout supporter, said the UAW was willing to make the cuts – but not until 2011.
    is were citations are posted

    • songdogmi says:

      Re: Jason

      More retirees would not help GM, though. That’s already one of the issues haunting the Big Three, all the legacy costs including the retirees.

      Thanks for commenting. I like the footnotes—I know I didn’t cite any sources, myself (most of what I said is being reported in general newspapers or my own opinion), but I have to applaud people who cite sources.

  2. zenicurean says:

    I can’t comment quite yet, since I’ll need more data to form a comfortable idea of what’s going on. But given the history of the Big Three’s market performance, I’ll likely be applauding this, actually, for the obvious reasons.

    • songdogmi says:

      I could say “How can you be so heartless?” (the Ott Lake Rambler will remember the provenance of this, I’m sure), but things are going to happen anyway. Wages will be cut, jobs will be cut, dealerships will be cut, models will be cut, marques will be cut. Even the number of the Big Three will be cut, most likely. The only question is whether these changes will come suddenly (i.e. January) or in a little more gradual way (during 2009).

      It has been said in the media that the bridge loans that people are calling a bailout will be the cheapest job security program, compared to putting all those people on unemployment benefits. I don’t know myself whether that’s true as I’m not enough of an economist to run the numbers, but it seems reasonable.

      But yes, change is long overdue. Despite my intro, I’m more on your side than not. It’s just that it will be very hard on my state. It was recently announced that Michigan has been in a recession for eight years now, already. A big disruption in GM, Ford, and Chrysler will only pound us flatter. I’m not in the auto industry, but things tend to spill over into my industry sooner or later.

      • zenicurean says:

        It’s going to hurt, can’t really argue it won’t. But it’s a downturn now. Unproductive uses for resources tend to get wiped away during downturns, and as we know, it’s no secret there’s much more to the story than tight credit. We’ll see how it goes for America’s progressively useless car industry now that they’re being forced against the wall for real.

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