Build a patriot car

Let’s build a patriot car within five years that moves into the 21st century with leapfrogging technology, historic gains in fuel efficiency, new standards of automotive excellence, a new spirit of national confidence, a plan that will be profitable for taxpayers and sales that will rise across our nation and in global markets from China to India with exploding demand for autos that will last for generations.

We can mobilize America as Kennedy inspired the nation to reach the moon. Yes, there must be short-term retrenchment, sacrifices by management and labor, termination of unprofitable product lines and hard choices that must be shared by all. But these actions, alone, are only an inadequate beginning that embodies the attitudes of small thinking, pessimism and failure that JFK rejected.

After Kennedy announced his project for the moon, Americans invented the new rockets that would take us there, the new alloys that made the rockets, the new training for astronauts to travel in space, a new commitment to education for science and engineering and a spirit of can-do optimism and daring self-confidence.

JFK led us to build the rockets and inspire the astronauts to touch the moon in 10 years. We can build the cars to travel to the grocery and achieve 75 miles per gallon or better in five years. Combining technology that now exists with modest breakthroughs in fuel efficiency and automotive engineering, we can build a new generation of cars that consumers should buy, to support our country, and will want to buy, because they are great cars.

Let’s keep the modest $25 billion for fuel efficiency already enacted. Let’s pass the next tier of assistance tied to the retrenchment that must happen. But let’s require the auto companies to bring the next president a plan in January to leapfrog the technology into the future. Let’s finance this in ways that make money for taxpayers.

All money should be invested in preferred stock that pays taxpayers a dividend and must include warrants to buy common stock with a strike price slightly below current stock prices. No more anti-taxpayer deals from Treasury.

The auto industry faces distinct challenges. There is a national recession and I promise it will ultimately end and consumers will buy again. There is a credit crisis that will ultimately end and more consumers will be able to finance cars again. There is a bear market in stocks and there will ultimately be a bull market again. There is an exploding worldwide demand for cars that is so huge, and long-term, that there will be exploding profits for the winners and survivors once the pessimism of our crisis ends.

If our industry regains technological excellence when the economy recovers, the credit crisis ends, a bull market returns and exploding worldwide demand continues, the taxpayers holding warrants to buy GM stock at 5 will reap enormous profits when the stock returns to 30.

Let’s give workers an equity stake in success and a proud patriotism in which every industry job is a green job. Let’s give consumers the thrill of buying a car they love in the greatest energy and global warming program in modern history that will rebuild our economy, promote our security, protect our planet and remind us what a great and confident country we are.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He can be reached at and read on The Hill Pundits Blog, where a longer version of this article appears.