Today, the CEOs of the Detroit Big Three returned to Capitol Hill to ask for $25 billion in loans. Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner insisted, “We’re all slashing back” on non-essential expenses, promising, “We’re going to be dramatically leaner.” The other executives echoed Wagoner’s pledge to be “leaner” in the future.
However, as ABC news reported last night, all three executives flew private jets to Washington, DC, for yesterday’s and today’s hearings:
Wagoner flew in GM’s $36 million luxury aircraft to tell members of Congress that the company is burning through cash, asking for $10-12 billion for GM alone. … Wagoner’s private jet trip to Washington cost his ailing company an estimated $20,000 roundtrip. In comparison, seats on Northwest Airlines flight 2364 from Detroit to Washington were going online for $288 coach and $837 first class.
Minutes after Wagoner claimed to be “slashing back” on expenses, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) evoked their private jet travel, calling it a “delicious irony.” Ackerman said the CEOs’ profligacy made Congress “a little bit suspicious” of their austerity pledges:
There’s a delicious irony of seeing private luxury jets flying into DC, and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. Kind makes you a little bit suspicious as to whether or not…we’ve seen the future. There’s a message there. Couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled to get here? It would have at least sent the message that you do get it.
Watch a portion of Ackerman’s comments that aired on Fox News:
Later in the hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked if any of the executives planned to sell their private jets; none raised his hand. Sherman was exasperated: “I don’t know how I go back to my constituents and say, ‘The auto industry has changed,’ if they own private jets which are not only expensive to own but expensive to operate and expensive to fly here rather than to have flown commercial.”