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Contentions

Car Crash

After much anticipation, we learn that the Obama team is not going to name a Car Czar. Instead we’re getting “an inter-agency task force” run byTim Giethner and Larry Summers and advised by a special assistant to the President of the Steelworkers Union. Let’s count the ways in which this is awful news.

First, on the heels of the administration’s failure to deliver on its promise of a detailed bank bailout, the administration now announce it isn’t making good on its stated intention, some would say obligation, to name a Car Czar. This is fast becoming the Unreliable Administration. (It’s a new management style apparently: Overpromise, Underperform.) As the New York Times reports, the decision has left everyone in the lurch: “The automakers had been expecting the appointment of a car czar to break the logjam of negotiations with the United Auto Workers over the finances of a retiree health care trust, and with bondholders about reducing the companies’ debt.”

Second, this appears to be one big punt. This suggests the Obama team is not capable or interested in putting needed pressure on the car companies, unions and bondholders to come up with their plan for a viable domestic auto industry. Or the White House simply doesn’t know what to do or what type of plan it wants. A mixed bag of representatives from a half a dozen agencies has all the making of a bureaucratic nightmare.  Third, by selecting a union official, characterized by the Times as an “in- house banker” for unions, the administration has not exactly come up with an honest broker between management and labor.The UAW would now be guilty of representational malpractice if it made any concessions. Fourth, the inter-agency task force is being co-headed by Tim Geithner, who is already and obviously overwhelmed by the bank bailout plan.

None of this is confidence-instilling. Moreover, it suggests once again that the Obama White House’s personnel management and policy development processes are seriously hobbled for reasons which are not yet clear. Whatever the reason, they better nip this in the bud or it’ll be a long four years.



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