When Woody Allen was first learning how to write scripts, a more experienced writer told him that it’s not enough to envision a story topic–you always have to ask yourself, “And then what happens” to get the most out of any idea. Megan McCardle explains “and then what happens” to Detroit:
So now we’re hearing that Obama doesn’t think bankruptcy can be avoided by the auto firms, and no wonder–March brought yet another round of abysmal numbers on auto sales, both here and in Japan. A car purchase is simply too easy to delay, especially with credit constrained for the bottom 30% or so of the market.
If Obama follows through, and actually puts the companies into bankruptcy, I’ll be awfully impressed–it’s hard for any president to give up Michigan, but especially for a Democrat who wants labor support. So then the question is, what next? Which marques go? Buick, for sure, and Pontiac. Which plants close? And what is the government going to do to help autoworkers? They’re not just out of a job–they’re stuck in a state that will be absolutely devastated by these closures. Their houses will be worth almost nothing. What do you do with a 50-year-old auto worker who has lived in a factory town all his life?
I’m not at all convinced that whatever Obama does will cause him to lose Michigan. The state went blue in 2000, despite Al Gore’s doomsday quasi-religious environmental rhetoric and the havoc it would have likely wreaked on the domestic auto industry. Unless the GOP works Michigan extremely hard in 2012 and has a candidate who’s something of a known commodity there (cough–Romney–cough), and a fair amount of luck, Obama will likely hang on to the state no matter how savagely he and his Congress continue to pummel the auto industry.
Update: Jennifer Rubin adds, “make no mistake about what is driving the decision-making here: It’s not the survival of GM; it’s the survival of the UAW.”