Economics

Obama's Auto Double-Talk

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As Nick Gillespie bemoans below, the president yesterday put Washington in the business of guaranteeing auto warranties, firing auto CEOs, and dumping still more billions of taxpayer dollars down the black hole of Tomorrowland cars and other autopian vestiges of 1950s nostalgia. What was particularly striking about this announcement of drastically increased federal micromanaging is that it came decorated, like many of Obama's statist economic policies, in nearly opposite language. Some examples:

Year after year, decade after decade, we have seen problems papered-over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us. Well, we have reached the end of that road.

We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. But we also cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. And we cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of tax dollars. These companies -- and this industry -- must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.

Yet two paragraphs later, he announces that he's kicking the tough choice of adopting a restructuring plan down that very same road, by increasing that unending-so-far flow of tax dollars, and turning beleagured automakers into something very similar to wards of the state. Here's another gem:

Let me be clear: the United States government has no interest or intention of running GM.

Let's be even more clear: in the paragraph just prior, this is the sound of the United States "not running" GM:

They must ask themselves: have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can't make future investments? And above all, have they created a credible model for how to not only survive, but succeed in this competitive global market?

When a president is saving his Stern Voice for declaiming insufficient brand consolidation, then we truly have crossed over into something new. And when the glaring cognitive dissonance between Obama's word and deed becomes detectable to the part of the population currently granting him the benefit of the doubt, the wiggle room for fundamentally reshaping U.S. industrial policy will get smaller in a hurry.