Big Double Standard

November 25, 2008

So…the Wall Street Journal likes the Citigroup bailout, huh?  A newspaper focused on financial news approves of a financial company getting money.  Big surprise.

But I’d like to know…where was the painful videotape of Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit being grilled for two weekdays on Capitol Hill?  Where were the insinuating questions about the quality of Citigroup’s financial products and demands for Citigroup’s plans for the money?  Where was the gotcha question about Pandit flying in on a corporate jet for the hearing?  Oh, yeah, he didn’t have to…there was no hearing.  He didn’t have to fly in on anything.  He got to phone it in…over the weekend!  Citigroup got its money from the $700 billion financial fund that US Treasury Secretary Paulson has the right to dole out any way he pleases.

Why aren’t the national media quoting what The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press think about the bailout of Citigroup?   Well, just click on these News and Free Press links to see what Michiganders who are held accountable for their products have to say about a bailout for people who apparently have no accountability to the American public.

Here’s a good summary quote from the two articles, from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan):

“What we saw last night was this administration acting directly to bail out Citigroup while continuing to ignore the needs of our manufacturing economy, our domestic automakers and middle-class families across our state that are hurting.”

And U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) says it best:  “It’s a double standard.”



  1. This is out and out discrimination against the working people in this country. Rep. Barney Frank asked Sen. Richard Shelby about this, about why the executives of AIG were not questioned about their plans to restructure and why the salaries of AIG employees were not called into question – employees who make many times over what an employee of an auto plant makes. Good questions that no one wants to answer. Now Citigroup gets a “pass” and a huge chunk of money. And despite the public outcry this continues to be the MO of the current administration, the one that holds the purse strings.

  2. I agree, Sharon. I know I’m not objective, since I’m from the Detroit area. But I’m hearing more commentators and pundits who are not from Detroit talking about this now…how there’s one standard for the financial guys, where anything goes, and another standard for the auto makers, who get raked over the coals asking for a bridge loan — not even a bailout.

  3. I think this headline from the Detroit Free Press says it well:


  4. Much has been written about the auto execs using private jets to go to Washington. It has been used to show the execs as a priviledged class that sees themselves as different from the rest of us. They have been vilified for doing so.

    But the reality is that they are different from the rest of us and the use of private jets is the most productive use of their time and skills. Think about what you do when you fly. Go through security, wait for at least an hour, wait another hour on the tarmack, sit in the jet seat for several hours and read Conde Nast or a company magazine. Then walk a mile to baggage, wait for your luggage, and walk another mile to a car. It may take four or five hrs to travel 500 miles.

    But big corperate honchos bypass security, board immediately, get rapid flight clearance, land with a limo waiting on the tarmack, and are off to their destination in less than 2 hrs. And while they are airborne, they usually have inflight meetings with staff and advisors or use on-board communications to maintain full contact with their staff. In short, they work the whole time, giving the company their money’s worth.

    I imagine these execs were being grilled the whole way there, preparing for their testimony. Reveiwing written statements, annual budgets, possible economic hurdles and even getting background reports on the congressmen they were about to face.

    What I find most shocking is that they failed to defend themselves, that they allowed the media and Congress to make this such an issue.

    Until big business learns to defend themselves, they cannot expect much support from the American people.

  5. Hi, Jim.

    I agree there are probably some good reasons for the auto CEOs to use their private jets — including all the reasons you mentioned. But I think symbolically, it was interpreted as a perk of privilege. From a PR point of view, I thought they should have made a caravan from Detroit to DC in the vehicle each CEO wanted most to highlight from his own company. I think that would help to counter some of the old-school, back-in-the-1970s ideas of how some people still think of the Big 3. A lot of people don’t realize how much the cars have improved, how highly rated they are for satisfaction and mileage. For instance, the Chevy Tahoe hybrid was named the 2008 green car of the year. I’m glad they are thinking now of doing a caravan on the way back to DC in December — better late than never. I know the Big 3 have had their problems, but I really object to the double standard and the gauntlet they’ve endured compared to the execs from the financial companies.

    I agree that I think the CEOs could have said more to defend themselves while they were at the hearing. I think over the past decade or so, it’s become apparent that people cannot just say, “Oh, nobody will ever believe those ridiculous charges.” Unfortunately, people WILL believe charges unless people actively defend themselves and move to the next level of anticipating what people will zero in on.

    And after the grilling the CEOs got about their planes, I hope someone pays very careful attention to the private jets that some Congress members use to get from Point A to Point B.

  6. I’m finally hearing more outrage from others around the country — at least on national news shows and in some commentaries on Huffington Post. But not enough.

    I sound like a broken record, but I believe that people outside Michigan are going to be in for a painfully rude awakening if the auto industries are allowed to go belly up. Even businesses that we don’t think of as “automotive-related” will suffer when so many people are out of work and not able to afford anything but bare essentials. Just for starters: If I had a business connected to travel and tourism (anywhere in the country) or any kind of luxury goods, I’d be worried.

  7. I agree, Cindy. I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the impact the Big 3 have throughout our whole economy — not just in Michigan or the Midwest. And the ripples would affect Canada and Mexico, too. It truly is an industry too big to fail.

  8. […] from an editorial in today’s Washington Post, written by Warren Brown.   It echoes an earlier post on this blog.  But I think it has more credibility than my blog because, as a proud Michigander, […]

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