May 2009


The Obama administration continues to not nationalize GM, even as the latest proposed plan calls for the federal government to take up to a 72.5% ownership stake in the company, with the UAW owning 17.5% and the bondholders receiving a lowly 10%.  Apparently, the logic is thus:  if there is even a sliver left in private hands, it is “not nationalization.”  Baloney.  This is simply the forced government takeover of a private company, unprecedented in this country and in contradiction of our God-given rights of private property; there is no way to sugar coat it.

Every single party at stake in this debacle – GM, the UAW, and the citizens of this country – would be better off if the government had kept its greedy hands off GM from the get-go.  A normal bankruptcy proceeding, the inevitable result, would have allowed an orderly restructuring of the company and satisfaction of the debt obligations first (as it should be).  It may also have kept the dysfunctional and selfish UAW out of the ownership game.  Who on the planet believes the UAW can run a profitable lemonade stand, let alone a car company?  If such a person were found, even he could not also believe that the federal government can do so.  This would be humorous if not so appalling:  Barack Obama, the community organizer and hapless junior senator, trying to manage a car company.

“Administration officials” say GM could become a publicly traded company again after six to 18 months.  And that swamp land in Florida is still for sale.  Federal power and control never voluntarily dissipates.  Once the government assumes control, via a program, regulatory scheme, or in this case a takeover of a private company, that control will never revert to the private citizenry without an ugly political fight – which rarely happens.  Turn the clock ahead 18 months and this you shall hear:  endless justifications as to why the government still needs to own GM.

My family and I just returned from a pleasant vacation in Oregon.  I was reminded of the fact – forgotten until pulling up to the first station – that you can’t pump your own gas in that state.  Self-serve is verboten.   Oregon law forbids you, the lawful owner of a vehicle requiring gasoline, to freely visit an establishment offering said fuel for sale, purchase the offered product, and dispense it into your car.

The sudden appearance at your window of the teenager’s grinning face is mildly startling, but you get used to it.  You and the youth then stand awkwardly next to the pump and negotiate the deal:

Youth:        Welcome to Texaco!

(Silence)

You:           Um, I guess I’ll just have the “87”.

Youth:        Cash, credit, or debit?

You:           Credit.

(Silence)

You:           Oh! You want my card?  Here you go.

Youth (inserting the card):  Thank you, I’ll be back.

The youth then activates the pump and disappears to cheerfully repeat his script for another startled out-of-state motorist.

My wife and I had plenty of time while snailing along at 65 on the long stretches between Pendleton and The Dalles to ponder why otherwise intelligent legislators of The Weenie State would make a law forcing low-paid teenagers to perform a task which any non-lobotomized adult can perform in his sleep?

Maybe it’s the environmental benefits.  Unlike you rubes, the teenagers can be trained to not to spill one drop of that vile petroleum-based substance on the concrete where it might cause irreparable harm to the environment by evaporating.  Perhaps Oregon’s legislators really do believe that a major contingency of Oregonians are simply incapable of competently fueling their vehicle:  “You tellin me this stuff ain’t for washin the possum bluhd off mah windshield?”  Or, it could be the result of a massive lobbying effort by the Associated Teenage Fuel Dispensers of Oregon.

Even if we discovered the rationale, it undoubtedly would make sense only in the fantastical minds of those who are busily engaged in making our lives better and more prosperous through endless restrictions on liberty.  So, I wouldn’t recommend trying to understand.  Just obey.

Which I didn’t.  At one fuel stop, the teenager had not yet returned to cheerfully complete the fill-up when the nozzle clicked off.  After furtively surveying the pump bays for undercover fuel police, I made a break for it.  That’s right, I COMPLETED THE FILLING OF MY OWN TANK!  What’s more, I RETURNED THE NOZZLE TO THE PUMP AND TOOK MY  OWN RECEIPT!

Being a fugitive now, I don’t know how much longer I can continue these essays.  I may have to go underground, which actually should be fairly easy:  I’ll buy some Birkenstocks and pre-soiled, pre-ripped jeans, grow my hair long and never comb it, and move to Oregon.  They’ll never find me!

We all know that the left becomes positively euphoric when it confiscates and spends the money you earn, but that is but a means to achieve its more primal desire:  raw power and control.  Lest you question this bald statement, behold – the FDA is in a huff about Cheerios.  Specifically, General Mills has been caught making unsubstantiated health claims about its cereal, such as that it may lower cholesterol by 10 percent!  Horror of horrors, we can’t have companies making claims like that.  The FDA has written an actual letter, claiming “serious violations” and actually stating that General Mills’ claims would make Cheerios “a drug” by their definition.  Unbelievable.  Absolutely nothing is too small or too insignificant to escape the tentacles of the state.

The latest prescription for General Motors was released by the Obama administration last Monday.  It is truly shocking in its bald disregard for private capital and private initiative.  Mr. Obama has repeatedly denied that he wants to “nationalize” GM, or banks, or any other private industry that may fall in his sights.  Last Monday we discovered the horrible truth, that this claim to restraint is an outright lie.  The GM plan calls for the federal government to take a 50% equity stake in the company.  The United States of America — you know, the country with that Constitution designed to limit federal control over our lives — would own one-half of the once-proud General Motors.  Well, at least the private sector will still have the other half, right?  Not so fast.  Mr. Obama will have none of that.  The plan calls for 40% of GM to be owned by the United Auto Workers.  Whether this is a curse or a blessing for the UAW is debatable, but one thing is clear:  the UAW has never, not once, shown any concern for the profitability or long-term health of GM or its other two prisoners.  Of course, GM management has been equally to blame for the 35-year slide into oblivion, but the UAW has been the driving force in transforming GM from a powerhouse manufacturer to a miniature version of the former Soviet Union.   Or France, to be charitable.  The company literally became an indulgent nanny for its employees, with total labor costs exceeding $73 per hour including wages, medical plans, retirement, unemployment securities, and other programs that amount to simply being on the dole.  Read the Heritage Foundation’s article to get a glimpse into this dark world.

The plan for GM is a window into the mind of a true leftist like Mr. Obama.  This is what he thinks is an excellent idea:  a company should be 50% owned by the an already bloated and debt-ridden federal government, 40% owned by a whining, thuggish union, with a 10% scrap left for the private sector, i.e. the holders of $27 billion of GM’s unsecured debt, which, by the way, would become essentially worthless.  In exchange, the bondholders would get 10% of the stock in the restructured GM, an exchange which would amount to only pennies on the dollar depending on the value of the restructured stock.

Taxpayer, how does this sound to you?