I wrote a post here on Gather just under a year ago, asking if General Motors would go bankrupt. Well, we got the answer today: YES.
In between the time of that post and the present day, we sat through a presidential campaign that was sometimes surreal, a roller coaster ride of gasoline prices and economic disasters, and heated arguments involving fuel efficiency, carbon emissions, plug in electric cars, and the role of government in the business world. Embittered free marketeers now describe the new General Motors as "Government Motors"- a wholly owned subsidiary of the American People, which they fear may become a mismanaged hood ornament of the Car we call the Democratic Party.
On the other hand, this was a long time coming, it should be admitted. For decades, GM sat back and grew a spare tire of fat, while Japan Inc ate its lunch for it. More recently, Obama prodded Rick Wagoner, CEO, whatchagonnado, and got the pretty clear reply, why nothing of course, it's not my job to downsize the company to a realistic proportion, that's your job. So fine, away with Wagoner, and government was forced to play a role in something that is supposed to be done by private enterprise. When you have such an obvious problem, SOMEBODY has got to be willing to actually deal with it. Pretending it will go away was not going to cut it. A little honesty a bit earlier would have made it possible for the Feds to devote fewer billions to giving GM a lifeline while it struggled to make obvious decisions.
The whole thing is utterly embarrassing. No we did not invent the automobile, technically it was the Germans, but still, we like to think that we perfected it. Now, we are left hoping that GM, or the remaining half of GM at least, will emerge from bankruptcy into an environment of increasing demand for NEW vehicles, as opposed to the cheap used cars that litter the landscape, some of them gas hogs and some of them worn out Saturns like the one I drive. But amazingly, this 1991 car that I will be piloting to work in the morning actually is more fuel efficient than most of the newer stuff out there. It would be nice if we could enter an environment of gasoline prices that are high enough to discourage waste, because that will help support the process of re-tooling the auto industry into a fuel efficient entity that will actively explore plug in electrics, super diesels, and whatever it takes to gradually leave gasoline internal combustion behind. If it take 20 years, fine, it's 20 years well spent.
In the meantime, thousands more GM employees will now be hitting the street to find nonexistent jobs. And the ones still with jobs? They are hoping that the whole plan will fly. Half a GM is better than nothing, that's the concept.