Nicholas II as The Car CzarEnlarge Photo
All that talk and speculation about who will or won't be named Car Czar has apparently been for naught: senior officials in the Obama administration announced today that the president will create an inter-agency task force to oversee the restructuring of America's auto industry, rather than placing that responsibility on the shoulders of one poor schmuck.
Leading the task force will be U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and head of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers. Full details of the committee haven't been released, but word on the street is that United Steelworkers union special assistant Ron Bloom will be tapped as an advisor, which sounds perfect, since he also used to be an investment banker. Basically, if you need to find one person who knows two ginormous, failed industries inside and out, Ron's your guy.
There are upsides and downsides to Obama's task force approach. On the negative, the big players in the auto industry have been waiting for the appointment of a car czar for some time. In fact, according to "people familiar with the matter" (a weirdly vague sourcing for the WSJ), many of those players haven't felt compelled to start bargaining until a czar is in place. As short-sighted as that may sound, the fact remains that the restructuring could have moved faster if Obama had made this announcement earlier. Also on the downside: as much as Democrats love working by committee, it doesn't always provide the speediest resolutions.
On the positive: overseeing the restructuring of a complex industry is probably best left in multiple hands, especially when $17.4 billion in loans is at stake.
Coming soon: As most of you know, tomorrow's the day that Chrysler and GM have to present their restructuring plans to congress. (Surprise twist: GM is likely to ask for more cash than the company has already received!) We're turbocharging the Mr. Coffee for very special, somewhat liveblogged coverage of all the C-Span shenanigans. Stay tuned.