Toyota Motor today reported that it will lose $1.7 billion for this fiscal year. It's not only the biggest loss since the company's founding in 1938. It's the only one. Analysts said Toyota’s downward revision, its second in two months, showed that the worst financial crisis since the Depression is threatening not just the Big Three but even relatively healthy automakers in Japan, South Korea and Europe.
As you've probably heard by now, President Bush announced this morning that he wasn't going to let the domestic auto industry collapse. At least not on his watch. And while it'll probably take a day or two to sort out the details, and what they mean, here's the gist of it: Bush is authorizing the Treasury Department to loan Chrysler and General Motors $17.4 billion. (Ford has said it doesn't need money right now.) The money will come from the Wall Street rescue fund, or what's left of it, and it comes with a number of strings attached.
As of Friday night, it still appeared the Bush Administration was prepared to do what Senate Republicans wouldn't: Rescue the auto industry.
At the Chicago press conference, Obama just gave the clearest signal yet that he intends to make health care reform a top priority. After running through the litany of familiar problems--rising costs, faltering coverage, poor quality--he vowed to tackle the problem "this year and in this administration." Afterwards, he confronted head-on the argument that the rough economy makes this a poor time to try health care reform. He noted that economic insecurity and our health care crisis our inextricably linked.
Barack Obama just began his press conference by noting the new unemployment figures and pushing Congress to pass a rescue for Detroit. (Much as Michelle predicted.) "I understand people's anger and frustration" at the auto industry, noting that he had pushed Detroit to build more fuel efficient cars early in his campaign. But, Obama continued, "at this moment of great challenge, we cannot simply stand by and watch this industry collapse. ... doing so would lead to a devastating ripple effect through the economy." He reiterated his pledge for "short-term assistance ...
Following up on Michelle's post below, take a look at the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which asked respondents whether they favored a bailout for Detroit. The results were 46 percent yes, 42 percent no. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement; as the Journal headline puts it, support is "tepid." But it does seem to represent a shift from as recently as a week ago, when polls showed voters opposing a bailout.
Barack Obama will be holding a press conference in Chicago on Thursday. And it's safe bet that most of the political world will be watching to hear Obama give his first extended remarks about the Rod Blagojevich scandal. But Obama will be making news of another sort, too: He will, according to transition sources, make official the appointment of former Senator Tom Daschle as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. And while that's not exactly news--sources had fingered Daschle as the likely nominee some time ago--Obama's broader statements about health care will be.
Apparently liberals are angry at Barack Obama. Well, some liberals. And, come to think of it, they may not actually be angry. They're just a little concerned about some of his cabinet appointments. Or, at least, they were merely concerned until former Obama deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand decided on Sunday to post an item on the Huffington Post. It was a message to Obama's progressive critics--something I know, with certainty, because the item's headline was "A Message to Obama's Progressive Critics." In the item--or message, if you prefer--Hildebrand told liberals to calm down.
By late Monday night, a rescue for the nation's ailing automakers was looking a lot more likely. Democratic House leaders released the draft of a new plan and White House officials, though raising some objections, indicated that agreement on a package was close. Senate Democrats remained nervous that they might not yet have the votes in their chamber, where it would take 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster.
Today most economists to the left of center will tell you that inequality has been rising for about thirty years, thanks to broader changes in the economy and government's failure to compensate adequately for them. But in the late 1990s, when the economy was humming along, not too many people were making a fuss about this. Among the few exceptions were Jared Bernstein and his colleagues at the Economic Policy Institute--who repeatedly warned that lower- and middle-income people were not getting their share.