Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven is an unapologetic Detroit lover. That’s no big surprise, I suppose, given that he works for the Detroit Free Press.
Albom is also known for his plain talk and his editorial piece this past Sunday, “If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks“, is no exception. No matter where you stand on the whole auto company bailout/bridge loan issue, Albom makes some pretty damn good points.
The column is the speech Albom would have given if he had had five minutes on the floor of Congress to speak directly to the lawmakers when they were grilling the CEOs of Ford, Chrysler and GM last week. In it, he rightly calls them out on the hypocrisy of giving blank checks to the financial industry while raking the auto companies over the coals. Ironically, he wrote the column before the overnight, no-strings-attached quickie $20 billion loan to CitiCorp announced yesterday.
Here’s Albom speaking directly to a couple of Senators:
Sen. Shelby. Yes. You. From Alabama. You’ve been awfully vocal. You called the Detroit Three’s leaders “failures.” You said loans to them would be “wasted money.” You said they should go bankrupt and “let the market work.”
Why weren’t you equally vocal when your state handed out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda and others to open plants there? Why not “let the market work”? Or is it better for Alabama if the Detroit Three fold so that the foreign companies — in your state — can produce more?
Way to think of the nation first, senator.
Ooo. Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.
But Shelby wasn’t his only victim:
And you, Sen. Kyl of Arizona. You told reporters: “There’s no reason to throw money at a problem that’s not going to get solved.”
That’s funny, coming from such an avid supporter of the Iraq war. You’ve been gung ho on that for years. So how could you just sit there when, according to the New York Times, an Iraqi former chief investigator told Congress that $13 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds “had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste” by the Iraqi government?
That’s 13 billion, senator. More than half of what the auto industry is asking for. Thirteen billion? Gone? Wasted?
Where was your “throwing money at a problem that’s not going to get solved” speech then?
Owie. That stings.
Look, I’m the first person to admit that the Detroit auto companies have been mismanaged and that they have avoided making the innovation decisions that were both right for the environment and what car buyers want. Their ridiculous showboating arrival in Washington, D.C. in three separate private jets was about as smart as Sarah Palin giving an interview in front of a turkey abattoir. They are so far removed from the people whose jobs that need to be saved that they aren’t even able to see why there is so much objection to their multi-million dollar salaries.
I get that. I do.
But I also see the utter hypocrisy of giving bankers and financial types bailouts that are an order of magnitude larger than what the Big Three are asking for as loans (not gifts: loans), doing it with no requirements for coming back with business plans and doing it with next to no oversight whatsoever.
And Mitch Albom sees hypocrisy in one other element of this as well:
… let’s be honest. When it comes to blowing budgets, being grossly inefficient and wallowing in debt, who’s better than Congress?
So who are you to lecture anyone on how to run a business?
Ask fair questions. Demand accountability. But knock it off with the holier than thou crap, OK? You got us into this mess with greed, a bad Fed policy and too little regulation. Don’t kick our tires to make yourselves look better.
Yeah, Mitch Albom is an unabashed Detroit lover, no question.
But he’s also a pretty astute guy.
I’m just sayin’…