The ‘N’ Word: What Obama isn’t saying about GM

By Andrea Frascione, staff writer

MONTREAL (RPRN) 6/15/2009–Back in March, when bankruptcy was deemed the only plausible solution for this automaker giant, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying that his administration ‘‘had no intention of running General Motors’’ and that ‘‘he did not want (GM and Chrysler) to become wards of the state’’. So much for that statement. What is not officially being said to the American people is that, despite priding itself on its largely capitalist society, the U.S. is clearly moving toward a more socialist economic structure.

Obama’s recent nationalization of General Motors is, in fact, our first step toward a 21st century meritocracy. Since billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on this ‘re-invention of the automobile’, is GM now to be considered public property? Not since railroads were nationalized during World War I as a wartime measure has America seen such a desperate and quite literally, overnight, reaction to bankruptcy of one of its most prized industry leaders. Even Chrysler, GM’s smaller competitor has been snapped up by Italian automaker, Fiat, leaving its investors feeling robbed of their retirement income. Is this what the government had in mind? Finding a loophole such as Section 363 of the bankruptcy code to sell ‘old’ GM to ‘new’ GM, curbing the rights of investors along the way, in order to challenge the United Autoworkers’ Union (UAW)? It all reads a tad like property redistribution.

‘‘The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers,’’ says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, one of five members of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a division of the Department of the Treasury, ‘‘we are helping the auto industry today. Who is it (going to be) tomorrow?’’

Among GM’s many creditors are Hewlett-Packard, Exxon Mobil, Arcelor Mittal steel corporation and car rental firms, Avis and Enterprise. Unable to persuade them to accept small equity stakes in exchange for its astronomical debt, it was forced to file for Chapter 11 protection. Thomas Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a recent press conference,

”If members of Congress, along with government officials (…) are allowed undue influence over management’s decisions, these companies will not return to profitability and their survival will be seriously challenged.”

In these gloomy economic times brought on, in part, by reckless spending in the latter years of the previous century, and proliferated by the Bush regime, GM’s new ad campaign resembles a manifesto on film. Its clichéd optimism and positive imagery accompanying a new, simplified four-word slogan, is meant to hypnotize the masses into accepting the company’s ‘re-structuring’: leaner, greener, faster, smarter. Meanwhile, huge lots of prime real estate have begun to go up for sale, as more and more dealerships are closing their doors, making for a rather bleak commercial landscape.

The new Chevrolet Volt is being propagated as the symbol of ‘rebirth’ for General Motors. Its timeline for production is estimated at two years, boasting that the technological improvements will once again bring the company back to an industry leadership position. The mechanism behind this one-of-a-kind hybrid is a rechargeable lithium ion battery engine – the vehicle’s main source of power – and a gasoline-based range extender for long distances exceeding the battery’s maximum output. The design of the car – or ‘Volt vocabulary’ according to new GM terminology – is aerodynamic but also highly graphic, resembling today’s hand-held device technology. These details serve to differentiate it from hybrid attempts of the past, and moreover, from its antiquated internal combustion engine counterparts still on the road today.

Long gone are the days of Michigan’s automotive plants as seen in Michael Moore’s first controversial documentary, Roger & Me. A corporate GM website video features building 15 of Milford, Michigan’s testing ground for the new wave of hybrid cars: white, pristine, sleek and modern, more closely resembling a scientific laboratory than an assembly plant. On the recent bankruptcy and subsequent transformation of General Motors, Moore states,

‘‘It is with sad irony that the company which invented ‘planned obsolescence’ has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were safe and comfortable to drive.’’ By letting go of thousands of its workers in the 80’s, GM essentially rendered the very population buying its products incapable of remaining loyal, therefore contributing to its own demise! What’s even sadder is now that it is moving toward a more high-tech future, it will be letting go of thousands more.

Still, Obama insists this non-management of ‘Government Motors’ is strictly temporary – until the new corporate entity can stand on its own again. If its track record has taught us anything though, it’s that whatever GM does build winds up falling apart in two years anyway…better get cracking on that two-year deadline, then, huh?

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