Levin Calls For Bolstering U.S. Auto Industry

Detroit's automakers are due to present their restructuring plans to Congress on Tuesday — before lawmakers will consider approving a possible bailout for the troubled industry.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who authored the initial automaker bailout proposal and, when it stalled, co-sponsored compromise legislation, said the plan is necessary to help America's auto industry survive. But it's up to Congress to accept it, Levin told Renee Montagne.

"It's amazing to me that there should be any question about this," Levin said. "Every automobile-producing country in the world is supporting their auto industry."

Still, Levin acknowledged the idea that American taxpayers might not want to help one group of workers at a time when everyone is struggling.

"But I think everybody wants the middle class to survive," Levin said. "And the manufacturing centers of this country — wherever they are — have been a great source of the middle class to this country.

Levin also noted that U.S. autoworkers have already absorbed cuts in their pension and healthcare benefits.

As for those who think the fate of America's carmakers should be decided by the open market, Levin said the industry doesn't operate on a level playing field.

"Are they kidding?" he said. "Do they think that the Japanese or the Chinese or the Koreans or the Europeans operate in a free market?"

Those governments, Levin said, support their manufacturers. "It has to do with the standard of living and the good jobs that are involved in manufacturing," he said.

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