Surprising restraint

2010 February 28
by Dave

All of the negative media and aggressive government attention that Toyota is getting as a result of their recalls is causing many to wonder if there is a government vendetta against Toyota. I think the opposite is true. The administration has every reason to rip into Toyota. That it hasn’t attacked more aggressively than it has is interesting.

The first reason to keep Toyota in the glare of the spotlights as long as possible is the one most often sighted when lamenting the government’s intervention against Toyota. This reason is that the US government is the largest shareholder in Toyota’s largest competitor. What wouldn’t Microsoft do if it had Google or Apple by the balls like this.

The next reason is geopolitical. The US and Japanese governments are in a bit of a huff over the relocation of a US military base on Okinawa. What better way to fire a publicly visible shot across their bow without actually spending diplomatic capital.

Then there is the fact that Toyota uses non-union labor in the US. Giving Toyota a public whooping is a good way for the administration to throw a nod to organized labor without having to resort to legislative battles.

Next comes the need to cover the backside of the government regulators. Need to make sure that no one blames them for not catching this. Also, the administration is in great need of a visible example of bad guy corporations that sacrifice public well being for the sake of profits and can only be reigned in by more aggressive regulatory oversight. This narrative forwards the administration’s push for both financial and health care reform.

Finally comes populist pandering and jingoism. What politician can pass up an opportunity to wield those two crowd pleasers to good effect?

I am surprised that the volume of the comments and actions from the US government on the Toyota recalls has not been louder than it has. The story isn’t done yet so things could change, but for the moment I think I will have to give the administration credit for holding a more balanced stance on the situation then we expect from our elected officials.

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