'Big Three' U.S. Automakers: Bailout Or Bankruptcy? Congress is considering a $25 billion bailout for Detroit's Big Three automakers. GM shares have fallen nearly 90 percent in the last year, and Ford and Chrysler are also struggling. Some Americans say the mismanaged automakers shouldn't get a bailout.
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'Big Three' U.S. Automakers: Bailout Or Bankruptcy?

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'Big Three' U.S. Automakers: Bailout Or Bankruptcy?


This is Talk of the Nation. Neal Conan is away. I'm Alison Stewart sitting in, in Washington. And it looks bad for General Motors. Consider this. Its shares have fallen nearly 90 percent in the last year. The company is low on cash, and in this economic climate, who has the money for a car anyway, not to mention filling it up with gas. Now GM doesn't stand alone here. The other two manufacturers that make up the Big Three - Ford and Chrysler - they're not doing so well either. Will the cavalry come in, in the form of Congress? That is debatable literally.

Congress is taking a look at a $25 billion loan package this week to bailout the United States automobile industry. For those who say let them go bankrupt, the companies' advocates will tell you if they were to file for bankruptcy, if they were to fail, the economic fallout would be huge. There is the argument that GM, Ford and Chrysler have been mismanaged and didn't adapt to a changing world and that bankruptcy would send a clear message to the auto industry that it is time for reform. What do you think would be best for GM and the Big Three - bankruptcy or bailout? If you work in the industry, how is this going to affect you?

Our number here in Washington is 1-800-989-8255. You can always do the email thing. The address is talk@npr.org and you can join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org and click on Talk of the Nation. Joining us now from her office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is Micheline Maynard, senior business correspondent for the New York Times. And Micheline, we should say we tried to get you into a studio in Ann Arbor but they were all booked. Imagine that.

Ms. MICHELINE MAYNARD (Senior Business Correspondent, New York Times): Well, I think that this subject is just so popular that every pundit that everyone can get their hands on is rushing to studios to talk about it. But I'm happy to be with you.

STEWART: Well, we really - we thank you for being - and we can call you Mickey, right? Mickey is OK?

Ms. MAYNARD: Sure.

STEWART: Let's talk a little bit about this bailout. You say the word bailout and people's jaws start to clench a little bit right now. What's in this specific $25 billion loan package?

Ms. MAYNARD: I think Alison, one of the problems is that we don't actually know what's in the package yet. There isn't legislation that's actually been drafted. We've heard proposals which range from no bonuses for employees who make $200,000 a year or more, no dividends. There has been a suggestion that management be replaced, that the government creates kind of a loan board that would oversee this investment that the taxpayers would be making. But right now, we don't even have a summary of the bill and the discussion is that they might have tried to have a vote on it on Wednesday. So, I hope lawmakers get to see it pretty soon.

STEWART: Do you think that's realistic that there could be a vote on Wednesday?

Ms. MAYNARD: Well, the idea is to have a test vote in the Senate and see if it would pass. And one of the problems is that they'll need about 12 Republicans to vote in favor of it. It's actually been the Republicans who have raised most of the objections to this idea.

STEWART: I feel sort of silly even asking a question like this, but what can you do with 25 billion?

Ms. MAYNARD: You know that is a very good question because it's not 25 billion for General Motors alone. It's 25 billion divided by GM, Ford and Chrysler. Now, Ford has said that they have access to capital. The actually have a $10 billion revolving loan that they haven't event tapped. So I don't know. Maybe there'd be nice guys and give their money to General Motors; but somehow, I don't think so.

STEWART: So we talked a little bit about the bailout plan and we call it bailout. Bankruptcy - there was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning that said you know what? These companies just need to be allowed to go bankrupt. Let's talk about some of the pros of filing for bankruptcy.

Ms. MAYNARD: Right. We talked about this in the Times last week. Actually the pro is that this is the tool that the legal system makes available to companies that are in trouble. I've actually personally covered six of the bankruptcies at the airlines and two bankruptcies at big part suppliers. It's a messy process. It reveals a lot of your secrets. On the other hand, you can terminate your labor contracts, you could ask to draw out your pension plans, you could renegotiate all of your contracts and it really does provide an opportunity to get your house in order but with a lot of people watching.

STEWART: So when we think about bankruptcy now, it's more like putting the breaks on. It's not shuttering the doors and moving out of town and that's that.

Ms. MAYNARD: See, that's up for a discussion because GM has given the impression that if they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is the reorganization kind, that they actually would slip into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy which is when a company liquidates. And I think the experts disagree on whether that's actually true and you know having actually been inside of bankruptcies, I think they would have a chance to reorganize. I think that there are lenders that might give them a hand if they were serious about that effort. But they're trying to give the impression that they would collapse, they would take suppliers down with them and then possibly the other two carmakers.

STEWART: Are there any other cons, arguments out there?

Ms. MAYNARD: Well, I think the big con is that this will affect a lot of people who are sort of part of the extended General Motors family. You have part suppliers who supply parts to the company. They might have to file for bankruptcy. You have workers who would probably not get the benefits that they're used to getting. You have just, you know, the cafes across the street from car dealers that might close. So, I think the idea is that there would be a domino effect throughout the economy.

STEWART: Is that what Senator Carl Levine meant when he said that this is a national problem?

Ms. MAYNARD: That's absolutely what Senator Levine meant. And I think the point is that a lot of people think of the old auto industry - you know back in 1960 - of course, some of us where born - General Motors alone had almost 60 percent of the car market and Detroit controlled 90 percent of the car market. But now, Detroit has less than 50 percent and the majority of cars that are sold in the United States are actually vehicles with import nameplates like Toyotas and Hondas and Volkswagens.

STEWART: Now General Wesley Clark wrote in a piece in the Times yesterday and he said what's good for GM is good for the Army and said that aiding the American automotive industry is not only an economic necessity but also a national security imperative. What's your response to that?

Ms. MAYNARD: I thought that was a very interesting point of view and certainly as a student of the auto industry, you get back to World War I and World War II when the auto industry was the arsenal of democracy. When they flicked the switch to start the war effort, the car companies stepped up and built bombers and gun turrets and all kinds of equipment for the military. So, when there is an argument that you would need the auto industry just in case, on the other hand, we're a pretty big military establishment now in this country - companies like Boeing and (unintelligible) and the ADS. So I think they would be probably first in line for some of the contracts.

STEWART: Throwing up his hands in the studio is Frank Langfitt, NPR's labor correspondent. Mickey, I'm going to ask you to hang around.

Ms. MAYNARD: Sure.

STEWART: Frank, you've been talking to some folks - we were just chatting before we went on the air - some folks from the area and for them, just beyond all the politics of it, it's so personal.

FRANK LANGFITT: It is very much, Alison. I think that - and Mickey would know well because she's out there in Michigan - I think that area has been suffering for a long time and now, workers in particular are just seeing something that even a year or two ago they didn't imagine. It's also very difficult because I think in that part of the country, if people want to move and they want to try and find other kind of work, the housing values have fallen so much that I think people are tethered to the area. So it cuts off their options and I think you can't sort of underestimate psychologically, the impact that that has on a region, people not being able to have other choices, being able to move and look for other opportunities.

STEWART: We were discussing the psychological element of; are we as Americans so invested in the story legacy of the Big Three automakers and the way they do business and as Detroit as the motor city and are we doing ourselves a disservice thinking that way? Do we need to be thinking about the future and about wind farms as the next big American industry?

LANGFITT: Well, it's interesting because I think that there are a couple of things that you said and Mickey said that play into this. I mean, one, as Mickey pointed out is there are more people buying foreign cars in the United States than they are buying these American-made cars. So to some degree, most consumers actually have in some ways moved on. They are voting with their pocketbooks if you look at driveways around the country. See a lot of Toyotas and Nissans and Hondas. The other thing is you've been referring to them as the Big Three. I've stopped doing that in print. I don't know what The Times does? I don't - but they are no longer really very big. They are nothing what they were, as Mickey was saying, if you go back to the 60s, I mean they were absolutely dominant. They were so powerful and so tied to the American psyche and in the brief time that I've covered - I think if I go back to 2005, at least a quarter of a million jobs have been lost in the auto industry in just that period of time and it looks like a lot more will be.

One thing that might be interesting is to see what happens on Capitol Hill right now is if this week, there isn't something of a referendum on the relationship between the American government, the American taxpayer, and the Detroit auto industry because I think you're going to hear some very interesting things and if it doesn't pass this time around, and it looks like it's going to be difficult, then under an Obama administration with more Democratic's, you know, help in the House and the Senate, to see if we don't have another conversation and see how that turns out.

STEWART: Mickey, let me let you in here to weigh in on this idea of the way think about Detroit as part of American history.

Ms MAYNARD: Well, that's right. I'm actually the author of a book called, "The End of Detroit" which explained how the Big Three lost their grip on the American car market. And the book came out actually five years ago and even five years ago, there were plenty of people who had moved away from Detroit automobiles. Their parents had moved away from Detroit automobiles and even their kids had never ridden in a Detroit automobile. So we're kind of a generation beyond the day when the Detroit automakers dominated everything in the automobile industry. I mean, obviously if you live here in Michigan, you think that they're still large and in charge but the minute you get past Toledo, you can see that the world had significantly changed. So I think they live on in our psyche and maybe in our memories more than they actually do in reality to the average car buyer.

STEWART: So, for me, the average car buyer as opposed to you and Frank who are steeped in this, this news seems sudden. The idea that GM would lose 90 percent of its value in a year, was it - were you surprised when you saw that happening?

Ms MAYNARD: I thought it was pretty startling because I remember GM as a $70 share stock, which would have been only five or six years ago and there were people that were talking about GM as possibly, you know, $100 stock. I mean, they've been - GM was trading with, you know, the Sony's and the Coca-Colas and G.Es and companies like that and today, GM is trading for $3.20 a share.

STEWART: Mickey, we're going to ask you to stick around as well as Frank Langfitt, the NPR labor correspondent. We're speaking with Mickey Maynard, a senior business correspondent for the New York Times. We're talking about the road ahead for U.S. car makers. Is it bailout or bust, bankruptcy - bankruptcy, is that an option in your opinion? We'll get to your calls in a moment, 1-800-989-8255. You can also reach us by email, the address here is talk@npr.org. I'm Alison Stewart. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of Talk of the Nation theme)

STEWART: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Alison Stewart in Washington. Rick Wagner, the head of GM was on television yesterday and he pushed Congress to act on a bailout for U.S. auto companies. Bankruptcy is not an option. He called it a fantasy, said it wouldn't work. There are plenty who disagree. We put together a round of different opinions on how to retool the industry, it's at npr.org/blogofthenation. We're asking you folks today, what do you think would be best for GM and the Big Three or the so-called Big Three as one of our guests says. Bankruptcy or a bailout? If you work in the industry, we do want to hear from you as well. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org and we're going to go to Steve in South Bend, Indiana. Steve, how are you?

STEVE (Caller): Yeah. Well, first off, thanks for talking about this. It's really important. Two points, the country as a whole needs the auto industry in case we ever have to retool in times of war just like Wesley Clark said. Also, my wife works in the industry. At the plant that makes Pistons for GM, Ford and Nissan, a few others for their big trucks. And they've suffered cut-backs; you know about half their work force already, and those are good paying jobs with good benefits that are hard to replace.

STEWART: And Steve, were you and your wife surprised when you heard the news that GM was in such a tough position?

STEVE: Sadly, no.


STEVE: I mean, the handwriting was on the wall. So there are good points on both sides. Why they were still making big SUVs when gas was already, you know, 250 a gallon. We had had a hard time figuring that one out, too. But they should have been retooling a while ago but, you can't let it go dead in the water and if you do, well then the whole country, really there's going to be more trouble than you know.

STEWART: Steve from South Bend, thanks a lot for checking in and sharing your thoughts.

STEVE: Cool.

STEWART: So Steve - Frank Langfitt is joining us. Our labor correspondent, you were sort of nodding your head when - at Steve's point.

LANGFITT: One of the things that's interesting is to hear that even people in the industry are critical of some of the management decisions here and one of the things that I found very interesting about a couple of weeks ago, we did a Web chat on this very question. And we got over 100 responses and what's interesting is there were quite a few people from the auto industry, who wrote in and they said some of the same things that Steve said which is, hey I kind of saw this coming. I didn't like some of their strategies, and I just want to read you one thing that we got.

This is a guy named Bill Hupreys(ph), an auto parts - works for an auto parts maker in Illinois, and he wrote, he said, "you might think I would doggedly defend my industry and try desperately to hang on to my admittedly great job. But contrary to what you might assume, I don't actually believe the auto industry itself is worth saving if the market won't naturally sustain it. And this is just anecdotal but I think it's very interesting when you get responses from people in the industry who either say, they did make a lot of mistakes or some people that I've heard from who say, even though this will affect my job, this will hurt my livelihood, I actually don't agree with the bailout."

STEWART: So Micheline Maynard, senior business correspondent from The New York Times. If all these people seemed to know what was going on, who are sort of on the ground, what happened at the executive level?

Ms. MAYNARD: You know, I think when you come out to Detroit, you kind of are in a bubble I always joked that because I, 80 runs directly from New York to Chicago, you have to make a right turn to come up to Detroit. You know, it's not sort of on that main path across the country and I think you look out the window and everything you see here practically is a Detroit-made automobile and when that's your frame of reference, you tend to think that the world looks the way, you know - it is when you look at it. And I think one of the things that happened is tunnel vision. I think the Detroit companies got little bit too disconnected from the rest of the country and I also think that there's just so many layers not only of bureaucracy but tradition when you talk about Detroit that it's really hard to fight through that. I mean, think about it, think of all the trouble that the auto industry has been in over the last 15 or 20 years but it was only last year when the companies really sat down with the UAW and made some significant changes in their labor contracts, and this was after losing essentially four fifths of the work force.

That's when there were, a bailout for Chrysler, the UAW did give concessions in both the United States and Canada but it got the money back. So essentially they had just been making games on a steady path for over 20 years and I think, you know there are a lot of people that are very critical at the UAW that their labor contract just got so rich and so fantastic for the few workers who were left. But it overlooked the big question which was, is your future based on protecting the benefits of those members or should they have been a little more reasonable over the years and made sure there was a bigger work force?

STEWART: We're going to talk to somebody about that in a minute, one of our callers but I do want to get a couple of examples from you Mickey about when you say there are just so rich and bountiful. Give people an example.

Ms. MAYNARD: Well, one of the things that UAW enjoyed until recently was fully paid health care and there were some co-pays and a few benefits they had to pay for but essentially, if you worked in a car plant, your health care was paid for and the people who worked in offices at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler didn't even get that. They have some very generous pension programs, there was overtime when the big SUVs were selling, there's legal assistance, there's cost of living allowances and you know, it drove the hourly wage if you fold all of that in, up towards $80 an hour. And that was getting way out of whack with what the actual average labor rate was in the United States, and then when the foreign companies came and built their plants in the south, their average rate if you fold in their benefits was close to their 45 to $50. They pay their workers kind of similar wages but they didn't offer the kind of benefits that the UAW won for its members in all those labor contracts.

STEWART: With all that in mind, let's talk to Sam from Des Moines, Iowa. Sam, how are you?

SAM (Caller): Good. Thanks for taking my call.

STEWART: Of course. Fill us in on what you're thinking.

SAM: Well, you know, basically she's addressing the question I have but I think - I've been watching all this Sunday morning news shows, listening to the pundits and politicians yesterday. Look, I'm just wondering how much of the argument about GM's poor management is kind of code particularly by Republican senators. I was hearing resistance to bailout is really a union busting tactics. So a lot of that resistance is by letting GM and the others in Ford and Chrysler failure, essentially also taking away the UAW's power and so, while the southern wages might be competitive now, you know. Will, continue to you know, part of having the UAW there is propping up everybody's living standards.

STEWART: Well, Sam let's see if we can get Frank Langfitt to answer that a bit. What do you think, Frank?

LANGFITT: Well, there's no secret that the United auto workers were working very hard for Barack Obama in Michigan and up in the upper mid-west. I wonder also though if this isn't more of philosophical argument about capitalism. I think that some of the Republicans, I think we take a look at someone like Richard Shelby from Alabama. He has, you know, a kind of a belief in a capital, a Darwenian kind of capitalism, you know? You take risks and if they don't work out, you pay for it. So I think there's a lot of that as well among Republicans.

So the other challenge though for the UAW, is they find themselves in a very difficult position right here. If you talked to analysts right now, people say the industry because the sales have dropped so dramatically and here's a number that I think is just always worth mentioning. Last year, we sold about 16 million autos in the United States. Next year, it's going to be about 12 million. So, the bottom has dropped out of the market and people believe that the UAW, the workers at the Detroit Three will probably have to lose at least 30,000 workers. How Ron Gettelfinger, the head of the UAW, sells that after you know, a number of give backs - some really huge ones on health care last year. I really don't know?

Ms. MAYNARD: Yeah, and you know, Frank, what you just said is that the UAW won't grant any concessions in return for this bailout. And I think that statement might have been a little bit unwise. If you think back to the Chrysler bailout, people might not remember that, there's kind of a three-way get stool, it was Lee Iacocca from Chrysler, it was Congressman James Blanchard from Michigan but also Doug Frazier from the UAW and it wasn't that Doug wanted to give any concessions, but he understood that in order for that to pass Congress, he would have to give up some jobs and in fact, the UAW lost about 50,000 jobs in return for the Chrysler bailout and that he understood that if he didn't, there would be no jobs at all.

STEWART: Well, we have somebody on the line who is in the heart of it all, her name is Lydia. She's joining us from Detroit, Michigan. Hi. Lydia.

LYDIA (Caller): Hi.

STEWART: So this is going on in your front yard.

LYDIA: Yeah, and my backyard.

STEWART: And in the side yard and the driveway literally?


STEWART: What are your worries?

LYDIA: My worry is I think that Chrysler has become big and bureaucratic and the unions are broken but - and it probably needs to fail but this is quite possibly the worst possible timing. You know, I'm concerned about our state. I've a lot of friends and families who are - we're all connected to the autos and we can't sell our houses even if we wanted to move because the economy here really went - even further south than it is. We can't sell our houses to move. So, how do we - how does this happen? How does this get unwound in a way that does not cause the state of Michigan to just implode, which is what we all kind of talk about now.

STEWART: Do you find that people come down clearly on one side or the other when it's - talk about going bankrupt, let them go bankrupt, or they should really - should be bailed out, they really should get some money from the government?

LYDIA: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people say, oh, God, no, they got to bail them out. And it's mainly because everyone just looks around and says, you know, restaurant, stores. I mean, people will be in some - such a world of hurt around here if they just allow them to completely shutter up. But I have friends who say, you know what, they're just - they're broken, and the unions are bloated, and they just, you know - we're just postponing the inevitable if you let them stay alive.

STEWART: Lydia, thank you so much for calling in.

LYDIA: Thank you.

STEWART: Someone who agrees with Lydia that about postponing the inevitable is Alex who wrote to us from San Francisco. A bailout just postpones inevitable. The Big Three are going to shed a lot of jobs no matter what happens. The auto companies need protection from creditors and clean house. They can terminate their labor contracts and pension plans, bankruptcy over bailout. Does he make a good case, Mickey?

Ms. MAYNARD: Well, that's one of the cases to be made, and I wanted just kind of talk about what your previous caller said.


Ms. MAYNARD: This whole idea of the car company shutting down or shuttering or collapsing. I mean, if you go into Chapter 11, bankruptcy, you get the chance to reorganize and the GM case is not going to be quick. It's going to be a couple of years. If it happens, this is an opportunity for them to go in and use these legal tools. I think it will be devastating to a lot of people. But, you know, then some other pundits have raised the idea, OK, we give them a bailout, and then the winter is terrible. They get through to April and car sales haven't picked up. They've run out of cash. Do they just come back to Congress at that point? I mean, are we going to give them bailout money to pay for their bankruptcy? I mean, that's one suggestion that has been made. It's a very difficult issue. I really don't think it's a black and white issue. I do think that there are a lot of people's lives that depend on this. But on the other hand, they're in business to make money. They are not making money. These are businessman. Should they use what's available to them?

STEWART: Frank, you want to add something?

LANGFITT: Yeah. I think, Mickey made a really good point in that some of the stuff you'll see out there in the press will be talking about massive job losses, and the idea that all of these companies would go bankrupt. There's still a market, as I just noted. The market is a lot smaller than it was. But there's still a market for American cars. I mean, people will continue to buy, just not as many. So the idea of sort of this, you know, Armageddon, an auto Armageddon, just doesn't seem very likely. And as Mickey points out, the whole point of bankruptcy laws is to actually help companies survive. It's not supposed to destroy them. It's supposed to help them make those changes. There's something also that Lydia said that I wanted to touch on and that is, that this is the worst possible timing and since inevitably, these conversations often, there's a lot of trashing of the Detroit executives and the United Auto Workers. There is truth.

The, you know, the management can be blamed for a number of things. But they didn't create the financial crisis. They didn't create the credit crunch. They weren't ready for it, maybe none of us were. But certainly what they found in these last two or three months is they've been hit with something that they - that has just been sort of extraordinary, and that's one of the reasons that we're seeing the companies in such bad shape now.

STEWART: You've been listening to Frank Langfitt, NPR's labor correspondent, and Mickey Maynard, senior business correspondent for the New York Times. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

We're discussing bankruptcy versus bailout with Frank Langfitt, NPR's labor correspondent, and Mickey Maynard, senior business correspondent from the New York Times. And we were talking about something that was kind of interesting about sort of the mythology of the car companies. But we sort of discovered here there's a mythology of bankruptcy, that people hear bankruptcy. And a couple of people have called and said, you know, the shuttering of these car companies, Detroit goes black. And whereas Mickey, you're saying that this is possibly, this is an opportunity perhaps, but if we can't get past sort of that emotional wall of bankruptcy, are people going to buy cars from a company that's gone bankrupt?

Ms. MAYNARD: So, that's the big question, and Rick Wagner, who is the CEO at General Motors, Ron Gettelfinger, the president of UAW say no, that they are many other choices out there. If one of these companies files for bankruptcy, the people will be concerned about the value of their cars and they will go somewhere else. Now, first of all General Motors has a lot of loyal buyers. General Motors gives a lot of discounts to a lot of people. And there is an option in bankruptcy that allows you to put money into escrow to cover warranty cost.

And in fact, the airlines had to do it, Pan Am had to do it to guarantee the cost of their tickets back in, I think it was the early '90s when they filed for Chapter 11. So, it can be done. You could have a company like an auto nation, or Roger Penske step up and say, I will offer free repairs or warranty service to anyone who buys a General Motors car. I mean, honestly, I think it's - as far as an opportunity, they may find out that once they're in Chapter 11 trying to address their problems, that a lot of people will come forward to help them.

STEWART: I want to get to one more caller on this subject from Delaware. Is it Michelle?

MICHELLE (Caller): Yes.

STEWART: Hi, Michelle.

MICHELLE: Hi. Thanks for taking my call.


MICHELLE: I have a two-fold concern. One, about a family member, my 94-year-old grandmother who is a GM pensioner and who certainly needs her benefits, and the idea that they would be able to dump all their contracts and leave her without benefits is scary. But the idea that my GM car could not have a parts supplier to, you know, fix parts, it's a year old car. I hope to keep it for 10 years as I did my last one. But, you know, I'm wondering, even if they go through bankruptcy as she's saying and the company doesn't completely shutter, you know, are we going to be left with not being able to, you know, take care of, you know, the GM products that we already have or take care of my 94-year-old grandmother who won't have, you know, health benefits?

Ms. MAYNARD: First, can I just ask you, was she a white collar employee or was she UAW member?


Ms. MANARD: OK. Well, she's going to be OK. But you know, the white collar folks, the retirees that General Motors in her group are actually losing their healthcare benefits. So there are a lot of GM retirees that worked at office jobs that no longer will have healthcare from General Motors, so.

MICHELLE: And it's clear that they were extremely generous, but, you know, at 94, you know, you can't - what are you going to do?

Ms. MAYNARD: Right. Well, you probably don't even deal with Medicaid very much. Maybe once in a while, so it'd be very confusing for her if nothing.

MICHELLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, the idea that I like I said, I am a loyal GM customer. I love my brand new GM car, that you know, working great for me. But, you know, I worry about the suppliers and I worry about repairs and I worry about, you know, having somebody who's either going to be - a dealer that's going to be there to do repairs, or a supplier that's going to be there to give me the parts, you know, if things trickle down to where everybody's, you know, going out of business.

STEWART: Well, Michelle, we got good news for your grandmother out of that phone call. Thanks so much for calling.

MICHELLE: Thanks very much.

STEWART: Michelle - Micheline Maynard - Micheline Maynard, I can't get that right. Mickey, I'm just going to call you Mickey, Mickey Maynard, senior business correspondent from the New York Times. Thank you so much for spending so much time and sharing so much your reporting with us.

Ms. MAYNARD: Oh, it's my pleasure. I really enjoyed the discussion.

STEWART: And Frank Langfitt, NPR's labor correspondent. Thanks for coming to the studio, Frank. We appreciate it.

LANFITT: Likewise, Alison. Thanks a lot.

(Soundbite of Talk of the Nation theme)

STEWART: Up next on Talk of the Nation's opinion page, in defense of lobbyists. I'm Alison Stewart. Stay with us. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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