Monday, June 1, 2009

GM, the new Conrail

Here's a shock: the media are reporting this story all wrong. "GM files for bankruptcy protection," "...a low point in the carmaker's 100-year history...," "... a powerful reminder of how far GM has fallen ...," blah, blah, blah.

The closest they come to the real story is generally on the jump page: "To achieve the lower break-even point, GM will have to shed thousands of employees, several car brands, hundreds of dealerships, health care and pension benefits, and a mountain of debt."

Whoa, rewind there: " ... GM will have to shed thousands of employees, ... health care and pension obligations ..."

Lemme get this straight. The US Government now has controlling interest in GM. The same US Government that has been telling us we have to pump millions of our dollars into GM, et al., because if por exemplo the Big Three go down we could lose jobs big time. The same US Government has also been talking about creating jobs, public works, etc., etc. Now they own GM (mostly), and the jobs go down the toilet anyway? On their watch? On their orders?

Admittedly we're now talking 40,000 jobs instead of 2 million, but the game ain't over yet. We still have more bankruptcy tickets.

This is the wrong kind of restructuring, folks! This is the (now discredited?) IMF all over again, just the opposite of what we need, what we need being what we might call a Social Monetary Fund - that would fund job creation, not "job shedding"; expanded health care that would cover more people, not fewer; likewise pensions.

Instead we seem to be getting, as Greg Palast puts it, "Grand Theft Auto:" nevermind ERISA, nevermind the fact that the pension money isn't theirs to take, and how DO you walk into to the doctor's office and pay with a bankrupt car company's stock?

That's clearly what we should be pissed about. But I'd like to add one more little observation, while we're on the subject (or I am). A little history, just a sort of after dinner mint to tip us right over the edge. It concerns Conrail, pretty well named in retrospect.

You see, this has all happened before. Before 1975 there were a number of old private, for-profit railroad lines running in the Northeastern US. Only they went bankrupt. So the Government bought them, and restructured them, downsized them, "shed" some of their operations and the attendant workers, etc. At the same time, with the same Act, the Government began a program of "regulatory reform" - i.e. deregulation. Several such "reforms" followed, but that's another story.

The long and the short is, by 1980 Conrail turned a profit (NB: as a government run enterprise it became profitable). So the Government took the next logical step - claro. It re-privatized the company, the largest sale of public stock in US history!

Get it? Private enterprise not working - government/taxpayers assume debt, invest billions to rebuild and repair - then hand it back to the profiteers, this time with far fewer regulations, like, for example, secret contracts, etc., etc.

They call this 'socialism'? The smart guys have a better way to describe it: "Socialized risk, privatized profit." What it means is, socialism for the rich, while the rest of us get to take our chances with wild west capitalism.