Why is Rick Wagoner getting the boot while the management of the big banks remains in place? Whatever resonance the question has on first blush, it gets more complicated on further inspection. Citi does not have the same CEO it did at the start of the crisis. And the government installed a new CEO at AIG after the initial bailout. Another rejoinder might be that the automakers’ plight is of a much more longstanding vintage than that of the finance barons, though I suspect, as we learn more, we’ll be revisiting those assumptions. And even after getting substantial government aid, I think Wagoner’s the first auto industry CEO to get the boot. So perhaps we should be asking why it is that something like this hasn’t happened sooner.
All that said, though, after that meeting of the major bank CEOs at the White House last week, it’s hard for me not to think that, for all that has happened, their clout in Washington is just on a scale where they are accepted as peers of the realm. And simply immune to certain sorts of treatment.