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Bailing

REPORT The proposed auto bailout doesn’t seem to be something members of Congress are on their own volition highlighting, unless it’s a vote against.

From Idaho Representative Mike Simpson: “Fundamental restructuring is necessary for the Big Three domestic auto companies to be competitive and relevant in the future, and on December 2, they presented to Congress their plans for restructuring and stated that without a large amount of government financial assistance they would not survive through the end of the year. While the plans included laudable goals, too few details were provided as to how the companies will actually achieve the restructuring and the savings they have promised. . . . Instead, Congressman Simpson supports the GOP Alternative for the Auto Industry, which allows the Big Three to become competitive again without risking taxpayer dollars. Under the GOP Plan, which provides temporary government insurance instead of a taxpayer-funded bailout, the Big Three must lock in the restructuring they have promised in a matter of weeks, not months or years.”

On the flip side (from a backer of bicycles as an auto alternative), Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer said “I voted to support H.R.7321, the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, having determined that it was the best compromise given the current circumstances. Importantly, these loans provide strong taxpayer protections, making it more likely that the funds will be returned. Given the number of jobs directly at stake and the opportunity to point the auto industry in a better direction, I found reaching a compromise on this issue was necessary.”

The vote was 237-170, with Democrats supplying all but 32 of the aye votes. All of the northwest Republicans voted no, and all the region’s Democrats voted yes (except Oregon’s Darlene Hooley, who did not vote).

We might note here, with caveats, a poll conducted (in Idaho, by Greg Smith Associates) late last week on the auto industry bailout. That poll was about an earlier package, not the most recent. But the views were clear, and probably transferrable:

“Respondents were read and asked the following: ‘As you may know, Congress is considering giving about 35 billion dollars in emergency loans to help or bail out Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. From what you know, are you for or against this relief or bailout package by the United States government?’ In response, 74% of Idahoans are opposed to this Federal assistance, with only 22% in favor. Opposition is strongest in North Idaho (80%), although opposition is at 70% or greater throughout Idaho. Shortly before this polling effort, CNN/Opinion Research asked people nationally about this subject, and found 61% in opposition to relieving or bailing out the Big Three automakers. . . .

“When asked, ‘If the U.S. Government does in fact provide this emergency aid to these automakers, do you feel that the effort would help the United States economy?’, only 39% of Idahoans feel that relief or a bailout would help the nation’s economy, with fully 52% not believing the effort would be of help.”

UPDATE Maybe the Senate was bearing some of this in mind. This evening it rejected the current $14 billion plan, on a 52-35 (procedural) vote.

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