Calling the Kettle Black


This week’s Congressional hearings with top executives from America’s collapsing auto industry were noted for the manner in which the politicians took the auto execs to task for their personal excesses.

Even though I live in the Detroit area and am already experiencing the nuclear effect of the collapsing economy, I am completely opposed to the proposed bailout for reason consistent with my Libertarian views. There are few examples of poorer management than those of the former "big three." It is not government’s place to extend a U.S. taxpayer’s credit card to these companies as a consequence of their own irresponsible business practices.

However, Congress seeking to shame auto execs over financial excess or poor management practice is the very definition of irony. This is the same public body that daily sets about to regulate every aspect of our private affairs always with disastrous consequences. Among its ranks sit some of the sleaziest operators you could ever find. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is the latest poster child, convicted on seven felony counts for corruption.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman auditioning for national media attention, smugly asked the auto executives if any had flown commercial to Washington, DC. Maybe the auto executives decided not to fly commercial because they would not have arrived in time in light of the Draconian measures employed by the Congressionally created Department of Homeland Security and the unreliability of commercial airlines which continue to suffer the effects of federal regulation.

Sherman’s next question was whether any of these executives planned to sell "their" corporate jets while in DC and fly home commercial. Sherman’s question displays gratuitous sarcasm and ignorance over the fact that the jets are owned by the shareholders not the executives. How many of Sherman’s fellow Congressmen are shareholders in these same automotive companies? Perhaps Sherman should address his question to the next shareholders’ meeting instead.

The Congressional pork-and-graft cycle is so well established that it is as much a part of American history as the Revolution itself. How many junkets have Mr. Sherman and his cohorts taken at the expense of the taxpayer? Auto executives’ salaries and benefits, including travel on corporate jets, are financed with private capital voluntarily invested and subject to approval by shareholders and boards of directors. Congress lives parasitically on public funds extracted by force from private citizens and subject only to their own whim. The lavish benefits and retirement plans Congress has voted for its members make even bloated UAW benefits pale by comparison. What private enterprise provides a pension at full salary for life?

The implication of Sherman’s questioning is that those in charge of the auto companies have played fast and loose with company money while the companies were losing money and the executives continue to make no sacrifices. Yet, Congress takes no personal responsibility for years of irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies by which the federal government has plunged the nation into the worst economic disaster in modern times. While publicly grandstanding about their concern for Main Street, Congress voted to turn $700 billion of Main Street’s dollars over to Wall Street in defiance of overwhelming opposition from their constituents. Then they proceeded to lace the bill with more pork than Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans combined. By the way Mr. Sherman, what pay cuts did you or your fellow politicians take to show solidarity with Main Street? Yeah, I thought so.

Then there is my favorite quote by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. “Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future . . . until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money,” Maybe it is time we held Congress to this standard. Ms. Pelosi, until the American taxpayer can see a plan where Congress is held accountable and a plan for viability on how Congress will operate in the future…until Congress shows the American taxpayer the plan, we cannot show you the money.

November 22, 2008