LA Times auto critic Dan Neil earlier this week suggested that the federal government “nationalize” General Motors. I’m really glad that Mr. Neil signalled the satiric nature of his notion by introducing it as his “modest proposal“. It’s not the funniest piece I’ve ever read, but for an auto critic delving into economic spoof, it’s okay.
At least, it contains one laugh-out-loud line: “The government can afford long-term planning.” This would be the government that so swiftly forced the Bush/Paulson bail-out through on the grounds that they didn’t have time to think out a better plan.
And like most good satire, it hints at recognizable truth: “[T]he measures being bruited about as preconditions for a bailout — firing GM’s top management; forcing a bankruptcy-like renegotiation of contracts with the UAW, suppliers and dealers (it has too many); and creating a czar of product development to force the building of green cars — are nationalization in all but name.”
Actually, it’s the bail-out itself, not any preconditions–such as the insulting “concessions” offerred yesterday by the United Auto Whiners–that constitutes “nationalization in all but name”.
And that, of course, boils down to what’s wrong with the Big-Three bail-out. Saddling the taxpayers, through the mediator of an irresponsible, unaccountable, short-sighted, generally inept federal government, with ill-managed companies is hazardous–morally and economically.
When the CEOs of three of America’s biggest companies roll into Washington expecting to cannibalize the earnings of American taxpayers, including children yet unborn, entitlement-mentality reliance on Big Brother has itself reached the point of self-parody. And it would be laughable, if it weren’t so close to Mr. Neil’s source essay.