Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What is good for GM is bad for America

In the mid-1950s, GM executive Charles Wilson was up for confirmation as Secretary of Defense for Dwight Eisenhower. In this setting he issued one of the more famous tenets of corporatism. "What's good for America is good for GM, and vice versa."

It caused an uproar then, but the full fallacy has only become clear over time, as the tragedy of gas guzzlers, corporate infiltration of the government and global climate change comes clear. GM has spent its energy manipulating its industry and the political process and public demand, rather than identifying a need and filling it.

Early on GM was implicated, and actually found guilty in a courtroom, of systematically purchasing and then closing the track of streetcar lines in several US cities. That "light rail" capacity today would be worth billions.

After the War the company concentrated on its marketing and was the prime sponsor of the Car Culture. "See the USA in your Chevrolet. America is asking you to call." Under Eisenhower and Wilson and GM Board member Lucius D. Clay, the 41,000-mile "National System of Defense and Interstate Highways" came into being. Yes, the Interstate Highway System was enacted as a defense measure. Some economists at the time opposed it on the grounds it was designed to compete directly with the rail system. As it did.

GM has never shied from using its influence directly and indirectly to combat increased vehicle mileage (CAFE) standards, championing at every turn the gas guzzler. It's response to global warming was to buy and promote the Hummer. Now the company is failing. The vehicles the company has on the market are below par and vulnerable to high-priced fuel. Its debt is in the junk bond class.

When they come calling for a bailout, the federal response should be, You brought this on yourself. We will be cleaning up your mess for decades, environmentally and industrially. We cannot afford any more "good" for General Motors.

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