“Let me be clear, the government has no interest in running GM or the car industry. The government has no intention of running GM.”
Translation: Well, other than firing the CEO, telling them what to cars to make, mandating a merger with an overseas company, having government backed warranties and withholding any more funds if you don’t do everything we tell you to do, the way we tell you to do it…we won’t be running the car industry. Of course none of that would fall into the category of full oversight of the company, does it?
As a country, we have been edging down a slippery slope for weeks now. The pace is picking up and we are now starting a full blown slide down said slope and straight to hell in a handbasket. The question many of us are starting to have is, where will it all end? Will it end at all or is this just beginning of a fundamental change in our country and of the constitution set up to define it. We are approaching or already in very dangerous territory and not even pretending to tread lightly anymore.
The firing (okay, technically if we use the administration’s current wordplay game of semantics, the “strong suggestion that he should step aside”) of GM CEO Rick Wagoner today signals a shot across the bow to American companies, both private and public. If you accept or are forced into taking government funds, your job security is now dependant on the whim of those in Washington. We are putting CEO’s and boards of companies, private and public alike, on notice. If the powers that be don’t agree with the way you run your business, with the products you produce or in your plans to restructure the company, all bets are off. You can now be taken over by the federal government.
There is a lot of blame/credit to go around on every side. This is not a partisan issue. In the car industry and large financial firms especially, the rousing battle cry of a company being “too big to fail” is what caused a lot of the chaos we have gone through and have yet to experience. That premise has proven to be a fallacy in thinking. In the case of GM and AIG in particular, after sinking billions upon billions of dollars into the death stars of these corporations, the only option for GM still may be to declare bankruptcy and restructure as they should have months ago. AIGwas the poster child for public outcry last week as Congress on both sides of the aisle, whipped up outrage and mob mentality as a means of diversion over bonuses that were paid. The only problem was, many of those so outraged in the Administration, Congress and the Treasury Department, knew of the bonuses to come ahead of time and tacitly signed off on them weeks before they were given out. When the constituency was paying attention and started an outcry, then the backpedaling and un-constitutional passage of a tax bill by the House occurred. Bus tours were arranged by an offshoot of ACORN to intimidate executives scared for their families to give back money that everyone in power knew they were going to receive.
Over the past 2 to 3 decades, we have all experienced and enjoyed the times of excess run amok in our society. Many of us learned to live above our means rather than to stay within our attainable financial boundaries. We became spoiled and used to having all we needed or being able to attain it through credit lines that freely flowed. We had a false sense of security and thought our lives would never change.
Corporations in America and around the world were no different. As long as the profits were flowing in, everyone prospered and took full advantage of the times. The fat cats lived high on the hog and every angle was worked to it’s full advantage even by the most casual investor. We were told that the Stock Market was golden and the only way to go in saving for retirement was through our 401 K’s.
Then things ground to a halt. The market started the plummet to half it’s former glory. Credit dried up. Everyone panicked. The world markets also started to show the cracks that had been hidden for years. Jobs were slashed at an alarming rate even in industries that had been considered untouchable in the past. Spending, by necessity, also had to be curtailed as we all learned our lives as we had been living them, had changed.
As in any situation, as we are finding out, if you put a harsh light on a problem, it’s many imperfections and flaws start to show. Many of the companies that for years appeared to be bastions of stability, have been revealed to have been concealing many fissures and fatal flaws that were allowed to get worse over many years. Any house of cards, when it gets high enough, will tumble to the ground if the underlying structure is not sound. Tumble we did and we are still in free fall.
So with today’s actions, not only was free enterprise and capitalism put on notice in America, we as citizens were too. If we are smart, we will sit up and take notice and continue to pay attention to each little bit of control being given over to the government. The bits and pieces of what are seemingly small things right now, will start to add up. Left unchecked, we will surely look back in a few years and wonder where our country and freedoms went.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton, 1887