Thursday, December 04, 2008

Style Over Substance

Last week, the CEO's of the Big Three auto manufacturers went to Washington to plead for a government subsidy of their collapsing welfare distribution agencies. That's what the union mandated fiscal outrages are, welfare for undereducated and unproductive workers making less than attractive products which can't compete in a free market.

Their faux pas was that they traveled to the Senate hearings in their corporate jets. The showboating Senators fixated on that tidbit and the slavering media highlighted the irony of pleading bankruptcy while enjoying corporate perks. But take a minute to exercise some common sense here.

We're talking about $25 BILLION in corporate bridge loans and subsidies, not a three million dollar Gulfstream. We're talking about folks at the highest rung of the corporate ladder whose time is precious and who are expected to conserve that time and apply it to the benefit of the company. We're talking about corporate jets which are already owned and were purchased for exactly the purpose that they were used for. In other words, the companies did what most major companies do. They provided modern tools for their management leaders to do the most productive work. The cost of the flights was minuscule in the big picture here compared to the waste of booking on a scheduled airline with all of the hassle which that entails these days.

But, they learned. This week we have this:

Not As Good as Camry or Altima

Yep. The three high-rollers return to the Washington carnival, but this time driving! And, they are driving suitably "green" vehicles. They are putting along in their finest mid-size sedan hybrids. Getting 34 miles to the gallon, feeling the cuddle of the cloth seats (leather not available with hybrid engine), rubbing their uncalloused hands along the luxuriant plastic dashboard and interior facing, and hopefully listening to liberal talk radio shows as they languish in traffic jams and bounce along deteriorating Interstates.

Is this meaningful? Is it practical? Is it economical? Is it justifiable? Is it monumentally stupid?

3 comments:

Scott said...

Thank you for being one of the only blogs I've read that thinks the whole thing with the corporate jets was absurd. It's not like they were being whisked away to some sunny resort like the banking companies keep getting caught doing.

Carter Kaplan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carter Kaplan said...

I have a friend who is an engineering dept. head with GM. He's a life-long Republican, and he's very critical of unions, has been ever since we were teenagers. But he says moving the plants to Mexico and China is more expensive than it's worth, and he claims the big move overseas was driven more by an ideological hatred of unions coming from the board rooms than from a business-like desire to make more money. In fact, he says, considering the information, material and parts pipelines running back and forth from southern Michigan to Mexico and China, it is actually more expensive to build overseas than it would be to keep everything around the great lakes, and even with the costs of union labor.

As I’ve said before, the problem with Detroit is these people don’t have a real passion to build cars. They don’t love cars. And I’d like to add that these suits (the 21st century corporate equivalent of the SAC weenies during SEA) just want to ride up the institutional ladder. I’d be willing to bet most of them don’t even appreciate their bizjets, and instead view them as just another status symbol. Like their trophy wives, they don’t really love that shiny hardware, which are just props in the theatre of their personal megalomania.