By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
COLORADO SPRINGS — The $25 billion bailout for ailing American automakers “is a Band-Aid,” said Congressman Doug Lamborn, who believes the package will not rescue Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.
On Nov. 20, Lamborn introduced a bill that offers what he called “a long-term solution” to American auto manufacturers’ economic crisis. That same day, the Senate postponed voting on the proposed bailout package until December.
“The bill will give incentives for people to buy cars and reduce the inventory. That’s what will help the automakers,” said Lamborn, a Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District.
This week, Lamborn began surveying CD 5 voters about the bailout of the Big Three automakers and solicited suggestions on who should receive the $700 billion financial rescue package approved by Congress after the Wall Street crash in late September.
Lamborn voted against the $700 billion bailout.
Nearly 88 percent of the CD 5 voters polled so far have opposed a bailout for the auto manufacturers.
Apparently they were not moved by the Ford, GM and Chrysler execs, who appeared last week before Congress and pleaded for the super loan so they could stave off the catastrophic collapse of their industry, which would put 3 million workers out of jobs.
Just before pleading poverty before Congress and begging for bailout billions, the Big Three CEOs had found ample financial fuel to gas up their private jets for the trip from Detroit to Washington.
“People view that — at best — as poor public relations,” said Lamborn. “At worst, it showed their disregard for the value of money.”
In an e-mail to his constituents, Lamborn said, “Our economy has certainly experienced many ups and downs recently that not only affect big business, but many families and small business owners in Colorado…
“I believe if we remain dedicated to free-market principles and limited government intervention, we can overcome this financial crisis. The economic decisions we make today will impact our nation for generations to come,” he said, adding that he opposes increasing the national debt.
HR 7928 would give up to a $10,000 tax deduction to each American who buys a new automobile manufactured in the United States — including Ford, Chrysler, GM and foreign auto companies that build cars in this country.
In addition, Lamborn said, the bill would help small businesses — primarily car dealers and suppliers — by increasing expense limits from $250,000 to $500,000 with a phase-out cap of $1 million.
Lamborn said the bill was based on discussions with auto dealers in Colorado Springs that included Tom Perkins, of Perkins Chrysler Dodge, Mike Jorgensen, of Red Nolan Cadillac, and Mike Cimino, of the Phil Long dealerships.
“It’s a great example of how constituents help me to do a better job,” said Lamborn.
The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association anticipates a decline in new vehicle sales of between 20 percent and 25 percent this year. Some dealers already have laid off staff.
So far, Lamborn’s bill has two co-sponsors — Rep. Virginia Fox, R-North Carolina, and Rep. Ron Paul, R- Texas. He is actively seeking more support for the bill and is trying to get it assigned to a committee.
The bill was lauded by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, as “a pro-taxpayer, free-market solution.”
Norquist and his organization oppose the bailout of the auto companies, which are drowning in debt, in part because they pay high hourly wages and provide generous benefits that were negotiated over the years by the United Auto Workers union.
Opponents argue that Lamborn’s bill will not help workers in the auto industry.
The House will not vote on the proposed $25 billion bailout until after the Senate vote in December.
In a telephone press conference, Sen. Ken Salazar said he generally supports using money from the $700 billion rescue package to bail out the auto manufacturers. However, the Democrat also said the Big Three must find a way to be competitive in the market.
Retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard did not return calls. He has dismantled his Web site in preparation for his return to Colorado.
Democratic Senator-elect Mark Udall, who will replace Allard in the Senate, voted against the $700 billion rescue package.
Lamborn’s office is reviewing the results of his survey and paying particular attention to comments on the $700 billion in bailout money, which is under the control of U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Of that sum, Paulson has reported that $150 million was dedicated to its capital-injection program. That figure does not include money for the latest hardship case, Citigroup Inc., which is slated to receive a $20 billion injection and a $306 billion guarantee of the bank’s assets.
Earlier this month, Paulson conceded the failure of his original plan to purchase troubled financial assets to stabilize the financial market.