Panic in Detroit
December 03, 2008
General Motors has come to Washington, begging for a $25 billion bailout to keep it and its ailing Detroit counterparts going next year. But nobody seems too thrilled about the prospect. Liberals dwell on the companies’ gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. Conservatives obsess over all the well-paid union members with gold-plated benefits. And people of all ideological backgrounds remember how they used to buy domestic cars, years ago, but stopped because the cars were so damn lousy.
The Detroit Bailout: Ford Tough
December 03, 2008
I'll have more to say about the restructuring plans the Detroit Three submitted to Congress on Tuesday--or, more likely, I'll outsource that analysis to people who know more about the subject than I do. But, for now, I wanted to point out a wrinkle in the industry's crisis that far too few writers (myself included) have acknowledged. The three U.S. automakers are not in the same situation. While it's difficult to get a precise read on Chrysler's status, because--as a privately held company--it doesn't release as much information, we have a pretty good idea about the other two.
Who's Afraid Of Deficits? Not Paul Krugman.
December 01, 2008
Today in the Times, Paul Krugman lends his Nobel-winning credibility to the argument for massive government spending in order to stimulate the economy. Yes, it will drive up the deficit in the short run. And, yes, fears of higher deficits led Bill Clinton to abandon his spending promises during the 1990s. But this is not the 1990s, Krugman reminds us. Back then, Clinton was worried that government borrowing would "crowd out" private investment, by driving up interest rates.
Obama's Health Care Team: They Mean Business
November 25, 2008
Today the Obama transition office will announce its health care policy team. As expected, Tom Daschle will be leading it. According to sources closes to the transition, he'll be joined by a set of analysts including Lauren Aronson, Mark Childress, Dora Hughes, and Jeanne Lambrew. Harvard economist David Cutler will be serving as a part-time, outside advisor, reprising a role he served during the campaign. Among the other outside advisers are Jonathan Blum, Rahul Rajkumar, Terrell McSweeny, and Jenny Backus.
Detroit Builds Good Cars? Actually, Yes. (sometimes.)
November 22, 2008
From the Detroit Free Press: Myth: They build unreliable junk. Reality: The creaky, leaky vehicles of the 1980s and '90s are long gone. Consumer Reports recently found that "Ford's reliability is now on par with good Japanese automakers." The independent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study scored Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Mercury, Pontiac and Lincoln brands' overall quality as high or higher than that of Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen and Volvo. Power rated the Chevrolet Malibu the highest-quality midsize sedan.
November 21, 2008
If you've been following the auto industry's crisis, then you've probably read or heard a lot about overpaid American autoworkers--in particular, the fact that the average hourly employee of the Big Three makes $70 per hour. That's an awful lot of money. Seventy dollars an hour in wages works out to almost $150,000 a year in gross income, if you assume a forty-hour work week. Is it any wonder the Big Three are in trouble?
Health Insurance Industry: We Can Play Nice (updated!)
November 20, 2008
Could the health insurance industry support universal health insurance? For a few months, industry representatives have been telling reformers both on and off Capitol Hill that they'd consider it, subject to certain conditions. On Wednesday, they said it publicly. Their position is pretty simple. They would be willing to change their business practices--and stop discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions--as long as the government required everybody to obtain health insurance.
November 19, 2008
If you believe what the pundits are saying, enacting universal health insurance in the next year won't be difficult: It will be impossible. As the argument goes, it would cost too much money, antagonize too many interest groups, and--given the difficulty of finding 60 votes in the Senate--require too much raw political muscle. Even before Barack Obama won the election, allies were advising him to stay far away from major health care legislation, lest he fail as miserably as Bill Clinton did when he famously tried for universal coverage back in 1994.
Daschle At Hhs = Good News For Health Reform
November 19, 2008
So much health care news, so little time to blog. But let me weigh in on the news, via, CNN, that Tom Daschle will be Secretary of Health and Human Services. He will also serve as the White House point person on health care reform. This is a perfect role for Daschle. Although he was always been interested in health care, in the last few years he's become a true wonk on the subject, publishing a book called Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.
Annals Of Stupidity, Auto Executive Edition
November 19, 2008
Riddle of the day: When three auto industry executives came to Washington on Tuesday, in order to make the case for a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-backed rescue, did they fly coach or first class? Ha! It's a trick question. They did neither. Instead, they took private jets. Three separate private jets. ABC News has the goods (h/t Yglesias): While [GM executive Rick] Wagoner testified, his G4 private jet was parked at Dulles airport.