Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GM's Bankrupt and It Doesn't Make Much Sense

I was somewhat happy when I picked up the paper Monday morning to read about President Obama's plan to put GM into bankruptcy. No, not because it solved the longstanding issue of what exactly the government was going to do with these car companies. I was really just relieved I didn't have to read more about new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayer. Seriously, talk about overkill for someone replacing a judge like David Souter, who pretty much always voted with the court's liberal wing, meaning there really isn't much in the ways of a shift of power on the high court.

But now that I've read more about this GM takeover business, I wish we were still talking about petty grievances about a judge using life experiences to explain her point of view more clearly (as a sidenote, all these Republican commentators need to take a step back and actually read Sotomayer's decision before crucifying her for saying a Latino woman might know more about life than a rich white aristocrat. If they did, they'd learn a whole lot more about the judge than by attacking her. Did she use a poor choice of words? Probably. Is she unfit to be a Supreme Court judge as a result? Probably not.)

But back to the GM bankruptcy. Now I'm not one of those people who think Obama shouldn't takeover flailing industries within our wayward economy. I voted for the guy and therefore put trust in him to make what he feels are the right decisions. But I did a double take when I saw these two portions of the much ballyhooed merger between car and state:

Under the proposed restructuring, about 60 percent of the new GM would be owned by the United States, about 12 percent by the governments of Canada and Ontario, a union health trust would own 17.5 percent, and the company's current bondholders would get 10 percent.

If that doesn't sound fishy to you, then maybe this will:
The government aims to make the automaker lean enough to turn a profit once U.S. auto sales return to 10 million vehicles a year. The sales rate is running below that. It topped 16 million during the credit boom.

Debate over the plan rippled across the nation yesterday as communities protested proposals to close or idle 17 GM plants and warehouses. About 2,000 dealerships will be shut down, as well. U.S. employment at the company is slated to shrink by 25,000, from about 88,000 to 63,000 next year.
So a chunk of our biggest and most famous homegrown automaker now belongs to Canada, the plan to get that chunk plus another much larger chunk for the American taxpayer involves making GM a player in the car industry again, and the plan to make GM a big time player again involves cutting some 25,000 American jobs during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I know I've succumbed to Obama madness before, but I don't think I can stand here and just go, "Well Barack, Rahm, Timmy Geithner, and the gang know what they're doing, let's just let the cards fall as they may."

How does it make sense for the American government — and more importantly the American taxpayer — to give money towards eliminating more jobs? It's one thing if those jobs go by the wayside naturally, at the behest of a privately-owned GM, since, well, that's capitalism. Call me conservative, but I think this is needless nationalism. If we're gonna have jobs eliminated, why should the government prompt a certain amount. And frankly, not only is the government paying to discard jobs, it's paying that amount twice in the increase of unemployment payments that will inevitably come because of this.

Now Obama's admisitration is justifying a lot of this thanks to the recently approved merger of Fiat and bankrupt Chrysler that has made the gas guzzling makers of Jeep recognize the gas-saving ways of European cars. Apparently, they've just decided to ignore the laundry list of failed mega auto partnerships. Better yet, just take a look at the track record of mergers between the two companies the government's trying to save. GM and Fiat tried this merger thing in 2000, but quickly ended the arranged marriage in 2005. And Chrysler just finished a disastrous divorce with Daimler, a so called "match made in heaven" just like this new relationship with Fiat.

I'd love to hear how Obama explains this to the workers. Oh wait, he already did.
The administration also will dispatch eight Cabinet secretaries and other top officials to Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin this week to "discuss immediate ways the federal government is cutting through red tape to bring relief to auto communities and achieve long term economic revitalization," according to a White House statement.

Addressing the workers directly, Obama said there would be pain ahead but added that their sacrifices will ensure the future of the manufacturing base so that "all of our children can grow up in an America that still makes things, that still builds cars, that still strives for a better future."
Now I want to take you back to what I thought was a short, yet key statement from just a few short months ago at Obama's inauguration. He said, "The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth." How is this laying the new foundation for growth. To me, it seems like Obama is just feeding a cow with hard earned (and by hard earned, I really mean the guy running the printing machine at the Bureau of Engraving just pressed the red button that reads "internet money") resources after it's been tipped over and badly beaten. You just gotta cut your losses, and the way to do that with GM is to allow it a death of natural, capitalistic causes.

Or better yet, instead of giving broad parameters of measures like "sending Cabinet secretaries to help cut through red tape to bring relief," which to me means high priced and high profile grief counselors, Obama should be presenting some concrete ideas to the American public. How about giving me some more specifics on these much bally-hooed public works projects.

Noted filmmaker and controversial liberal Michael Moore agrees and takes it a step further, when on the day of the announcement, he condemned the idea of saving GM, a quote that many news types ran: "Please, please, please don’t save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don’t throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car."

But he also suggested some ideas that I'm not saying I agree with, but at least they're ideas. Click on the link to read them in full, but I'll give you a rundown to close out the post:

1) "Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices."
2) "Don’t put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce — and most of those who have been laid off — employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now."
3) "Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. ... Let’s hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country."
4) "Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories."
5) "For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses."
6) "Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy."
7) "Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy."
8) "To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline."

As a driver of a 2004 Chevy Blazer that gets 15 miles a gallon, it saddens me to think my vehicle of choice will likely not be viable option for someone of my income status in a few years. My question to the Obama administration — and I'm sure many former GM workers want to know the same — will I even have an income status in a few years?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would never call you conservative. Socialist maybe.