Read Eric's bio and previous columns
December 8, 2008
Democrats Outmaneuvered Bush on Big Three Bailout
The Democratic Congress has finally figured out how to do
something that it hadn’t been able to do over the last two years – enact
part of its platform over the objections of President George W. Bush.
A blaring headline on the liberal clearinghouse web site
The Huffington Post declared on Friday that Congress had followed a
well-worn path – it had caved into the demands of the nation’s
least-popular president ever in crafting emergency assistance for the
Big Three automakers.
At first blush, it might appear to be true. All along, the
president had insisted that any emergency aid – so-called bridge loans –
come from money previously set aside to help the Big Three retool to
build more efficient, more technologically advanced automobiles. A deal
reportedly brokered among congressional Democrats would do exactly that.
But follow-up comments revealed that some political
maneuvering, based on basic competence, was afoot. House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi said that the money would come from that retooling fund, but that
it would probably be replaced after President Bush left office.
After that, with stronger Democratic majorities in both
chambers of Congress and a Democratic presidency, money set aside to
bail out Wall Street could go to help the nation’s automakers.
While the president got what he wanted in the short term,
in the long term that won’t matter.
Already a mostly inconsequential figure when it comes to
actual policy setting, the president’s support for using money set aside
to help the Big Three manufacture fuel-efficient cars really means
appealing to a very small constituency, people opposed to helping the
Big Three at all.
Opposition to helping the Big Three, in Congress, comes
mostly from southern lawmakers who see potential gain in letting
Detroit’s automakers flounder and fail. Their states are home to a
burgeoning presence of foreign-owned automobile companies, who can
operate free from having to make good on contract promises to help
It also comes from people ideologically opposed to the
government taking over any responsibility of the market. Wealth
flourishes where government stays out. It’s a nice thought – someone
ought to maybe try it some day.
But the opposition was badly hurt by the latest employment
data released Friday, showing a loss of more than half a million jobs.
This lent weight to warnings by economists before Congress that the loss
of just one of the Big Three could collapse the very delicate spider web
of manufacturers, suppliers and auto dealers. The resulting carnage
could claim as many as 3 million jobs.
This is where congressional Democrats finally managed to
beat the president and outmaneuver their Republican counterparts. After
Barack Obama takes office, it will be Democrats who will be able to put
their stamp on economic stimulus and rescue bills. While some economists
are warning of coming doom, others think that the economy could well
turn the page at the end of 2009 and begin being rebuilt.
During 2009, it will put Democrats in a favorable position
to rekindle a theme from the presidential campaign – Wall Street versus
Main Street, except that Main Street will be a place where things are
made and regular Americans are employed. Wall Street, of course, will be
where the nation’s prosperity was flushed away by greed, incompetence
and bad debt. Democrats, in having focused economic rebuilding efforts
on things that employ thousands of people, get to claim the mantle as
champions of Main Street.
If that’s the case, Democrats will be able to claim the
mantle of having rescued the economy just in time for the 2010 off-year
campaign season, a year critical because its results will directly
impact how congressional and legislative districts are drawn.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.