Barack Obama has now unveiled the next iteration of America's new industrial policy, and if you own shares of Ford Motor Company you have every right to be angry. The bailout of GM and Chrysler and the intrusion of the White House on their corporate governance is now part of a program to pick the winners and losers in the U.S. auto industry. The President has made it clear that GM will not fail due to ineptitude, decrepitude or attitude, and the full faith and credit (such as it is) of the United States has now interceded to ensure it. The market no longer is working, because your government wants the UAW to have jobs, and is willing to use your tax dollars to fund them. And, of course, it wants American auto companies to build small "green" cars, and now that it controls the behemoth that is General Motors, you can bet that they will -- whether you want to buy them or not. And what of Ford Motor Company? The company that brought you the modern automobile industry has, of course, struggled over the past year in a tough market. But due to superior products and better management, Ford has managed to resist the need for tax payer dollars. In a true market, Ford would now be enjoying the fruits of its effort by gaining on GM and Chrysler -- both of which would now be in bankruptcy. The company's employees and shareholders would now be benefiting from the demise of two of its main competitors and be rewarded for its ability to negotiate the difficult waters of CAFE standards and tough credit by surviving in the short-run and and expanding in the long-run. A great American success story, right?
Only not in Obama's America -- where it is more important to reward vested interests than it is those who play by the rules and do a good job. Why should Ford be in a position of watching its two primary domestic competitors receive government aid that will make them leaner and more effective competitors? How is that fair? What is the incentive for doing a good job and not needing a hand out if it puts you at a strategic disadvantage? This is the ultimate moral hazard -- that it is actually better to fail than to succeed, because the government will be there to save you. No matter what.
And don't be mislead. The taxpayer is now on the hook for saving GM and Chrysler. And if you work at Ford or own Ford stock -- tough luck. You will have to sit back and watch as the government puts is ample resources into making your competitors stronger. You lose for winning. What an ironic place to be for the company that Henry Ford built -- the man that created the foundation for mass production, who developed the Model T and established the roots of the modern transportation industry. A man built to compete, with a legacy that is now threatened by the ultimate in non-competitive forces.
One thing you can be sure of: somewhere in his grave in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit, Henry Ford is rolling over.