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Wednesday, 10 December 2008 14:30

Not a fan of bailouts, Shuler drives a hard bargain

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U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, said he is unsure if he will support a bailout of the auto industry.

The auto industry over the years has made poor decisions that led to its current situation, Shuler said.

Shuler wonders why the companies didn’t come up with a better business plan years ago rather than waiting until they were in financial trouble.

In an interview Monday, Shuler said he hasn’t seen any specific legislation to rescue GM, Ford and Chrysler.

“I want to see what the legislation says,” said Shuler. He expects legislation to come before the Senate and House this week.

He is reluctant to support a bailout unless the auto industry restructures and comes up with a new business plan. When the companies came before Congress asking for $25 billion two weeks ago, they were told to come back with a plan of how the loan would be used. But now they have only come back with a larger request for $34 billion, Shuler said.

Shuler twice voted against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout for financial institutions because he didn’t trust the money would go to good use. Shuler said his skepticism proved accurate, citing the use of bailout money by AIG for a party.

He said none of that money has gone to “Main Street.” Shuler wants the financial institutions to lend some of their bailout money to the auto companies. He said he finds it ironic that the banks won’t loan that money.

Western North Carolina auto dealerships are hoping Shuler will support the bailout, saying their livelihood depends on it. But Shuler said none of the money in the proposed bailout is intended to go to the dealers.

“This doesn’t have any impact on the dealers,” Shuler said. “It’s not going to them directly.”

The dealers, however, say that their future depends on the Big Three avoiding bankruptcy. Thousands of other jobs connected the auto industry could also be in jeopardy if the bailout fails.

Shuler agreed that the most important thing is that jobs be saved, but said he opposes writing the auto industry a blank check.

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