November 19th, 2008
07:26 PM GMT
NEW YORK - The top executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler appeared in front of Congress for the second day in a row Tuesday, to make their case for an emergency government loan.
The three CEOs have said they don't have the cash to operate next year without help and warned that the failure of the industry would have dire consequences for the U.S. economy.
And yet GM CEO Rick Wagoner, Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Chrysler chief Bob Nardelli arrived for these historic hearings on private jets! That's right: The men at the helm of an industry so crippled that it has to ask for taxpayer money to survive flew on private jets. And they wonder why the American public is so angry about these bailouts.
Their choice of transportation dominated Wednesday's hearing. Representative Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York said: " ... there is a message here - couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it.
"If you're gonna streamline your companies, where does it start? And it would seem to me as the chief executive officer of those companies you can't set the standard of what that future is going to look like, that you are really going to be competitive, that you are going to trim the fat, that you don't need all the luxuries and bells and whistles ... it causes us to wonder."
CNN contacted each company who said in various ways that the use of private jets had to do with security and safety requirements. The spokespeople claimed that the companies had already made major cutbacks in travel and corporate spending.
The director of GM news relations added: "We are only doing travel that is absolutely critical to the future of the business. We think testifying in front of the Senate and House to try to secure the future of the U.S. auto industry falls into that category."
At best this can be chalked up to a public relations mistake. But I think many will also see this as a symbol of what is wrong with corporate America.
What do you think? Is this a legitimate issue - or are we in the media making too much of it? Should government aid come with requirements that the current management step down? Or should these companies sink or survive on their own?
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