Any bailout for Detroit should come with oversight

    Small businesses owners are adamant: Don’t ask us to send our tax dollars to Detroit to pay for their mistakes without significant restructuring and effective independent oversight.

    Proposals to provide as much as $50 billion to the Big Three auto companies are a misguided attempt to bail out companies that are in this situation not because of the credit crisis, but because of a long series of decisions that have led these once-admired corporations to where they are today.

    But while Detroit has been shedding American jobs, small businesses have been creating them. It’s incredibly unfair to these entrepreneurs and small-business owners to ask them to help pay for:

    • Gold-plated health care plans they don’t have and can’t afford.
    • Generous pensions they don’t have and can’t afford.
    • Platinum-level retirement benefits they don’t have and can’t afford.

    Any taxpayer dollars provided to the Big Three must come with specific conditions, starting with top-to-bottom scrutiny of everything from the effectiveness of current management to the nature of their union and supplier contracts.

    We should learn a lesson from the success of the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board, which helped to support a restructuring of the airline industry after 9/11 while protecting taxpayers’ interests. Any public assistance to the Big Three must come with the same type of rigorous oversight.

    There are many small businesses across the country struggling to make payroll and pay the bills. They aren’t asking for a bailout, and neither should Detroit’s automakers.
    Todd Stottlemyer is president and chief executive officer of the National Federation of Independent Busines. The NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C., and all 50 state capitals, including Madison.

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