In yet another negative milestone for the bailouts that supposedly saved the U.S. auto industry — already a hard-to-handle claim given that Chrysler, one of the two beneficiaries, is now 100% owned by an Italian company — Volkswagen has surpassed General Motors as the world's number two automaker behind Toyota.
The reporting on this development has been quite sparse. It's not news at the Associated Press's national site, even though AP mentions VW in a report on Super Bowl ad and social media strategies. At USA Today, James R. Healey's could easily have inserted the news into his story today on the 65th anniversary of the VW Beetle's first arrival here, and didn't. What follows is an excerpt from Expatica, one of the few publications to note the shakeup in the auto industry hierarchy:
Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel went after GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney yesterday over the 2008-2009 state of the auto industry. Emanuel, as paraphrased by the Associated Press, believes that "had Republican candidate Mitt Romney been president the nation would no longer have an auto industry" -- though last time I checked, Ford Motor Company, which did not accept federal government bailout money, is still headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, which is still in the USA.
In his coverage of Emanuel's comments, the Detroit News's Dave Shepardson -- who infamously and falsely claimed in February 2010 that Toyota executives "bragged" and "boasted" about saving money on safety recalls when Japanese culture deeply frowns on the practice to the point of shunning people who engage in it -- headlined Emanuel's "no industry" howler, and committed several factual errors. In addition, he missed a quite relevant and critical March 2009 episode of support from Romney -- for better or worse (readers can decide) -- when President Obama engineered the ouster of General Motors' CEO. Here are excerpts from Shepardson's shilling:
Following up on yesterday's post ("Government/General Motors, UAW Hose Long-Time Members Twice in Two Weeks"; at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) -- What a "revolting" development this is, as reported in the Detroit News:
GM Orion assembly workers to picket UAW over two-tier wage structure
In an unprecedented move, Government/General Motors and the UAW are imposing a two-tiered wage structure involving pay cuts approaching 50% on union members with as many as 10-12 years of seniority. That's right; the Democratic Obama administration and the alleged champions of workers' interests are acting in concert to gut the earnings of hundreds of the union's longtime, dues-paying members.
Does anyone expect any press coverage of this outside of Detroit?
Here's more from the story by Louis Aguilar and Christina Rogers:
It was one thing when the United Auto Workers agreed many years ago to temporary "two-tiered" wage structures at the plants of Detroit's Big Three automakers. After all, it was argued, they'll be brought up to a level of full pay and benefits in several years, and new employees aren't as productive as the veterans.
While it is often an unpopular viewpoint, many economists realize unemployment insurance can actually promote unemployment.
Business & Media Institute adviser Prof. Gary Wolfram explained this in an op-ed on March 17, 2010, as the media attacked Sen. Jim Bunning for filibustering a bill including an extension of the ability to file for federal unemployment benefits.
Wolfram wrote, "It ought to be clear that if we reduce the cost of becoming or remaining unemployed, then we will have greater unemployment. This is not rocket science by any means. Suppose that unemployment benefits were $6,000 per week and lasted indefinitely. Is there little doubt that most of us would choose unemployment?"
If a conservative or Republican uttered the nonsense to be revealed shortly, we'd justifiably never hear the end of it on the late-night comedy shows and elsewhere. As it is, former car czar Steve Rattner's "creative" term for fibbing has and probably will continue to get little coverage outside of Detroit.
Rattner's risible rendition of reality spewed forth before he spoke at a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago-Detroit District conference. Here are excerpts from the coverage by the Detroit News's Robert Snell (HT Laura Ingraham), with help from David "I think Toyota bragged about avoiding safety recalls, so they did" Shepardson (bolds are mine):
General Motors Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Whitacre may have stretched the truth in a commercial saying the automaker had repaid its federal obligations, former autos czar Steve Rattner said today.
GM "may have slightly elasticized the reality of things," Rattner told reporters ahead of a speech today.
This item will not be filed under "Mother's Day Role-Modeling Behavior."
In this story, it's hard to figure out what's more outrageous: The willful defacement of property -- in this case, a brand-new $5 million pedestrian bridge by an alleged adult in her mid-40s who is the mother of a teenaged son -- or the near non-reaction to wanton vandalism perpetrated in broad daylight by her and others on what is supposed to be a source of pride in Detroit.
That's even before getting to the news that one of the vandals, Oneita Jackson, is a copy editor at the Detroit Free Press who has her own Freep blog called "O Street."
On March 21, Ms. Jackson, from her establishment media perch, admonished readers to "Agree or Disagree, Just Be Civil." You can't make this stuff up.
If the goal of whoever leaked the contents of a presentation originally made internally at Toyota's Washington, DC offices and turned over to congressional investigators was to drum up an intense level of negative press coverage against the company, they can sit back and say, "Mission accomplished."
It seems to have started Sunday with David Shepardson of the Detroit News, who reported that the company had "bragged" about avoiding recall costs. Though he appears to have erroneously believed that he had the whole thing, Shepardson's "evidence" consisted of only ten of that presentation's sixteen (or possibly more) pages with a couple of references to "wins." His report was picked and spread widely by the Associated Press's Ken Thomas, who turned "bragged" into "boasted."
How coincidental. A Detroit News item by David Shepardson supposedly indicating that Toyota is more concerned about saving money than driver safety surfaces less than 48 hours before congressional hearings are to begin. His story's basis is a presentation that appears to have been leaked by someone either in Congress or working there, or who is involved with the Department of Transportation.
Lo and behold, Associated Press writer Ken Thomas is right behind him to make sure the story goes national and to mimic Shepardson's breathtaking cultural ignorance in time for the wee-hours press runs for Monday's newspapers and for the writers at the morning news shows.
Shepardson and Thomas, absent any other evidence they chose to make readers aware of, believe that four documents in what was originally an internal company presentation somehow prove that Toyota "bragged" and "boasted," respectively, about saving money in connection with the potential "sudden acceleration" problem in many of its models.
Further, and crucially, Shepardson seems to be a bit numerically challenged, while Thomas appears to have relied on Shepardson's innumeracy. The Detroit News writer told readers that he obtained a "10-page" presentation, but the page numbering on the actual documents indicates that its full length was at least 16 pages. I'm not kidding.
On December 8, Susan Gustafson at MLive.com proclaimed that "GM's announcement of no more layoffs is good news after years of hemorrhaging jobs":
General Motors' announcement this morning that it plans no further layoffs in the immediate future is huge news for both the automaker and Michigan as a whole after years of steady erosion in the ranks of hourly and salaried workers.
.... the company doesn't expect the numbers of hourly workers on indefinite layoff to increase.
Some of us have been wondering how viable the Voluntary Employee Benefit Arrangements (VEBAs) set up by the United Auto Workers for its auto industry employees really are. This is of particular concern at the VEBAs tied in to General Motors and Chrysler. What happens to the employer stock these VEBAs own will heavily influence whether they have the money to pay promised benefits.
The answer to the viability question must be "not very," because the House version of health care that has made it out of committee has a $10 billion provision tucked into it that would largely work to back the VEBAs up in case GM and Chrysler are never able to stand on their own -- or in case other high-wage, high-benefit companies, many of which are unionized, follow them into serious financial difficulty.
Maybe it's because $10 billion doesn't mean much any more in an era of trillion-dollar deficits, but media coverage of this "little" provision has been very, very light. A Google News search on "retiree health care UAW" (not typed in quotes) came back with only about 25 relevant items of roughly 100 total results earlier this afternoon. Many of those results are outraged editorials and op-eds. There is precious little original news coverage of the topic.
One of the few examples of original coverage is an August 24 report by Justin Hyde and Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press that explains the provision and provides background:
Have you ever met someone that just can't stop talking about a particular topic or person regardless of the subject of conversation? Folks like that slip their obsession into every conversation until people just don't even want to start up a conversation with them any more. And when an unsuspecting person starts talking with such a person, everyone in the know around them just roll their eyes and avoid eye contact. It is beginning to get like this when reading anything in the Old Media these days because it seems that regardless of the topic under discussion, start struck love for Obama is slipped into the piece somehow.
Detroit News columnist Marney Rich Keenan gives us a perfect example of this in hers headlined, "Whatever happened to simple phone etiquette?" It's supposed to be a piece lamenting the loss of the formal way of answering a telephone and really has nothing to do with politics. Keenan waxes nostalgic for that formal way of talking to folks and seems to say this loss is a cultural coarsening that is something to mourn... except when Obama does it, of course. Yes, when The One does it, why it's cool and hip and makes her "go weak in the knees."
An early review of press coverage relating to this morning's warning by General Motors that "there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern" shows no coverage of the reason why, despite $13.4 billion in taxpayer money (NOT counting bailout money going to GMAC), things have gotten so much worse so quickly.
The reason is that sales in the two full months since the Bush-approved, Obama-cheered bailout took place have tanked (see graphic at this NB post yesterday):
December 2008 (last [mostly] pre-bailout month) — down 31.2%
January 2009 (first full bailout month) — down 48.9%
February 2009 (second full bailout month — down 53.1%
Press reports I have seen are saying nothing about this frightening decay in the past 60 days:
Imagine for a moment John McCain was President, and few of the people on the task force he created to repair the crumbling auto industry owned American cars.
Would that be a public relations nightmare?
Well, an article published Monday by the Detroit News revealed that most of Barack Obama's newly announced Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry don't patronize the companies they've been appointed to rescue:
It seems that Froma Harrop of Creator's Syndicate news service was on vacation from just about five days before the general election until today and she's just catching up on all the Palin hatin' she must have missed. Unfortunately for Harrop, she still hasn't caught up with the truth yet because her latest is filled with every lie about Governor Palin she could jam into one column, quite despite that for weeks her digs have been proven lies.
In hers headlined, "Palin should move to TV talk show," Harrop proves that she should move from Creator’s Syndiacte to the National Enquirer... unless Creator's Syndicate is trying to unseat the supermarket tabloid in hack writing. If that is the case, then Harrop is on the right track.
Federal investigators have electronic surveillance evidence that allegedly links Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers with receiving a payment or payments in connection with a city-approved sludge contract.
Ruh-roh. Conyers is the wife of John Conyers, the Dem Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who continues to toy with the notion of seeking to impeach President Bush. So how did this morning's Today show report the story?
Two June 23 Motor City newspaper reports -- one in the Detroit Free Press ("Group blasts subprime loans," by Amber Hunt), the other in the Detroit News ("ACORN focuses on vote," by Mike Martindale) -- portrayed the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as a noble enterprise dedicated to helping troubled borrowers and increasing voter involvement in the political process.
Hunt and Martindale were either unaware, or perhaps didn't care, that ACORN has had myriad problems over several years, including but not limited to voter-registration fraud, employee mistreatment and intimidation, and home-loan irregularities. Days before the group's national convention in Detroit, the Consumer Rights League, a group whose stated mission is "protecting consumer choice," issued a scathing whistleblower report charging ACORN with "misusing taxpayer dollars for political ends and by attacking lending corporations for the same 'predatory' lending practices it regularly engages in."
Here are selected paragraphs from each reporter's virtual press releases (HTs to Michelle Malkin here and here):
Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick was at age 31 the youngest elected Mayor in the history of Detroit, the Motor City. Now, at 38, he is also the Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors as well as that organization's representative to the Democratic National Committee. He also seems to have a problem with appropriate behavior... then lies about it to try to cover it up. But one thing he doesn't seem to have to worry about is the MSM telling people he's a Democrat!
In a series of articles with ongoing coverage the Detroit Free Press reveals the attempted cover-up of an affair between Mayor Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty.