The big news this week, aside from Obama’s appointments, is the Big 3’s return to Capitol Hill tomorrow to ask lawmakers for the billions of dollars in aid they were denied a few weeks ago. This time all the Exec’s will be arriving in cars by their respective automakers, and not in their corporate jets. The jet issue of course made headlines, not least of all because they were three multi-millionaires begging for a bailout, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they looked more than little disingenuous.
A spokesperson for Chrysler responded to the criticism by saying that safety is a top concern, and flying by private jet is inherently safer. Slate’s Explainer took a look at the truth in this and concluded that if one is concerned about a plane crash, private jets and commercial airliners have about the same rate of crash and death by such. When factors such as personal security and privacy are factored in, of course private jets are going to be a better bet.
With all of the noise about the CEOs of GM, Chrysler and Ford flying corporate jets to DC, doesn’t it make you wonder how the Wall Street execs got there a few months ago? Surely the CEOs of Lehman Brothers and AIG didn’t hop on the Amtrak (although it’s possible, on the Acela) or pilot a Ford Escape down to Washington. And if they did take their companies’ private jets, why wasn’t such a big deal made of it?
I say it has to do with the carbon footprint left by each corporate jet (one each for the Big 3) when looked at in the greater scheme of oil prices/gas mileage/environmental concerns. Here are three companies that until relatively recently have been on the wrong side of the environmentally friendly transportation debate. Their products are generally seen (fairly or otherwise) as less energy efficient than their Japanese counterparts, an issue that has played no small part in their unwieldy business models, and yet they each chose to travel to Washington via the most fuel inefficient, gas guzzling method.
But if we start to judge based on that method of thinking, should the financial CEOs been subjected to living with the mortgages of average Americans? Are we unfairly tarring and feathering the GM, Chrysler and Ford CEOs for participating in a practice that is pretty universal among the well-heeled, well-off crowd? Probably. Why put such an emphasis on something as silly as how they traveled to Washington, when there are much more salient issues still on the table?