Power Line's John Hinderaker calls it "Banana Republic Capitalism."
The Chrysler reorganization is shaping up as another milestone in the decline of the rule of law under Barack Obama. We've said for quite a while that bankruptcy is the only viable option for Chrysler and General Motors, not--as Obama claims--because they don't know how to make the right kinds of vehicles, but because their unsustainable union contracts make it impossible for them to be profitable. That reality has now been turned on its head, as the administration has tried to bully Chrysler's secured creditors into going away, while the United Auto Workers Union, solely on the basis of political clout, would be paid at an implied rate of 50 percent and would emerge owning 55 percent of the company, with the government also holding a stake.
This is banana republic capitalism at its worst. Political influence, rather than the law, dictates the rights of the parties. When some of the secured creditors refused to be intimidated, Obama libeled them in the press, saying, outrageously, "I don't stand with those who held out when everyone else is making sacrifices." Actually, under Obama's plan the politically favored parties, principally the UAW, will benefit--will steal money, to put it crudely--from the parties who held out. Those parties call themselves the "non-TARP lenders."
Obama's a liar. "[E]veryone else is making sacrifices" is just not true. The UAW isn't making any sacrifices whatsoever.
For Chrysler, the administration's plan spells disaster. It is inconceivable that the UAW, the principal source of Chrysler's problems, will manage the company back to profitability. More likely, Chrysler will become a vehicle through which the federal government provides uneconomic subsidies to unionized auto workers and retirees.
Barack Obama's conduct in this affair has been disgraceful. Our bankruptcy laws are well developed and are fairly implemented by experienced bankruptcy judges. Priority among creditors is established according to legal rules and precedents. The process is transparent and subject to appellate review. But in this case, the law did not favor the parties who have the most influence with the White House--notably, the United Auto Workers--so Obama substituted political threats and bullying for due process. Il Duce would have approved.
Hinderaker has an update at the bottom of the post, quoting Michael Barone's explanation on how this policy of Obama's is turning the rule of law on its ear.
Hinderaker's follow-up post Saturday has more. He quotes from a Saturday Island Turtle blog post that provides a transcript of an interview with a bankruptcy attorney involved in the Chrysler case, Tom Lauria:
Lauria: Let me tell you it's no fun standing on this side of the fence opposing the President of the United States. In fact, let me just say, people have asked me who I represent. That's a moving target. I can tell you for sure that I represent one less investor today than I represented yesterday. One of my clients was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under the threat that the full force of the White House Press Corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight. That's how hard it is to stand on this side of the fence.
Island Turtle (a retired newspaper man) concludes this way:
There is a pattern here. Financial institutions holding billions of Chrysler’s secured debt are being held hostage by the TARP loans they are not permitted to pay back. They are being forced to accept just pennies on the dollar for loans they made in good faith less than two years ago. Just like mob loan sharks, the administration wants them under its thumb so they can extort more and more concessions.
This is an abuse of power that goes beyond Nixon.
Indeed. And it's just the tip of the corruption iceberg.