One of the pleasures of living in Washington, D.C., is being invited to events at the Brookings Institution, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wilson Center, and other thought centers. I recently attended a series of panel presentations entitled, “Recovery Road? An Assessment of the Auto Bailout and the State of U.S. Manufacturing.” Featured speakers were Larry Summers, former National Economic Council director; Steven Rattner, who handled the government’s side of the auto bailout; and Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Fiat/Chrysler.
Summer was his usual self; Rattner was earnest and thoughtful. If you haven’t seen Marchionne in an interview, I heartily recommend going on the Brookings website or watching a recent interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” He is a remarkably forthright but humorous fellow.
What does this have to do with parking? There was virtual consensus among all eight presenters and four moderators that had the federal government not stepped in to bail out automakers, a tragic disaster would certainly have occurred. As many as 2.6 million jobs would have been lost in the first year after General Motors and Chrysler collapsed. Ford would have been virtually out of business as the supply chain also imploded. Another million-plus jobs would probably have been lost in the second year. With the credit markets frozen, no one was in a position to pick up the pieces.
The best analysis shows that the bailout cost the U.S. government and taxpayers about $12.6 billion dollars, but saved us from at least $100 billion in lost taxes, higher unemployment costs, and other expenses. The effects on the manufacturing, mining, energy, health, and retail sectors would have been significant.
Imagine for a minute if the unemployment rate soared to perhaps 15 percent instead of 10. Imagine all the people who would not being buying cars and driving to work. Imagine the lost revenue parking systems would suffer if millions out of work were not shopping, working, and using parking facilities.
When we think back to those perilous times just a few years ago, we often think of the bank bailout and the auto bailout and grit our teeth. Did the people in charge at the time make all the right decisions? Certainly not. But had they not saved the auto industry, there would have been real pain in the parking industry as well.