Thursday, June 4, 2009

GM Mission Creep

The Obama people are having a hard time coming up with a way to pay for their universal government health care program. But now that they own General Motors, it may cross the minds of more than a few that this corporation might be useful for paying for the health plan.

The problem is that government (and unions, also big stakeholders now) are incapable of running an industry, i.e. making good products that people want, providing good customer service, and, in all of this, making a profit. So to the extent that government is involved in GM, the car maker won't be turning a profit and funding anything.

But government will certainly get involved in actually running GM. It will prove too tempting not to. That means that business concerns will be subordinated to political concerns. Just yesterday I saw a Senate committee excoriating GM executives for shutting down dealerships and the manner in which they did it. What these politicians were thinking was obvious. We own this company now, so we'll use it to keep people in their jobs. That is, they'll use it as a welfare system, not a business. Think of the way factories functioned in the old Soviet Union.

We are also seeing gleeful Democratic pols pushing to shut down the production of moneymaking SUVs (vehicles that liberals see as evil planet-destroying machines in general, but useful and cool when they own them themselves because, well, a few don't make that much difference) and expand the production of fuel efficient "green" cars that nobody wants but that everyone should want.

But really what difference do markets and profit make? If government should run the health care industry because everyone needs health care that is affordable and accessible regardless of ability to pay, then surely the same is true of cars. Think of it this way. Everyone needs a job, and cars are necessary for most people to get to their jobs. Government can now help put people in cars regardless of their ability to pay. Furthermore, for the sake of our health and for "the survival of the planet," we all need to be driving the right cars. Given what's out there, clearly the market is not able to direct either producers or consumers to socially and environmentally responsible cars. But the government can help there too.

Government ownership and management of, and political fiddling with, the auto industry may provide Americans a valuable lesson in what the government can and cannot do well, regardless of what in principle is should be doing. Or those lessons may come too late. On the other hand, the GM deal may prove to be a great leap for the government even more deeply into providing for everyone's "basic human goods," such as health care, cars, houses, schooling (with hot breakfast and lunch), retirement, and perhaps even tucking you in at night.

Consider the disastrous British experience with government ownership of the auto industry, especially when militant unions are involved. Follow this series of videos.

And here again for the fun of it is the Congressional Motors ad you've seen before:

I saw another mock ad for a new American car that reads this way: "You wouldn't buy our lousy cars. So now we're taking your money anyway. The Bailout. Coming in January."

Harold adds:
Our friend Iowahawk found this ad:

David responds:

The thing about these spoofs is that you can never be too ridiculous when anticipating secret liberal ambitions. Remember when charges of "Homosexual marriage will be next" was thought to be an hysterical scare tactic? Now they treat you like an Ayatollah if you question it in any way. The stakes could not be higher for these people. They're out to "save the planet." Why should we not expect them to impose wartime rationing like use of the car only on odd numbered Saturdays?

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