Harry Reid has never been my favorite person. He is less so today; the lack of leadership that he and his Senate pals have shown on the automaker bailout bill is damning. I just don't get the logic from an economic standpoint-- less so from a strategic standpoint.
From an economic perspective, it makes little sense. The sum was $25 billion. An unfathomable amount of money, sure. But in the context of $700 billion, what's the difference, really? To put it in terms I can roughly deal with, if I'm going to give $700 to save the asses of some irresponsible jerks in hopes of staving off a ripple effect, why can't I cough up the extra $25 to help save the asses of a few stupid jerks who employ hundreds of thousands of people and provide an economic engine for thousands of small businesses?
The ridiculous part is that the $25 billion is already there, earmarked for helping the companies retool for producing more fuel efficient cars. But the Democratic leadership in the Senate said 'no'.
But there was little sign that Democratic leaders would go along.
"We have to face reality," Reid said.
They are vehemently opposed to letting the car companies tap the fuel-efficiency money — set aside to help switch to vehicles that burn less gasoline — for short-term cash-flow needs.
Fat lot of good the retooling will do if the companies go under. Or is the plan to let them go into Chapter 11 and then sell of the parts of the companies to the Japanese and Korean automakers? So they can operate more non-union plants in North America? If this is the case, the Senate Democrats are complicit in some Reagan-style union busting.
This is bad for Democrats from a perception standpoint. No one will remember that the worst anti-bailout vitriol came from the Republicans. They will only remember the party in the majority. The Democrats finally just welcomed hard-hit, blue collar states like Indiana and Ohio into the Blue State Club-- if they aren't careful, they are going to piss it all away. The biggest problem Democrats face in these areas is the perception that the national Democratic Party is out-of-touch and elitist-- the Republicans (who are the real out-of-touch elitists) were able to foment this distortion and use it to win elections. Now finally over that hump, Reid and friends aren't helping the cause going forward. Couple that with the challenge John Dingell is facing from Henry Waxman for chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and union autoworkers might be getting pretty impatient with a party that already makes a habit of talking more about labor than actually helping it.