Anybody with any sense knows that we can’t let the Detroit 3 go down the tubes, no matter how mismanaged they may be. And by the way, the Detroit 3’s quality of management is an issue in itself that deserves debate. Mark Phelan’s article in the Detroit Free Press, “6 Myths about the Detroit 3” argues convincingly that they aren’t so mismanaged as we think. But he’s going to find a lot of skeptics among his readers.
Still, mismanaged or not, why would sensible people – “the American people” as politicians like to refer to them – be against a bailout that will save millions of jobs and keep the whole country from sliding back into a movie called “1929, the Sequel.”
The answer is simple: anger.
I felt that anger a couple of days ago in a casual conversation with a neighbor who works for a big corporation herself. For her, the main issue is executive pay. “These guys flying around in corporate jets are making millions! What about the rest of us who are running down the corridors trying to get the work done? We won’t get a bail-out!” The equation is simple: Detroit 3 = Rich Execs. And these guys aren’t doing much to help themselves out.
I’ll grant you that the argument against corporate jets is a little specious. Mark Phelan points out the problems that senior Detroit 3 execs would have if they took a commercial flight. But what if they had all piled into the Detroit-built vehicle with the highest miles-per-gallon and driven to Washington. That would have made the kind of statement that could actually help their cause.
Ordinary Americans are furious because the senior managers of big corporations make a huge multiple of the average worker – more than in any other industrialized country – and it doesn’t seem fair. And that anger automatically gets transferred to the leaders of the Detroit 3.
Almost entirely absent in this debate is the voice of the suppliers, the small businesses we at AllBusiness try to serve as best we can. And it’s a voice that could perhaps tip the scales. John McCain showed that there’s a lot of support in this country for Joe-The-Plumber types. Sure, it’s a clich?, but “the American people” know that small business owners work hard, don’t make all that much money, and don’t deserved to be forced out of business because their big customers, a.k.a. Ford, GM and Chrysler, have made some mistakes.
So… my suggestion is this. If you live the Great Lakes area, fire up your e-mail right now and send a message to all your friends in the rest of the country that explains how important the Detroit 3 are to people running small businesses and their employees. Tell them that any bail-out will almost certainly have corporate salary caps as part of the deal. And tell them that the survival of our economy is at stake.