I've spent some time this morning reading about GM and reminding myself of the documentary Roger and Me (which was the first movie my husband and I saw together; I remember knowing nothing about it except that Ken wanted to see it, and I was young and in love and went along with him. Good choice :).
Anyway, many have criticized Obama for going after the auto companies but letting the banks off easy. But I think he has been harder on the auto companies because they need to undergo substantive changes that they are reluctant to try, and the government needs to step in and make it happen. Specifically, what the auto companies need to do is provide alternatives to carbon-fuel-based automobiles. GM killed the electric car--why? Chris Paine suggested many factors, but among them was the influence of the oil companies, who didn't want to see a challenge to their monopoly. Obama's campaign ran on the promise of challenging our dependence on oil. I can't help but see that GM's bankruptcy is part of an overall plan to force the auto companies to change and to adopt new technologies.
Michael Moore just posted a letter titled Goodbye GM calling for just this kind of change. Among his suggestions:
Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.
If Obama keeps people employed and provides education so that they can keep working in the factories in their hometowns, he will be a hero.
Moore's letter is full of excellent suggestions to use the GM factories as the foundation of a new transportation policy and a revitalized transportation industry. GM wasn't about to make that leap on their own; I'm glad we have a president who is willing to make it happen. Our country will be better for it.