Hailing the Federal Auto Rescue, Lauding Ron Bloom

By July 29, 2009Economy, General, Trade

Yesterday’s forum at The New America Foundation, “Manufacturing a Better Future for America,” featured a discussion of federal support — the term “bailout” was used — for GM and Chrysler.

The context: Speakers advocated a national industrial policy and more restrictive trade policies to invigorate the U.S. manufacturing sector. We think of the panel as representing the organized labor wing of the Democratic Party.

Asking a question, Bill Frymoyer, director of government relations at the Stewart and Stewart and a former Gephardt aide, hailed what he described as the apparently successful rescue of the domestic auto industry. He elicited this response from Leo Hindery, Managing Partner of Intermedia Partners, chairman of the foundation’s Smart Globalization Initiative, and an influential Democratic activist. Hindery:

The reason the auto recovery worked so well is Ron Bloom largely steered it. And Ron Bloom, for those of you who don’t know, came out of the Steelworkers. He spoke more cogently and capably about the need for a manufacturing policy before a lot of us…and I think he brought a sense of manufacturing policy to that initiative, not strategy but policy.

And this is an issue that Scott [Paul] and I have gone back and forth on: Are what we talking about here, is it a strategy or is it a policy? And we think, Scott and I and Ron, I think, would say, it’s a policy. And when you have a policy, then you save CIT if it needs saving, because it does certain things, you approach GM and Chrysler as he tried to drive the administration, because it would fit under his sense of policy. Strategy is transient. Policy’s the same.

Also commenting was Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing:

The task of the auto rescue is a different one than having a prospective industrial policy. This was more triage. And so it was a task that I think they performed probably as well as they could. I would have done it differently, but we’ll have the result that we get. But it’s a far different task than trying to incubate and grow production in other sectors, so I think there needs to be that transition.

I think the one of the greatest impediments to that – we saw this even during this triage – is the Wall Street mentality that too many people still have. It’s have about what is going to please the markets, rather than about what is the right thing for employment and for long-term economic growth. We need to overcome that obstacle.

We’ve put a soundfile of this portion of the discussion here. The first person responding to Frymoyer’s comments is Michael Lind, a New America Foundation scholar.

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