Michigan Mayor Thinks Taxpayers Should Foot Bill for UAW if Chrysler Goes Bankrupt

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," April 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: My hope, as I said to you, it's not a liquidation — I think that would be the wrong step — but, rather, one that allows for reorganization.


BRIAN SULLIVAN, GUEST HOST: Liquidation, reorganization, the head of the Senate Banking Committee sounding like Chrysler bankruptcy may be a foregone conclusion. If that does happen, "The New York Times" reporting, taxpayers could wind up footing the bill for UAW members' pensions and retiree health care benefits.

Later this afternoon, however, Jim Press of Chrysler said, and told his dealers, that a bankruptcy necessarily would not be imminent.

What does Lansing Mayor, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero know? He says, well, we have got to pick up the pensions either way.

And the mayor joins us now.

Welcome, Mayor, to the program.

Obviously, Jim Press' comments coming out later on in the day.

First off, what have you heard about a possible Chrysler bankruptcy?

VIRG BERNERO (D), MAYOR OF LANSING, MICHIGAN: Well, Brian, thanks. It's happy — I'm happy to be here.

I know nothing more than you do. But I do know that bankruptcy is a very risky option and it's a very costly option. And we have said this from the beginning, that we're far better off supporting these companies, and building these companies up, and bringing production back, putting the P. back in GDP, gross domestic product, keep Americans working, that that is a much better option.

These are millions of Americans that will be affected directly, people working, people in the related industries, you know, all of the industries around the automobile, but also the retirees. These is a covenant. There is a covenant for these retirees, these senior citizens, who don't deserve to have the rug pulled out from — from beneath them.

One of them is my dad, you know, 84 years old. He earned that pension. And there's millions like him who have earned pensions. And those pensions should be honored.

SULLIVAN: You are — listen, you — you are correct, OK? But, at the same time, there are people who work for companies, Circuit City, a lot of retailers who have gone under, who get no protection.

What makes Chrysler and the UAW different than all the other Americans that are losing their jobs?

BERNERO: Well, look, I — my heart goes out to every worker.

And, again, we need to bring production back to this country. We need a serious initiative and commitment to bringing manufacturing back to this country. It's absolutely vital to the economic health of this country.

But those pensions were earned. And those pensions are guaranteed. You know, there's a federal agency that supports those pensions. And, so, we ought to be investing in these companies. Other countries are investing. Germany, France, they are investing in their countries.

Even Toyota is going to their government, asking for help. We should be investing in these companies, so that we can build the leaner, greener cars of the future, and be productive.

You know, my question, Brian, how are we going to pay off this stimulus? You know how a country pays off stimulus? Either they print money or they — they expand their GDP. We have got to grow this economy. We have to have manufacturing in this country. We can't ship everything overseas.

SULLIVAN: I don't disagree with you at all, because, if you look at pay scales, the average manufacturing job is about $19.50. The average retail job is about $12.50 an hour. That's a 30 percent pay cut. A lot of people who leave manufacturing go into retail, so their quality of life deteriorates.

BERNERO: Exactly.

SULLIVAN: The issue at hand, though, is what is going to happen with Chrysler, because we're coming to that D-Day.

BERNERO: Well...

SULLIVAN: And we're looking at companies, Ford, GM, Chrysler — Ford, of course, has not taken government money — that are losing money.

I mean, Ford's results were decent today, in fact, in that they burned less cash than they had been, but they are still burning cash.


BERNERO: Brian, I know you have heard the argument — we all have — that — that these companies are too big to fail.

I would say they are too important to fail. They're too vital to our future to fail. The Chrysler investment in the past paid off. Those loans were paid back. The American taxpayer, it was a good investment.

And I suggest that investing in these companies now — I know the numbers look dismal now, but the fact is, the auto industry is a very cyclical industry. It moves with the economy. And, right now, we know that this is basically Depression-era numbers for the auto industry. We need to turn the economy around. You know, what about cash for clunkers? I heard a lot of talk about this.


BERNERO: Other countries have done it. In Germany, they saw a 40 percent increase. We ought to encourage people to buy a car.

SULLIVAN: Well, there's the problem, because the government, for some weird reason, refuses to do what it needs to do, which is offer a bigger tax credit to get people to buy cars. Stop putting income limits on people that can get tax credits to go buy cars.

BERNERO: Exactly.

SULLIVAN: If you help the demand side — we had a guest on my show on FOX Business today.

BERNERO: I agree with you.


SULLIVAN: You get a demand side. You get people to buy cars. We sell 12 million cars a year again in America, these companies might be financially viable.


BERNERO: I agree with you 100 percent, although I don't know if you will agree. My point is, it should be to buy American cars. You know...


SULLIVAN: Yes, but how do you define that, though?


SULLIVAN: You know, look at Honda. My dad — my dad's GMC pickup was made in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My aunt's Accord was made in Marysville, Ohio.


BERNERO: I understand.

SULLIVAN: Which one is the American car?

BERNERO: I understand the transplants are here.

But, look, at least if we say American, at least if we say they have to bought — made in America — we can at least say that — they have to be made in America — maybe we do have to open the door to the transplants.

SULLIVAN: But that's Hyundai. That's Mercedes. That's a lot of BMWs.


SULLIVAN: V.W. has opened up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Those are American workers.


BERNERO: But at least they are employing Americans. At least they are employing Americans.

Now, I'm true-blue, heart-and-soul American companies. My dad retired from GM, and we make, of course, the great Cadillac CTS, Motor Trend Car of the Year, right here.

I encourage Americans, red-blooded Americans, to buy American. And I mean real American, companies and cars that are designed, manufactured and engineered here in this country. We don't want to lose that engineering capacity and that design capacity.

But, you know, we need the cash for clunkers. And — and, you know, the other thing, why would we give money to companies? I see GM under this — I see GM moving and other companies moving — continuing this outsourcing. When we give them money, it should be that you have to keep the production in this country.

In France, they put strings on the money and said, we will give you this money to Renault, but you have to move production to France. And the president of France actually said, when they accused him of protectionism, he said, look, I represent France. I'm here to protect French workers.

SULLIVAN: All right.

BERNERO: We need politicians in this country who will stand up for American workers.

SULLIVAN: And you are representing Lansing very well, Mayor.

BERNERO: Thank you very much.

SULLIVAN: We do — we do appreciate it. And we appreciate your passion.

Thank you so much.

BERNERO: The American workers deserve it.

SULLIVAN: All right.

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