Economy & Budget

The Big Question, June 2: Obama and GM

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:
To what extent are President Obama’s political fortunes tied to the health of GM?

See responses below from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Thomas McClusky.

Read the last Big Question here.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said:
I think President Obama’s success is tied overall to how good a job he does for the American people, and so far I think he’s done a great job. Who could have predicted a year ago the magnitude of issues that we would be dealing with? To tie President Obama down to any one issue would be unfair.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), said:
I think it is hard to measure right now until we see both how General Motors and the overall recovery of the economy play out. Some of that is going to be tied hand in hand. It is too early to calculate and premature to speculate. Obviously GM and the entire auto industry are the foundations of the manufacturing sector and contribute much to our economy and obviously are having a profound impact through these devastating loses in bankruptcy and everything that comes from that. How the American people evaluate Obama’s overall economic strategy, including his decision on general motors are going to play a big part.

Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), said:
I don’t think it’s that singular. He is the president in a time of great economic stress and distress. Virtually every significant development in regard to the economy will have an impact on how people view his administration. What people have seen so far is that he not only talks about difficult challenges but also is willing to tackle them. The fact that he is focused so much on the future and not on what GM will look like proves to the American people that he is looking towards the future instead of looking to the past. The judgment that people make about both President Obama and our Congress will be broader than just GM, but obviously it will play a big role.

Thomas McClusky, Senior Vice President of FRC Action, said:
If GM fails even more it is not likely that President Obama will be affected. It has been a long time that a CEO has been held responsible for ruin they cause a company, why should Barack Obama, as CEO of GM, be treated any differently?

The situation is actually a good analogy of how President Obama seeks to rule the nation. Get rid of anything that is successful (such as selling of Saturn and Hummer) and replace it with actions that force a failed liberal agenda on people who do not want it (i.e. “green” cars).

Big Government, the only winner from government-ordered dealer closings (Rep. Roscoe Bartlett)

Today, I met at an auto dealership in Frederick, Maryland with dealers from throughout the area and dozens of employees. We were there to talk about the wisdom and impact of the federal government Auto Task Force forcing the closing of dealerships . The wisdom was impossible to find. The impacts will be devastating. No one at the news conference could identify any benefits for consumers, communities, dealers, employees or the car manufacturers from the decision by the federal government to abruptly cancel franchise contracts with 800 Chrysler dealerships, 18 of them in Maryland.

Here's why:

These Maryland dealers are local, independently owned small businesses. They employ an average of 67 employees per dealership. They buy the cars from the manufacturers and bear the total costs of selling to consumers.


We will not end recession until we restart American manufacturing (Rep. Don Manzullo)

Americans bought 16 million vehicles in 2007, 13 million in 2008, and they are on pace to buy 9 million this year. Considering these statistics, it’s not hard to imagine why both Chrysler and GM are in bankruptcy and tens of thousands of auto workers are on the unemployment lines. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Earlier this year, I introduced legislation to give Americans incentives to buy new vehicles. The New Automobile Voucher Act of 2009 (HR 1606) would provide a one-time, $5,000 electronic voucher from the U.S. Treasury at the point of sale of a new vehicle through the end of 2009. It would provide vouchers for 15 million new vehicles.


Cops, teachers, and small businesses take the hit (Rep. Michele Bachmann)

The Chrysler and GM filings for Chapter 11 bankruptcy are all the headlines, but the sub-headings aren’t getting much notice. Both deals are happening under the unprecedented direction of the federal government and it’s the little guys that are taking the hit.

This Saturday, I attended an event in Lake Elmo, MN where hundreds of local residents came out in support of a very successful and profitable dealership, Fury Chrysler Dodge. Fury is one of the largest employers in Lake Elmo, as well as one of the most profitable Chrysler dealerships in the metro market. Yet Chrysler, under the direction of the Obama Auto Task Force, is calling for its closure in an attempt to reduce its inventory nationwide by 25 percent.

Health care reform can’t afford to wait (Sen. Max Baucus)

Our health care system is in crisis. And it’s not just a crisis for the uninsured. It’s not just about health. It’s about our economy.

Health care spending is outpacing economic growth at an alarming rate, growing on average 2.4 percentage points faster than the GDP since 1970. And Since 2000, the cost of insurance has increased 2.5 times more than wages per year.

If we don’t act now, health insurance will become increasingly unaffordable for American families every day. The cost of the average family employer-sponsored health insurance plan will reach $24,000 in 2016-- an 84 percent increase over last year.


Regulators should use emergency powers to stop oil speculation (Sen. Bernie Sanders)

Oil prices rose to about $68 a barrel in early trading on Monday, hitting a new high for the year. The price is up more than 70 percent since mid-January.

The increased price of oil and gas already is causing severe financial hardship for American families, truckers, small business, airlines and farmers, and it’s putting enormous strain on an economy already in a deep recession.

JEC report reveals recession's devastating impact on working mothers (Rep. Carolyn Maloney)

The current recession is having a devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable families. Nearly a million single moms are out of work and their families are suffering. The fact that they are receiving pink slips in greater numbers than in prior recessions has serious implications for family economic well-being.

The Joint Economic Committee, of which I am Chair, released a report last week which finds that the increases in unemployment during this recession have been especially steep for female heads of household – mothers who are solely responsible for maintaining their families’ economic security. The JEC report also reveals that families are relying more and more on women’s employment, but the trend of rising job losses among women will put an even greater strain on households struggling to make ends meet in this downturn.

Consumer confidence on the rise

May results for the CEA-CNET Consumer Sentiment Indexes suggest things are looking up as we move towards the back-half of 2009.  The CEA-CNET Indexes, which measure consumer confidence in the overall economy as well as in technology and consumer electronics, suggest individuals are becoming more optimistic about their personal financial wellbeing even though they remain trepidatious about future expectations regarding their own employment.  These results are consistent with what we are seeing in the broader economy.  The stock market has come a long way since the lows seen early in March, though the recessionary impact on the labor market remains pronounced.  Though the recession endures, consumers are showing a stronger inclination towards spending on tech than they have in several months.  May results suggest individuals have higher expectations around both buying technology and spending more on technology in the coming months.  While the recession is likely to persist into the Fall and the economic impact will continue long beyond that, things are looking marginally better than in recent months and consumers are consequently feeling more optimistic about the future as May results for the CEA-CNET Consumer Sentiment Indexes illustrate.  These results further reinforce the idea of green shoots on the horizon.  While there is still much economic healing to come, the consumer’s outlook has improved and the first steps of a recovery are underway.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $172 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,200 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES - Where Entertainment, Technology and Business Converge. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA's industry services. Find CEA online at

Overdue: Tipped Workers Deserve a Fair Wage (Rep. Donna Edwards)

On May 21, 2009, I introduced the Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services (WAGES) Act, H.R. 2570, which increases the minimum wage for tipped workers.

This important legislation rolls back an ill-advised policy that has resulted in 18 years of frozen wages for tipped employees.  While the minimum wage for most workers was increased in 2007, tipped employees were left behind at rates that have not been increased since 1991.  In fact, in 1996 Congress took the unprecedented step to freeze the wages of tipped employees.  As a result, by July 2009, the wages for tipped workers will be less than half what they would have been had Congress not taken this unnecessary action.

Home Sales Up, Fed Should Act Quickly to Buy Jumbo Mortgages

Existing home sales rose in April, showing that first-time buyers continue to be drawn to affordable prices.

Although much has been made of reported declines in the average home price, it is important to look closely at the cause. Of the 75 million owner-occupied homes, only about 5 million will actually be sold, and many are distressed properties.  This skews the average price downward and does not necessarily reflect the value of other homes in a community, or across the nation.

The fact is conditions are optimal for buyers with good jobs who are looking at lower and mid-priced homes and plan to live there for several years.  Mortgage interest rates are low, there is a wide selection of homes and prices are affordable in most areas, and let’s not forget the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit.