The $25 Billion Question

December 3, 2008

From today’s White House evasions with Press Secretary Dana Perino (here)…

Q Dana, it sounds to me like you’re not ruling out more than $25 billion for the automakers. Is that correct?

MS. PERINO: I’m saying I’m not ruling anything out. I think that we need to see their plans —

Q You say you’re not ruling anything out.

MS. PERINO: I’m not ruling anything in or out. I think that we just need — it’s too early — let us have a chance to look at their plans and let them have their chance to testify, and let’s see what support it can get on Capitol Hill.

Q Isn’t that a movement from previously? I mean, you were pretty firm on no more than $25 billion previously allocated money, that was it. It sounds like now you’re saying you might go over that.

MS. PERINO: Well, I don’t recall ever being asked a question if we would actually do more than $25 billion. The debate that we were having over the past few weeks as we laid — put forward our plan was that we thought that the money that had already been appropriated for the auto industry should be used for the auto industry, and all that Congress would need to do was amend the 136 program and allow those funds to be used now rather than just for the specific costs that they were — or the specific issues that they were going to be allowed to use.

I don’t remember being asked if we would do more than $25 billion, and I didn’t say.

Q Well, as I remember it, I think you were pretty clear, and I know that (Commerce Secretary Carlos) Gutierrez was clear, that the administration opposes more than $25 billion. Is that still true?

MS. PERINO: I don’t remember saying that. We can go back and check the record —

OK, let’s check, then; here are the minutes from Perino’s November 18th press conference:

Q Just to make sure I’m clear on something. The Democrats want the $25 billion from DOE, plus the $25 billion from TARP financial rescue (for the automakers). The administration’s support stops at the $25 billion that exists from DOE, and nothing more?

MS. PERINO: At this point, right. But our money is tied to one key point, which is can these companies make the tough decisions necessary to restructure and be viable. And that’s what the taxpayer should be asking.

Q Right. But there’s nothing beyond $25 billion?

MS. PERINO: In our proposal, no. But I would be surprised if the car companies were actually asking for anything more than that $25 billion right now. But they’ll have a chance to testify on Capitol Hill this afternoon and you’ll hear more from them.

Q But would you concede then that ultimately the long-term cost could be far more than the DOE figures that are now being talked about?

MS. PERINO: It’s hard to say. What we want is for these companies to be able to succeed. We think that we can provide them access to the money that’s been — already been appropriated for the purpose of helping the automakers modernize themselves, that that would be an appropriate thing to do. But we are not in favor of even an additional $25 billion in taxpayer money on top of that.

Q But are you saying that you would be — you wouldn’t be in favor of the additional $25 billion, even if they could prove future viability?

MS. PERINO: No, I think we’re going to just draw the line at $25 billion that has already been appropriated through the DOE program.

(By the way, I italicized the text above because I thought it was a particularly brainless comment by Perino.)

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty definite to me; meanwhile, the automakers are working on plans for using the $34 billion they have requested, to be allocated among all three companies, as noted here (Ford, GM and Chrysler – Ford to me sounds like they’re in the best shape, with Alan Mulally telling Congress they may not even need the requested $9 billion at all, while GM tries to sell off profitable lines to make up the difference and Chrysler…well, I don’t think Chrysler has a clue, to be honest with you; way to go, Bob “Let’s Ruin Home Depot Some More While I Get A Nice Parachute” Nardelli).

And I would ask that you compare that with the $700 billion of TARP funds that, apparently, have been scattered to the wind (or into the coffers of the investor class, based on this – yes, I supported TARP because I think people will eventually act like adults and do their due diligence here; if I end up wrong on that in the end, I’ll owe up to it).

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