President Obama says that, after the brief inconvenience of a bankruptcy filing and the ensuing reorganization, Chrysler will “a going concern” with “a strong chance of success.”
“The necessary steps have been taken to give one of America’s most storied automakers, Chrysler, a new lease on life,” argues Obama.
That sounds good. And Obama is not just offering rhetoric. The federal government has loaned Chrysler more than $4 billion and indicated a willingness to pump billions more into the fight for the carmaker’s survival.
Unfortunately, Chrysler officials indicated on Friday that, while the company plans to survive, thousands of Chrysler workers – and the communities where they live – are not likely to make it.
On Friday afternoon, Chrysler LLC acknowledged – after the fact was revealed in documents filed as part of the bankruptcy proceedings — that eight of the company’s factories will not be transferred to the “new Chrysler,” which will be co-owned by Italian carmaker Fiat Group SpA.
Rather, the auto firm announced, most of these factories are now “scheduled to close by December 2010.”
The five plants that are most likely to be shuttered — in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin – employ close to 5,000 people.
So the auto bailout that was supposed to keep U.S. workers on the job is instead providing taxpayer dollars to companies that plan to shutter idle factories and lay off workers in the industrial Midwest while shifting work to other countries.
Pardon the residents of the targeted towns for thinking that, while Chrysler may be getting a “new lease on life,” their communities are not going to be so lucky.
“We have been sold out by the president of the United States and his so-called car czar,” says Patrick Juliana, a city council member in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where 800 jobs are likely to be lost. “It should have been up to them to make sure that every United States autoworker had a shot at keeping their job.”
That’s an angry, bombastic response. But it is grounded in legitimate fury over recovery plans that still seem to be more about saving corporations than jobs.
The whole point of getting the federal government into the business of bailing out auto companies was supposed to be to keep production lines running and United Auto Workers union members on the job.
An auto bailout that shuts factories and lays off workers is not just a bad deal.
It is a bankrupt policy.