Thu, 20 Nov 2008 18:54:41 GMT — The bailout for Detroit's Big Three automakers has hit a major road-block on Capitol Hill. During Wednesday's testimony there was huge criticism from lawmakers after all three CEO's flew into town in private jets.
No matter what you think about bailing out the Big Three automakers, and no matter what you think about their CEO's, this just doesn't look good. In fact, flying to Washington in a corporate jet to ask for a $25 billion bailout from taxpayers is a public relations car wreck.
"You're talking to people that are schlepping back and forth going through all the drama in the airports everyday along with the American public. My suggestion is that those types of symbolic things - they really matter," says Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam (R).
"A delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, DC and people coming off them with tin cups in their hand," adds California Rep. Brad Sherman (D).
In the first place, corporate jeys are infamous gas guzzlers. Flying in one from Washington to Detroit could cost as much as $20,000, as opposed to the more economic and efficient commercial flight which could could a single passenger about $600 both ways.
In the second place, the more obvious question to some is whether a company on the verge of bankruptcy ought to ditch the jet as part of its cost cutting measures.
On Capitol Hill, Wednesday, CEO's wre posed a question: "I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you are planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show no hands went up."
Ford, Chrysler and General Motors later issued statements essentially saying that top executives are re quired to use the company plane for security reasons. GM went further, saying that making a big to do about this when issues vital to the jobs of millions of Americans are being discussed in Washington is diverting attention away from a critical debate.
It is not illegal. It is not even unethical. This was company business for the CEO's. Even so, at some point it is all about how things look. To some on the Hill, the issues flies in the face of common sense. "When you're talking about how you're about to go bankrupt, and that you're hemmoraging cash, to then fly here in your Lear jet is really pretty insulting to the taxpayers," says Steve Ellis, of the Taxpayers for Common Sense.
However, flying in a Lear jet is still one of the real nice perks of being a Big Three CEO.