Let’s bail!

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So many different angles to take on the continuing saga of “the bailout generation.”

Let’s start here. Coming on the heels, as it does, of the Legislature’s hearing into the bailout of Northwest Airlines yesterday, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s letter to members of the Minnesota congressional delegation seems poignant. Coleman’s letter says if the feds bail out Ford, maybe — maybe — the Twin Cities Assembly Plant can stay open.

Dear Senator Klobuchar, Senator Coleman, and Congresswoman McCollum:

As the debate has progressed regarding the proposal to infuse the U.S. auto industry with federal aid, I am writing to explain what economic relief would mean for the City of Saint Paul and encourage you to support such a plan.

Saint Paul has been the proud home of the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant for more than 80 years. It is one of the best performing plants in the Ford Motor Company. Despite its performance, though, Ford officials announced in 2005 that it would shutter the plant as the company moves away from producing the Ford Ranger truck. As you know, Ford announced an extension of operations at the plant earlier this year, and I thank each of you for your strong support in that effort. But as the plant is now scheduled to close in 20II, we need to take advantage of this important opportunity to support Ford and encourage new innovations in the auto industry that will allow for the permanent

operation of the Saint Paul plant.

Since the initial announcement, the City has worked closely with Ford to determine the future use of the site. We need to do everything we can to keep the plant – providing more than 2,000 well-paying jobs at its peak – open.

The value of this plant cannot be understated. The Ford plant has provided generations of our residents the ability to own a home, pay for college, and live the American dream in Minnesota. We are also fortunate to have a strong workforce at this plant, which continues to set the standard for innovation and efficacv at Ford.

Providing economic relief to Ford could create the opportunity for significant job growth in Saint Paul and the region. If we can incentivize Ford to innovate and expand their operations by retooling our plant, we can spawn green industry that could boost the local, state, and regional economy. Since 2006, we have actively promoted the potential for building a green-collar economy in the region, and retooling the Ford plant would boost Minnesota’s effort to take a leading role in such manufacturing. With the University of Minnesota’s research in altemative fuels, our available land for supportive industry, and a statewide commitment to provide new opportunities for job growth in green manufacturing, we are uniquely poised to take full advantage of the federal investment

and provide tangible economic retums.

Saint Paul has a well-educated, creative, world-class workforce and a long history of partnership with Ford. Ford has been a good neighbor and a good corporate citizen in our city. To be clear, our priority has always been to keep the plant open, and we used every tool available to us to that end.

The possibility of economic relief represents a new tool and a great opportunity and I urge you to consider it as the City and nation look to Washington for help in solving our economic crisis. I have appreciated our partnership in working to find the best alternative for the Ford plant and keeping it and the jobs it provides in Saint Paul. As always, I will continue to make myself and any of my staff available to meet with you on this issue. I now look to your leadership on the federal level to help us and Ford take full advantage of the opportunity to build a new manufacturing economy that will employ families for generations to come.

Sincerely,

Christopher B. Coleman

Mayor

On Thursday evening, MPR’s Tom Crann, the host of All Things Considered, looked at the changing face of the big financial market bailout (noted here several days ago, but who’s counting?) with two members of the Congressional delegation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said there was “a clear need for a change of course.” She says Congress needs to examine how the money spent so far — $250 billion — has been used. Asked about Congress giving Paulson powers without oversight, Klobuchar said Congress couldn’t “micromanage” the bailout.

Rep. Collin Peterson, the oft-forgotten member of the Minnesota delegation, was more direct. Peterson, who voted against the bailout, left the distinct impression the people in charge of hundreds of billions of dollars, have no idea what they’re doing. “Now he’s (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) changing his mind every couple of days again,” he said. “They’re bungling this whole thing beyond belief, which is kind of what I figured they were going to do.”

Today on Capitol Hill, the man administering the bailout was called on the carpet to explain what’s going on. Rep. Dennis Kucinich held up the original bailout bill and read from the section that said the Treasury Department should do all it can to “keep homeowners in their homes.” What happened to that section?

So, we have the financial institutions bailout and the auto industry bailout. What’s coming? Big cities. Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Shirley Franklin of Atlanta and Phil Gordon of Phoenix — all mayors — have sent a letter to Paulson asking for a piece of the action.

  • sm

    I thought Paulson’s goal was to spend as much as he could as fast as he could on his financial buddies before Bush leaves. He keeps saying this is for investment firms and banks and no one else. He’s hoping to stall Congress and critics long enough to shovel the money out to the “financial sector” before anyone can cut him off.

    This latest stuff about bailing out credit cards really galls me. The poor banks, they’re not able to make “enough” from their 20% to 32% interest rates and penalty fees because of increasing credit card defaults, so the taxpayers have to make up the difference for them? I think not. But then, I’m just a piddly taxpayer with “sucker” stamped on my forehead.

    “Please, sir, I want some more”. Can’t we all just declare ourselves part of the “financial sector” and be done with it?

  • Bob

    Gotta agree with Rep. Peterson. Aside from Iraq and Katrina, the bailout may be the biggest slice o’ incompetence to come out of the Bush administration and its Congressional enablers (on both sides of the aisle).

    Who’s next for bailouts, you ask? You skipped a level or two of government — namely, states. Like California, for instance. My understanding is that their debt is so large, spending cuts and tax increases ain’t gonna make it. Seriously, I would not be surprised if the Governator ends up asking for some bailout bucks.

    Though Minnesota’s 2009 funding shortfall will be significantly more modest, it’s still gonna be bad enough that it’s not too early to wonder how it will be solved. There isn’t much left to cut, and though I’m not a taxophobic, it’s hard to see how modest tax increases will get the job done. So, will Tim ‘No New Taxes’ Pawlenty seek bailout dough?

    On the corporate side, maybe Starbucks?