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Wanted: Detroit ‘car czar’
Washington, GM, and Chrysler near an autocratic bailout plan
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he White House and top Democrats agreed to, and the House passed, a $15 billion loan package for GM and Chrysler, said The Washington Post in an editorial. The automakers, in return, agreed to put themselves under the authority of “a presidential appointee, informally known as the ‘car czar.’” The deal isn’t risk-free for taxpayers, but having a single “autocrat” who can enforce a March 31 deadline for viability is a better option than bankruptcy.

If the “czar” can’t broker a deal that wrings enough concessions from the companies, labor, and suppliers to make GM and Chrysler competitive, said David Kiley in BusinessWeek online, the government can push them into bankruptcy March 31. But even with the czar’s “muscle to force reform” in Detroit, “several GOP senators steadfastly oppose” the bill, and its fate in the Senate is unclear.

Maybe Republicans would feel differently if the powerful auto czar were Mitt Romney, said Ezra Klein in The American Prospect online. Given his “Michigan roots,” his history salvaging failing companies, and his strong “political incentive to succeed,” he’s a “rather obvious candidate.”

The top candidate so far is Kenneth Feinberg, the “adept” special master of the Sept. 11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, said Jason Sattler in Wired online. Other names floated are Paul Volker, Renault Nissan head Carlos Ghosen, Lee Iacocca, and even Steve Jobs and Al Gore. But whatever turnaround “nanny” Washington lands on, you know that GM and Chrysler are honestly desperate if they’re willing to “let Washington put someone in the driver’s seat.”

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