Free Markets, Free People

Car Czar Thuggery (Updated)


Steven Rattner, the Obama administration’s “Car Czar,” was recently accused of acting, well, rather czar-ishly by White & Case attorney Tom Lauria. Those accusations were later corroborated by others privy to the meetings. Now comes a rather disturbing (and presently unsubstantiated) account of exactly what was said1:

Confronting the head of a non-TARP fund holding Chrysler debt and unwilling to release it for any sum less than that to which it was legally entitled without compelling cause, this country’s “Car Czar” berated the manager of said fund with an outburst of prose substantially resembling this:

Who the f*** do you think you’re dealing with? We’ll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.

Faced with these sorts of threats, in this environment, with valued employees in the crosshairs and AIG a fresh, open wound upon the market, the fund folded.

Keep in mind that the non-TARP creditors in the bankruptcy have been forced to lump their fates in with the TARP recipients (emphasis added):

As of last night’s deadline, we were part of a group of approximately 20 relatively small organizations; we represent many of the country’s teachers unions, major pension and retirement plans and school endowments who have invested through us in senior secured loans to Chrysler. Combined, these loans total about $1 billion. None of us have taken a dime in TARP money.

As much as anyone, we want to see Chrysler emerge from its current situation as a viable American company, and we are committed to doing what we can to help. Indeed, we have made significant concessions toward this end — although we have been systematically precluded from engaging in direct discussions or negotiations with the government; instead, we have been forced to communicate through an obviously conflicted intermediary: a group of banks that have received billions of TARP funds.

Rattner’s alleged threats should give everyone some pause. Is it really the case that private companies will be forced to do the President’s bidding or face the full brunt of the state’s police power? Because that’s exactly what’s being alleged. I share the concern of the reporter of Rattner’s comments in that I certainly hope the accusations are inaccurate/misstated/outrageously untrue.

It is my deepest wish at this point that there is nothing about this latest bit of Car Czar thuggery even remotely based in fact- as this would mean that this country has truly and unarguably descended into fascism.

I use this term, “fascism,” quite deliberately. I also use it well aware that many will consider it needlessly inflammatory. Be this as it may, I submit there is simply no other term that properly describes the style and tenor of government emerging both in public and behind once closed doors.

The corporatist model — i.e. where unelected government officials and industry “leaders” fashion economic policy for the benefit of the state as whole, and in complete disregard of, and often quite hostile to, individual liberty — has never died, and is used more often than you might think (e.g. in the creation of energy policy, environmental policy, financial market rules, etc.), albeit in less radical form. That does not mean that Jews or any other disfavored groups will be marched off to concentration camps (opponents of gay marriage not named “Barack” can be forgiven for thinking otherwise). But it does mean that the preconditions necessary to ease the way for totalitarian control are already present. If enough people buy the “myth” presented by those in charge, then more and more power will eventually be ceded to a central authority, who will then have the ability to steamroll any opponents to the collective will. The accusations presented above suggest that Rattner (and one has to presume Pres. Obama), believes that enough Americans have bought the myth as to allow for such bullying. If so, that is a truly disturbing thought to contemplate.

UPDATE: In an article at the WSJ essentially chiding the MSM for failing to dig into this story, Tom Blumer notes the following (my emphasis):

The New York Times, in a report by Michael J. de la Merced and Jonathan D. Glater, does note the threats and Gonzales’s ruling, and has the following at its second-last paragraph.

When the debtholders, calling themselves the Committee of Non-TARP Lenders, made their first public statement last Thursday, they said their group consisted of about 20 investment firms holding about $1 billion. According to their motion to file under seal, the group now claims about $300 million in holdings.

de la Merced and Glater were apparently not curious about the possible reasons why the amount involved, and presumably the number of holders, is significantly lower than it was just a few days ago.

Maybe it’s because the threats are real, guys.


1 Edited to make SFW.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

26 Responses to Car Czar Thuggery (Updated)

  • One point you make, which i believe Jonah Goldberg has been trying to get through to people is that Fascism does not necessarily contain a exterminist side. Fascism and exist apart from militarism and exterminism. This needless addition obscures actual fascism from peoples radar.

    • Right.  Much of that stems from Stalin’s (quite successful) efforts to paint fascism as a movement of the right, and as diametrically opposed to communism.  And, after all, Mussolini himself claimed that fascism was a move to the right.  But while neither the fascist nor communist models of government are dependent upon extermination of enemies, it is a matter of historical fact that they eventually end up in that place. 

      Regardless of what you call your form of government, when the individual will must be subjugated to that of the state, in order for the state’s agenda to be accomplished, very bad things will happen.  Thankfully, we live in a country where individualism is still a widely held belief, and one that is deeply embedded in most institutions of our lives.  The chances of Stalinist Russia or Mussolini’s Italy happening here are very slim to say the least.  But there are a great many insufferable incursions into our individual liberty that can happen between where we are now and those remote possibilities.  That is not a direction I want to be headed in.

  • Anyone else note the ‘new’ plan for GM is to increase the number of autos produced in China, South Korea and Mexico for domestic consumption here in the US?  The percentage rising from the mid teens to the low to mid 20s?
    Ah yes, a plan to save the “American” auto worker and industry, force financed by the government.
    Given that (which is current fact) why SHOULDN”T I believe the car Czar is practicing extortion.

    Extortion, outwresting, or exaction is a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence or a lawsuit which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence or lawsuit is sufficient to commit the offense.”

    I’d say organized crime, on a national scale really DOES exist.  It’s headquartered in Washington.
    Change we can believe in.

  • But… but… I thought W was the fascist!!!!

    All the more reason to support this –

  • When you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, you have to ask  …

    I’ve heard that for about $600 you can have anybody ….  negotiated with

  • Who the f*** do you think you’re dealing with? We’ll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.

    Can anyone here give me a valid reason why the s-bag who uttered this shouldn’t be strung up from the nearest tree?

  • Yes. Nobody will have the courage to go public and say “He said it and I was in the room when he said it.”

    I realize that most of these potential witnesses have a lot to lose but this is has the potential to be a “Munich” moment and good men and women have an obligation to speak out.  The founders pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. These folks are risking maybe an IRS audit and an unflattering article in the NY Times.

    • I’d say they risk a lot more than that:

      … we represent many of the country’s teachers unions, major pension and retirement plans and school endowments who have invested through us in senior secured loans to Chrysler.

      The fiduciary duty is an awesome duty.

    • If it’s co berated they risk a lot less.  A witch hunt that’s know to be a witch hunt isn’t usually viewed very favorably, even if it’s sponsored by TAO (who will promptly throw the Czar under the bus if the going gets hot and tell the NEXT one not to be so freaking obvious….)

  • The maladministration of The Clown™: Not only destroying America one day at a time, but threatening those who even think of resisting Big Brother.

  • Do you people really think Lauria is a nice guy who was unfairly set upon by the big, bad commisar?

    Lauria makes his living swinging his dick around and getting in people’s faces on behalf of his clients.

    It just so happens that Rattner had a bigger dick. Poor Lauria, he couldn’t shake down the government. Here, let me fetch my violin.

    I’m glad that Rattner was zealously looking out for my interests as a taxpayer. That was his job. This is the change we voted for, after 8 years of Bush/Cheney collaboration with Wall Street and corporate America, and against the middle class and the poor.

    One of the definitions of fascism is the union of government and corporate power. I’m glad to hear that we’re not doing that any longer.

    • And you don’t think the Govt dictating the actions of a corp. is “the union of government and corporate power”?

      Do you not think that the people who invested in Chrysler deserve at least the same deal the union got?

      This is indeed the Change people voted for, they just didn’t realize it.

    • Yeah, he was “looking out for your interests”

      Buddy, if your interests and the interests he was serving overlap, it was pure coincidence.

      Remind me to give you the horse laugh when Rattner swings the govt. “dick” when he looks out for some interests that run counter to your own

    • First of all, it’s not just Lauria, which you would know if you had read the post.

      Secondly, bankruptcy attorneys are pretty used to getting bowled over by US Trustees with an agenda (who are basically unstoppable), so your “swinging dick” theory is awfully suspect. 

      Thirdly, how is handing the company to the UAW and Fiat looking out for the interests of the taxpayer?  You do know that part of this plan includes the taxpayers NOT getting paid back, right?

      Finally, in what way are the non-TARP creditors trying to “shake down the government”?  Their money was in well before the government got involved.  Why should they be the ones to take the biggest haircut?

      Maybe reviewing the facts before leaving idiotic comments should be your next assignment.

    • Renato, you imbecile, unless you’re a member of UAW he wasn’t looking out for your interests.  This administration burned billions of taxpayer dollars, and billions more investor dollars, to pay off a political debt.  There’s nothing more to see here than that.

  • … we represent many of the country’s teachers unions, major pension and retirement plans and school endowments who have invested through us in senior secured loans to Chrysler.

    And I’m sure all those pension plans, endowments and unions were giving you the green light to take up loans against Chrysler – a bad investment if ever there was one. Why do I not believe a damned word these Masters of the Universe say?

  • Why does the phrase ‘working towards the Fuhrer” comes to mind?

  • I wonder if Rattner knows about the recording ?

  • Do you all think George Washington would have told Rattener who the f**k he was dealing with? Just before he put the appropriate amount of lead in him from his Brown Bess.

  • Who’s laughing at me now for voting for McCain?

  • Maybe $300 million is $1 Billion written down to the government’s (spit) demand offer for the senior credit holders. That will teach those teachers not to have hose 403(b)s and rely only on the unions.

  • The chances of Stalinist Russia or Mussolini’s Italy happening here are very slim to say the least.

    That is a function of time. Consider; who would have thought, say, 50 years ago, the unions would own most of GM and Chrysler?

    • An argument can be made that 50 years ago the union did own most of GM and Chrysler, at least from a “control” viewpoint.
      A Stalinist Russia or Mussolini’s Italy could, in my opinion, happen very rapidly at the whim of crisis. Has the USA changed since 9/11?