4. As GM Goes, So Goes the Economy

December 4, 2008 was a cold, beautifully clear morning in the nation’s capital. As I walked up Capitol Hill from Union Station, I was unnerved to find a phalanx of camera crews just outside the Senate office building. The chief executives of the Big 3 Detroit automakers were there, talking to reporters, each standing next to one of his company’s prized cars. At an earlier appearance before Congress seeking financial help, the executives had been publicly flogged for flying to Washington in their corporate jets. This time they made a show of driving to the capital.

I had been invited to offer a nonbiased view of whether taxpayers should bail out the automakers. I was viewed as a nonpartisan economist: I had worked ...

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