Chrysler

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Question: If someone made $62,000 last year, had $187,000 in their bank account, and yet sought a $5,360 subsidy from government, what would the common sense response be?


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Back in late 2011 after the Occupy Wall Street protests, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne gave a speech in Toronto to decry what he called “the most inane displays of greed.” The reference was to behaviour he had observed while serving on various company boards over the years.


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One benefit of column writing is the chance for feedback from readers, be they fans, critics or the merely curious. Responses arrive that reflect the rainbow of human emotion from cheery agreement to annoyance to the equivalent of typed-out road rage.

Much of what I (and my colleagues) do is analyze how politicians spend tax dollars and how governments affect our lives in multiple ways. As a result, any report or column that recommends a change to the status quo is sure to touch someone’s interest. Predictably, that touches a nerve and sets off a reaction.


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Back in June 2009, the federal and Ontario governments decided to use massive amounts of taxpayer cash to rescue General Motors and Chrysler, two corporations deemed too big to fail. The cost to Canadians was US$13.7 billion: $10.8 billion to GM and $2.9 billion to Chrysler.

The taxpayer bailout was part of the court-supervised restructuring process for the two companies, egged on by the Obama administration. Behind the scenes, the White House made clear that any restructured versions of the companies might leave Canada if taxpayers in this country did not ante up.


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Milton Friedman once said his greatest fear about the 1979 bailout of Chrysler by the U.S. federal government was not that it would fail, but that it would succeed. Friedman didn’t mean he was wrong to oppose it. What concerned him was how Chrysler’s rescue (approved by the U.S. Congress in late 1979 and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1980) might lead some to draw the wrong conclusion: the notion that such actions save jobs, among other illusions.