Levin: Detroit & Wall Street Held to Different Standards — But We Can’t Dwell On It

March 30, 2009 10:10 a.m.
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It’s an admittedly over-simplified question, but one that’s lingered in the background today after the Obama administration insisted on the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner: Is the government insisting on stronger concessions from Detroit than it is from Wall Street, despite the latter’s receipt of a far bigger taxpayer bailout?

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) just told reporters that he believes there has been “a double standard for a long time in terms of the treatment of the financial industry, compared [with] the way the auto industry has been treated. It’s something we’ve fought against … but something we’ve got to live with and deal with.”

Levin added that it would be a distraction to lament banking CEOs’ ability to keep their jobs while boasting managerial records nearly as dismal as Wagoner’s (Bank of America chief Ken Lewis and Citigroup chief Vikram Pandit are the names that often spring to mind).

When the senator was asked if he advised the president not to fire Wagoner, however, Levin offered a curious demurral:

The president said he’d decided to do that — he wasn’t asking for advice … [Obama said Wagoner’s ouster] was necessary to signal to the public that there was going to be a real effort here to make a fresh start. There wasn’t much of a point in arguing whether it was fair or unfair, wise or unwise.

Levin said the president informed him of today’s plans for the U.S. automakers during a “long conversation” that began at around 7:30pm last night, with three other lawmakers participating. It’s unclear whether this call is the same one that Politico reported earlier today as including at least three congressional Republicans: Sen. Bob Corker (TN) and Michigan Reps. Fred Upton and Vernon Ehlers.

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