"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses." --Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York
My favorite story of the morning was Brooke Hart's piece about the Big Three automakers on Capitol Hill, asking for bailout money after stepping off their expensive corporate jets. Our local Congressman Brad Sherman, in the hearing, gave them a chance to volunteer to give up the jets and "downgrade" to first class for the flight home -- a commercial flight, OMG! -- and pointed out that there were no takers.
"Morning Joe" had a segment on the CEOs and their jets this morning with analysis from CNBC's auto industry reporter Phil Lebeau. It's just bad form to ask for $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money when you're flying in on a luxury jet . They quote ABC News on the figures here, that show GM CEO Rick Wagoner's flight from Detroit on his $36 million Gulfstream-4 jet cost an estimated $20,000. The same trip on a commercial Northwest airlines flight would have cost $288 for coach, $837 for first class. Lebeau points out that the use of corporate jets is a reality for Fortune 500 companies and just a cost of doing a lot of business, but boy does it look bad. What an awful PR move on their part, when they're closing plants and cutting jobs.
I guess you can argue that having the best CEOs costs companies money, in salaries and perks. The ABC news story on this points out that "Ford CEO Mulally's corporate jet is a perk included for both he and his wife as part of his employment contract along with a $28 million salary last year. Mulally actually lives in Seattle, not Detroit. The company jet takes him home and back on weekends."
But how good of a CEO are you if you look like a jerk in front of the very people you're counting on: the taxpayers, and your employees?
We got into a discussion about this story yesterday morning in our editorial meeting, which you can watch mostly in its entirety here. The issue of private jets came home to California as our Assistant News Director Keith Esparros raised the question about Arnold Schwarzenegger's flights back and forth from Sacramento several times a week, what with the state of California facing giant budget problems of its own. I seemed to remember that Schwarzenegger funds the travel himself, and found this LA Times blog that says his "campaign picks up the multi-million dollar tab" and "It should be noted that Schwarzenegger has unique security needs that probably require private travel. He is considered an icon of the Western world and he's married to a Kennedy."
It goes on to say that the Governor does, in fact, mitigate his travel (his "carbon footprint") by estimating the damage to the environment caused by his travel, and then putting that amount back into sustainable forest projects.
We should also note that this story I found in the Sacramento Bee says Governor Schwarzenegger has not taken his paycheck since taking office in 2003. That's more than a million dollars over the last five years that's staying in state coffers. Symbolic, yes, but -- unlike the Big Three CEOs latest moves -- great PR.
On an entirely different note, the thing everyone's clicking on around the newsroom today (okay, it started in the makeup room downstairs!) is this YouTube video that's got everyone smiling. It's been around for more than a year, but as these things go, like those chain emails about viruses to look out for or the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, "Charlie Bit Me" is making the rounds again and this time when I searched it I found an interview with Charlie's parents too! We could all use a laugh, right?