The heads of Detroit's Big Three auto makers have scheduled a date to meet with President Bush next month, Karl Rove, senior advisor to the president, said Tuesday. The meeting follows a series of failed efforts undertaken this year for the three parties this year.So what are the many problems implicit in this little story?
Rove, speaking in an interview with Detroit radio station WJR, said the White House often talks to "the auto boys" and that Bush relates to the problems of the Big Three - General Motors Corp. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and DaimlerChrysler AG's (DCX) Chrysler Group.
"We need to find a way to help moderate the very dramatic increase in health-care costs," Rove said.
Bush has consistently said he is not willing to offer the auto makers a bailout. Meanwhile, Detroit executives have said they simply have asked for an audience with Bush to discuss problems and not lobby for a bailout.
"We need to have tax policies and litigation policies," Rove said, suggesting there are ways for the government to help auto makers cut costs, which have been largely responsible for each of the Big Three devising restructuring or recovery plans over the past year.
The news comes one day after Ford reported a staggering $5.8 billion loss for the third quarter. Ford's performance was dragged down by weakness in North America and restructuring costs. Chrysler and GM will report third-quarter earnings Wednesday.
First, to use an auto metaphor, Rove is driving the car. Which means that if the auto industry is having problems, as they have been for years with their escalating and indeed crippling health care and pension costs, it's only of concern at election time. Because Rove is driving the car in Washington. And every issue is weighed through his political prism. So with two weeks to go in the election season, with a Democratic Governor in peril in Michigan, Rove will ride to the rescue (in his mind anyway) and announce a high profile meeting between the "auto boys" and Bush. Got to make the announcement at a time of maximum political impact. So that's the first thing, political considerations driving the federal government's response to the continued bad news out of Detroit (except the Tigers).
Following from the first point, when Rove and Bush only take a concrete step to address a major industry's problems at the height of election, it cements cynicism among people about government's motivations. It destroys people's faith in government as a force for the common good. Government will only be used for the common good under the Bush administration when it's good for their political fortunes. They don't care how it appears, they've gotten away with it thus far.
And then there are the policy solutions they vaguely throw out there.
"We need to find a way to help moderate the very dramatic increase in health-care costs," Rove said.And this:
"We need to have tax policies and litigation policies," Rove said..."They've done nothing to address health-care. Expressing faux concern at this point is supposed to help? And "litigation policies?" The tired refrain suggesting that trial lawyers are the problem for the auto industry? Give me a break. Conservative orthodoxy from an incompetent administration is not going to help GM and Ford. These are vague hints of solutions at the eleventh hour that have little to do with the health-care and pension funding problems that these long time businesses have. So throw in misguided policy solutions as well.
A perfect case study in why Bush and Rove need to be taught a lesson by the electorate.