Corporate begging in style

If industry leaders need to convince Congress that their plight is so desperate that they need $25 billion in taxpayer cash to rescue them, what mode of transportation would best underscore that crisis?  Flying coach?  Traveling by train?  Horse and buggy?  ABC News reports that the Big Three automakers sent their CEOs to Washington DC by private jet instead:

The CEOs of the big three automakers flew to the nation’s capital yesterday in private luxurious jets to make their case to Washington that the auto industry is running out of cash and needs $25 billion in taxpayer money to avoid bankruptcy.

The CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler may have told Congress that they will likely go out of business without a bailout yet that has not stopped them from traveling in style, not even First Class is good enough.

All three CEOs – Rick Wagoner of GM, Alan Mulally of Ford, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler – exercised their perks Tuesday by flying in corporate jets to DC. Wagoner flew in GM’s $36 million luxury aircraft to tell members of Congress that the company is burning through cash, asking for $10-12 billion for GM alone.

The price of a coach ticket between Detroit and DC goes for $288 on a non-stop Northwest flight.  Granted, one has to fly Northwest, but Wagoner could have improved the experience by spending an extra $600 on a first-class ticket.  Instead of spending $900, Wagoner instead burned through $20,000 — the cost of the single flight on the private jet.

Alan Mulally hasn’t flown commercial since beginning his stint at Ford.  He refused to relocate to Michigan from Seattle, so his contract with Ford includes the unlimited use of a private jet.  He commutes every weekend from Seattle to Detroit for his job.  Yesterday, Ford had three private jets in flight with various executives flying to Los Angeles and Nebraska as well as Mulally’s flight to DC.

None of the automakers have plans to shelve their fleets.  In fact, they’ve already called their private jets “non-negotiable” at the same time they’re demanding that taxpayers pay the bills for their extravagance.  They’re running out of cash and can’t sell their cars, but Ford and GM refuse to fly coach or even first class.

When the management of these automakers start acting like they’re in crisis, then perhaps we’ll believe them.  They’ve come to Congress not to rescue their companies but to salvage their lifestyles.  This is an industry that desperately needs bankruptcy and collapse to put an end to unrealistic labor deals and obnoxious executive behavior.  The American taxpayer doesn’t have any business subsidizing this failure.

Update: Seattle, not Detroit.