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The New Economy

You just bought a car company. Now what?

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / June 5, 2009

Do you like this truck? Good, because you now own several thousand of them.



If you're an American taxpayer, congratulations! You are now the owner of one of the world's largest auto manufacturers.

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Maybe you never wanted to buy a car company. Maybe you hoped that your tax dollars would go toward something else, like fixing potholes, building schools, or perhaps a conducting a bombing raid somewhere. But you don't get much of a say about where your taxes go, and the people who do have a say decided that your money should buy a controlling interest of General Motors, and that's that.

So now that you have a car company, what are you going to do with it? It's a tough question, and there are no shortage of people weighing in.

Lefty filmmaker Michael Moore, who first became famous for his 1989 film, “Roger & Me,” which described what happened in his home town after the GM plant closed there, has big plans for the company. He wants to retool GM's plants – and retrain its 60,000 workers – to make bullet trains, light rail systems, energy-sipping buses, solar panels, windmills, and a few hybrids and electric vehicles. To pay for all this, he proposes a $2-per-gallon gas tax.

The editorial board at the Nation, who, it's safe to say, share many of Mr. Moore's political views, call for pretty much the same thing.

Over on the other side of the political spectrum, New York Times columnist David Brooks is warning that all this government meddling in private industry will invite nothing but heartbreak for everyone involved. GM, writes Mr. Brooks is a thoroughly dysfunctional workplace , and by forcing the company to "serve two masters" – the market and the administration's environmental goals – the White House is wading into a quagmire that Mr. Brooks compares to the Iraq war. (Yes, he really says that.)

At the Atlantic, blogger Marc Ambinder suggests putting Detroit native Mitt Romney in charge, because what's needed is "forceful, even ruthless, leadership" from someone unafraid of "bringing the hammer down – repeatedly" and "jack[ing] up the stakes." Plus, installing a Republican would give Obama some political wiggle room to turn the company around swiftly. Mr. Ambinder doesn't get into exactly what GM should do, only that it should do it right away.

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