September 21 2011
Ford and the Not-So-Free Economy
Carrie L. Lukas
Ford Motors made headlines last week by releasing a new advertisement that aims to differentiate the company from its bailed out, government-dependent competitors. If only it were true.
In the ad, a would-be car-buyer is asked what he is looking for in his new car, and says:
I wasn't going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that's standing on their own: win, lose, or draw. That's what America is about is taking the chance to succeed and understanding when you fail that you gotta' pick yourself up and go back to work.
But other car-buyers who want to follow his lead better be careful not to purchase a Ford car that was funded in part by the $5.9 billion loan that Ford Motors received from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. The Administration brags that this taxpayer-backed loan would help Ford upgrade factories in the Mid-west and "convert nearly 33,000 employees to green manufacturing jobs." Yes, because these workers now spend their time manufacturing more fuel efficient cars, the Administration gets to tout them as a part of the much hyped "green jobs" revolution.
Ford's was just one of dozens of loans that the Energy Department made through the loan program to spur "green jobs" with government "investments" in new technologies. Readers of course will be most familiar with the $535 million loan that was given to the now-defunct solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.
Americans are rightfully outraged about this brewing scandal, with emails showing the White House pressuring the Office of Management and Budget to expedite the loan and the almost-expected fact that a big Obama fundraiser stood to gain from the federal support.
Yet the real scandal here isn't that Solyndra went belly-up. It's that the Administration is pushing us to a point where almost no company can make the claim that Ford wants to make, that it "stands of their own-win, lose or draw."
Yes, Ford wasn't "bailed out" in the way that some other car companies were, but they are still working the system to receive taxpayer-financed support. This isn't Ford's fault--companies have to play the game by the current rules, and today that means looking for ways to get a piece of the great federal giveaway pie.
From the government take-over of the student loan industry, to decrees about how much banks can charge for using an ATM, to bureaucrats deciding the contents of everyone's health insurance packages, to micro-managed loans of all kinds... Is there any industry left, in which Washington isn't essentially controlling which companies will survive and which will fail?
The good news is that Ford's research must show that the American people want a system of private enterprise that isn't just a rigged political game. They want companies to have to compete on their merits and for those with the best products and services--not the best lobbyists--to win. Let's just hope that they will send representatives to Washington who actually share those convictions.