Is Detroit Too Black to Fail?

What Obama's car commission needs to look like.


A couplet… 

The blacker the city, the bailout’s less pretty;

In congressional committee, most options are shitty. 

Detroit is the blackest city in America. And after witnessing New Orleans, another venerable majority-black city, go down for the count in 2005, by way of government indifference in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it behooves President Barack Obama to do everything he can to help save Motown and its auto industry. 

This doesn’t mean that Obama should prioritize African-American concerns over those of the broader polity—after all, African Americans supported Obama knowing that he wasn’t pushing a “black” agenda. But black people don’t expect to ride the back of the proverbial bus, either. Keeping Detroit afloat is good for the country and good for black America. It’s also a way for Obama to throw a lifeline to unions before he carefully sidesteps the coming debate over the politically non-starting Employee Free Choice Act. 

A limerick… 

The president wants Detroit fixed,

But old methods will have to be nixed—

He’s got multiple czars,

For American cars;

But some CEOs should get deep-sixed. 

Rather than installing one all-powerful “car czar,” the president will put in place a new task force on the U.S. auto industry, set to work with both management and labor to maintain viability among the Big Three automakers—General Motors, Chrysler and Ford—and the myriad supply-chain businesses counting on their survival. The Washington Post reports that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (him again?) and newly appointed corporate restructuring specialist Ron Bloom will be important players in solving the automakers’ puzzle.  

But this is Detroit, and these are cars we’re talking about. Obama should consider rounding out that team with a few brothas. We’d need: 

Somebody’s uncle—the guy who goes out every three years and leases a new Buick, Lincoln Town Car or Lexus. Think of a retired Charles Barkley. He’ll sit in on design meetings to tell them what the people who still have disposable income actually want.