Is Ed Montgomery the new car czar?
There doesn't seem to be anything in his resume or job title that would indicate Edward Montgomery, President Obama's new director of recovery for auto communities and workers, will be dictating corporate policy for General Motors or other car companies. He's a "people" economist, not an industrial technocrat, focusing on workers, community economic development etc. From the Web site at the University of Maryland, where he is dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences:
Dr. Montgomery has published numerous papers and articles on local economic development, youth unemployment, cross national comparisons of labor market performance, savings and pension policy, Medicaid and Social Security, labor unions and workplace smoking regulations.
Economist Peter Morici, Montgomery's colleague at Maryland, probably knows a lot more about the car business than he does. But that hasn't stopped people from predicting Montgomery will be calling the shots for GM. From Scott Calvert's story on Montgomery in today's Baltimore Sun:
As if his job description were not broad enough, some experts think Montgomery will get involved in trying to turn around GM and Chrysler, along with other members of the presidential task force on the auto industry.
"I think he's going to have to oversee some major plant closings and job losses," Chaison said. "And I think he's going to have to design a bankruptcy. My personal view is General Motors is heading toward a bankruptcy. Chrysler may well be."
Charles Craver, a labor relations expert at George Washington University, expects Montgomery to wield considerable influence. "I have the sense he's going to have to oversee the restructuring of the companies," Craver said.
Nothing was said about this yesterday. Obama said Montgomery would help "create new manufacturing jobs and new businesses where they're needed most - in your communities. And he will also lead an effort to identify new initiatives we may need to help support your communities going forward."
But everything is fluid in the administration's mighty morphin' bailout/stimulus plan. Not much more than a year ago Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was saying no taxpayer money would be used to ameliorate the mortgage crisis. Now we're at -- what? -- trillions and counting. Montgomery may yet be the car czar.