Wednesday, June 03, 2009

It Takes A Young Man To Dismantle General Motors


There is some consternation about who is in charge of the dismantling of General Motors simply because he is young [31-years old] and has virtually no job experience.

h/t Gateway Pundit
That should not be a problem. He is following in the footsteps of his boss, POTUS.

Young leaders have been scattered throughout history. Philip of Macedonia became king at the age of 22 and transformed his country. He was followed by his son, Alexander the Great, who became king at the age of 20. Of course, their lifespans were about half of what we average today, so they had to get started quickly... even before their brains had fully matured.

What they had in common with Brian Deese is that they were famous for dismantling, too. Their dismantling was primarily done on their neighbors. Still, you sometimes have to have the vigor of youth to smash up what has been established so that someone else can rebuild what you break.

Well, there will be a lot of other players in this drama who will provide "advice" from a more experienced perspective. Still, it is comforting to know that our government is consistent. We can simply put people in place who will go with how they feel about things and dispense with mundane issues like real knowledge or consideration of the legal complexities like the Constitution.

Perhaps Brian and Michael Moore can work out a deal to convert General Motors to General Railroad.
The 31-Year-Old in Charge of Dismantling G.M.
Published: May 31, 2009

WASHINGTON — It is not every 31-year-old who, in a first government job, finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Brian Deese, who interrupted his law school career, is the little-seen force behind the revamping of the American auto industry.

But that, in short, is the job description for Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry.

Nor, for that matter, had he given much thought to what ailed an industry that had been in decline ever since he was born. A bit laconic and looking every bit the just-out-of-graduate-school student adjusting to life in the West Wing — “he’s got this beard that appears and disappears,” says Steven Rattner, one of the leaders of President Obama’s automotive task force — Mr. Deese was thrown into the auto industry’s maelstrom as soon the election-night parties ended.

“There was a time between Nov. 4 and mid-February when I was the only full-time member of the auto task force,” Mr. Deese, a special assistant to the president for economic policy, acknowledged recently as he hurried between his desk at the White House and the Treasury building next door. “It was a little scary.”

But now, according to those who joined him in the middle of his crash course about the automakers’ downward spiral, he has emerged as one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama’s biggest experiment yet in federal economic intervention.

While far more prominent members of the administration are making the big decisions about Detroit, it is Mr. Deese who is often narrowing their options.

A month ago, when the administration was divided over whether to support Fiat’s bid to take over much of Chrysler, it was Mr. Deese who spoke out strongly against simply letting the company go into liquidation, according to several people who were present for the debate.

“Brian grasps both the economics and the politics about as quickly as I’ve seen anyone do this,” said Lawrence H. Summers, the head of the National Economic Council who is not known for being patient whenever he believes an analysis is sub-par — or disagrees with his own. “And there he was in the Roosevelt Room, speaking up vigorously to make the point that the costs we were going to incur giving Fiat a chance were no greater than some of the hidden costs of liquidation.”

Mr. Deese was not the only one favoring the Fiat deal, but his lengthy memorandum on how liquidation would increase Medicaid costs, unemployment insurance and municipal bankruptcies ended the debate. The administration supported the deal, and it seems likely to become a reality on Monday, if a federal judge handling the high-speed bankruptcy proceeding approves the sale of Chrysler’s best assets to the Italian carmaker.

Mr. Deese’s role is unusual for someone who is neither a formally trained economist nor a business school graduate, and who never spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of the American and Japanese auto industries.

He lives a dual life these days. He starts the day at a desk wedged just outside of Mr. Summers’s office, where he can hear what young members of the economic team have come to know as “the Summers bellow.” From there, he can make it quickly to the press office to help devise explanations for why taxpayers are spending more than $50 billion on what polls show is a very unpopular bailout of the auto industry.

Several times a day he speed-walks to Treasury, taking a shortcut through the tunnel under the colonnade, near the kitchens. The other day he talked about how sharply perceptions of the industry’s future changed after Mr. Obama’s election.

“At the first meeting with Rick Wagoner,” he said, referring to G.M.’s recently deposed chief executive, “they were in a very different place. He said publicly that bankruptcy was not a viable option. It’s been a long process getting everyone to look at the options differently.”

In fact, from before Inauguration Day, few in Mr. Obama’s circle saw any other choice. Every time Mr. Deese ran the numbers on G.M. and Chrysler, he came back with the now-obvious conclusion that neither was a viable business, and that their plans to revive themselves did not address the erosion of their revenues. But it took the support of Mr. Rattner and Ron Bloom, senior advisers to the task force charged with restructuring the automobile industry, to help turn Mr. Deese’s positions into policy.

“The president’s instruction to us was that we had to come up with a solution that would work on a commercial basis, that didn’t involve indefinite federal financing,” Mr. Deese said. “But we didn’t want liquidation, which would have even worse effects. So the question was how do you design a very substantial restructuring, and do it fast.”

Mr. Deese’s route to the auto table at the White House was anything but a straight line. He is the son of a political science professor at Boston College (his father) and an engineer who works in renewable energy (his mother). He grew up in the Boston suburb of Belmont and attended Middlebury College in Vermont. He went to Washington to work on aid issues and was quickly hired by Nancy Birdsall, a widely respected authority on the effectiveness of international aid and the founder of the Center for Global Development.

But he wanted to learn domestic issues as well, and soon ended up working as an assistant for Gene Sperling, who 17 years ago in the Clinton White House played a similar role as economic policy prodigy. Eventually, Mr. Deese headed to Yale for his law degree. But his e-mail box was constantly filled with messages from friends in Washington who were signing up to work for the Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigns. Mr. Deese chose Senator Clinton’s.

“He was pretty quickly functioning as the top economic policy staffer through her campaign,” Mr. Sperling said. “He could blend the policy needs and the political needs pretty seamlessly.” On the day that the Clinton campaign ended, Mr. Deese left her concession speech and received a message on his BlackBerry from a friend in the Obama campaign urging him to sign on immediately to Mr. Obama’s team.

He resumed his policy work there, and found himself stuck in Chicago — unable to fly to Washington with his dog — as the economic crisis deepened. Finally, one night, he decided to get into his car with his dog and just started driving back to Washington. Tired, he pulled over to catch some sleep in the car.

“I slept in the parking lot of the G. M. plant in Lordstown, Ohio,” he recalled. The giant plant, opened during G.M.’s heyday in the mid-1960s, is where the Pontiac G5 is produced. Under the plan Mr. Deese worked on when he arrived in Washington, Pontiac will disappear.

“I guess that was prophetic,” he said, shaking his head.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Center for Global Development as the Center for International Development.

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February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)