Big Three CEO’s Grounded

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Car manufacturers were hoping their desperate message to Washington politicians in hearings a few weeks ago to pony up billions in bailout money would resonate on Main Street. But most news organizations concentrated on the CEO’s each taking their own private jets to the Washington hearings, a fact not lost on politicians and taxpayers.

So now the CEO’s for all three major U-S automakers drove hybrids as they traveled the 500 miles with hat-in-hand to Washington today to again plead for $34 billion in bailout money from you the taxpayer. I’m sure those highly paid Public Relations folks who should have known there would be flak flying from their first trip, were working overtime to convince their bosses this time around driving would make better sense.

But despite the fact that it does look bad, this story has been badly overblown. Most corporations that use private jets consider them cost and time efficient business machines approved by their Boards of Directors.

No doubt those CEO’s on the flight to Washington had staff on board brainstorming ways to save their companies, and their jobs. Spending valuable time with their attorneys, accountants and labor consultants would seem to me, worth the price.

I need a disclaimer here. I am a private pilot, own an airplane, and charter it to businesses looking for a cost-efficient way to make and save money. It seems to me that the hypocritical politicians in Washington who fly to the ends of the earth aboard government airplanes at taxpayer expense to check out countries they could learn about on the internet may not be the best critics of corporate flight plans by public companies fighting to survive.

After all, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gets to fly home from Washington to San Francisco most weekends on her own Air Force Gulfstream jet. Perhaps the plane should be called Hypocrite One.

(Brian Banmiller is a national Business Correspondent for CBS News Radio, free lance writer and public speaker. The former television business news anchor in San Francisco can be reached at brian@banmilleronbusiness.com .)