The auto industry is desperate to get another $25 billion in funding, and it's likely that they'll get it -- though not until the GOP has a go at being the party that killed GM. As we limp toward the well-nigh inevitable bailout, there are some demands on the table.
Under the Senate plan drafted by Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, automakers and their suppliers would have to submit a detailed plan for revamping their businesses and building more fuel-efficient models.
"This is a starting point in the Senate; there'll be a starting point in the House," Levin said. "The ending point is hopefully $25 billion in a bridge loan for the auto industry."
But the version backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released late Monday makes far stricter demands on the industry, giving the government veto power over major business decisions.
The automakers would only get part of the $25 billion now, with the rest coming after they submit a "plan for long-term viability and international competitiveness" by March 31, or face having their first loan called back. Those plans would have to include how the automakers will restructure debt, cut costs and meet fuel economy standards.
Those are fine ideas, and certainly the public has every reason to require that we not toss another $25 billion down a rathole without any expectation of improvement.
But while they're working out what to ask of Detroit, there's one very simple thing that should be at the top of the list. Stop blocking the states that are trying to do the right thing.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is entitled to set more stringent pollution regulations on motor vehicles than the federal Environmental Protection Agency so long as California receives a waiver from EPA. Yet the U.S. automobile industry has prevailed upon the Bush EPA to deny California a Clean Air Act waiver in a decision that was contradicted by the analysis of the EPA's own staff.
For decades, the America auto industry has been "helped" toward the dustbin of history by Senators and Congressmen who have ensured that they don't have to make improvements as quickly as their competitors. Honestly, I don't care if Chrysler throws out every executive, or if GM lays out a blueprint for becoming profitable by 2015. I do care if they're begging for cash while still colluding with the Bush administration to block implementation of the Clean Air Act.