2008-11-27 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Toss Out The Auto Bosses—AND David & Co.
By Charles Rogers

When the three chief executive officers (CEOs) of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford got back behind their desks after having testified for two days before Congress the first thing they should have done was fire their respective public relations directors.

"Yeah, boss. I ordered the jet for you just like I always do," one would imagine Mr. P.R. saying to Mr. CEO.

"Right," would say Mr. CEO. "And you're fired!"

It would be logical, I suppose, although possibly unfair, for this person to lose his (her) job for not telling the CEO to take a commercial flight to Wash-ington from his Detroit headquarters. On the other hand, the CEO might have not only been offended, but he might have fired the P.R. person on the spot anyway for even suggesting he lower himself to go-ing First Class.

You can imagine what would have happened if he suggested that the boss should fly Coach!

Actually, as we all know by now, the CEO's attend-ed the hearings so they could ask for "bailout" funding during this imperiled money crisis. Congress will take up the decision-making process within the week and you can be sure — well, pretty sure, anyway, that their choice will be wrong. The decision is whether to let the auto makers enter bankruptcy proceedings or whether they'll be handed a loan of about $25 billion, with the supposed assurance that they won't be back in front of the legislators in another six weeks so they'd do the whole thing all over again (such fun!).

But when you see the arrogance, or, as my colleague Neil S. Friedman says — chutzpah — these people have, it makes you wonder whether they know how to handle either money or business. I mean, how can we, the proletariat American workers, have faith that the more-money-than-anybody capitalists know how to handle their own finances when we can see what they've done to themselves.

Essentially, it's like seeing these moguls come to a loan officer with their hats in their hands — by PRI-VATE JET! Let's face it — How dumb can you get?

Don't fire the P.R. person. Fire yourself!

Now, while we're talking about how proud we are that we have such shrewd heads of the business world working together with our shrewd national legislators (the blind leading the blind), let's let it all hang out on a lower level — such as our state legislators, including Governor David Paterson.

Did you see the "emergency" session last week when Paterson and the head of the State Assembly, Democrat Shelley Silver, and State Senate, Republican Dean Skelos (that will change in January), were argu-ing about budget cuts?

Now, he has been in state government, much less governor, long enough to know how important keep-ing the budget straight is. It's his job, y'know? Yet, until just a month or so ago, he hadn't held more than two meetings with the legislators to discuss the budget and what they propose to do as far as cutting spending. Then, after musing (and posturing) over arithmetically configured sheets of lined paper, he tells us that we need to come up with $2 billion (with a B) in cuts or well all be up somewhere without a paddle and the budget deficit for next year will be $15 billion (with a B, in case you missed it the first time).

In recent years, the state budget has been passed pretty close to the April 1st deadline, although I re-member it having gone months and months without meeting that deadline and social services suffered greatly.

With these two Legislative leaders and this Governor overseeing budgetary arguments this year, I can see our individual State Senators and Assemblypeople sitting around telling each other, "I'm not to blame. We got in the fiscal mess before I got here! Oh, no. Not me!" I'm willing to bet the sessions could go well into summer.

During last week's special session, I must admit I've never seen the usually-mild Paterson so angry, especially when he held the pages of the budget high above the table and shouted, "What have you done with this? NOTHING! NOTHING!" I mean, the pos-turing was blatant, with all three pushing to get their names at the top of whatever dictum would make them appear best to their constituents. It doesn't matter what happens to the budget, as long as it looks like one of the big three elbowed the others into taking a back seat in the headline department. Skelos couldn't care what happens, because he'll be out of the picture as soon as the new year and the Legislature becomes fully under Democratic control, after all.

It sometimes feels like we're living in a Laurel and Hardy movie, with Ollie turning to the camera and saying, "This is a fine mess you've gotten us into...!"

Now that Barack Obama is heading for the White House, maybe we can at least have a hope that things will indeed turn around. I think Washington will bail out the auto industry, as long as they sell their private jets (GM already got rid of two of theirs but now they've got to get rid of the rest and fly Delta) and they must get rid of their management and start over. New York State Government should start over too. Don't ask me how, but getting rid of some of the dead weight wouldn't hurt.

Oh, yeah. Happy Thanksgiving!

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