The U.S. government should rescue the nation’s battered auto-makers, but only if they commit to building hybrid and electric cars, says retired U.S. Army general and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark.
Writing in the New York Times’ opinion pages this week, Clark equates the auto industry to the military while pointing out that the armed forces have done more in recent years to use electric power and reduce their carbon footprint.
“When President Dwight Eisenhower observed that America’s greatest strength wasn’t its military, but its economy, he must have had companies like General Motors and Ford in mind,” Clark writes. “Sitting atop a vast pyramid of tool makers, steel producers, fabricators and component manufacturers, these companies not only produced the tanks and trucks that helped win World War II, but also lent their technology to aircraft and ship manufacturing.”
While auto-makers have continued to serve the military well since that time (with the Humvee and other armor-protected vehicles), Clark continues, they have not done as well in the public sphere. By bailing out the industry now with strict conditions, Americans can do more than avert painful economic fallout, he adds.
“This should be no giveaway,” Clark concludes. “Instead, it is a historic opportunity to get it right in Detroit for the good of the country. But Americans must bear in mind that any federal assistance plan would not be just an economic measure. This is, fundamentally, about national security.”
Sounds like a better plan than the U.S.’s much more expensive and so-far bungled finance sector bailout.