Goodbye GM, Michael Moore


s_lone
#1
Goodbye GM

Michael Moore, Oscar and Emmy-winning director
June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. 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.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over. It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Yours,
Michael Moore
 
#juan
#2
There is a lot of truth in what Moore is saying. Eleven years ago I bought a new Toyota Corolla. Almost eight years ago I bought a new Toyota Camry. I still have both cars. Both have over three hundred thousand kilometers on them. I've replaced brake pads and shoes on both cars. I put a new battery in the Corolla a couple years ago. Both cars have a few door dings but they seem to run as well as they ever did. Before the Toyotas I had a Mazda 626 that I put well over a hundred thousand miles on. I will buy a new car because I want the new features not because the old cars don't run anymore. A couple years ago I almost bought a Toyota Camry Hybrid but the deal fell through. The Camry Hybrid will likely be my next car. I know the electric cars are more efficient for commuting but I don't do that anymore and I want to be able to drive to the Okanagan occasionally.

I've not even heard of a car made by any of the "big three" with that kind of endurance. Four or five of my neighbors bought over twice as many American made autos in that same 19 year period and they didn't do nearly the mileage.
Last edited by #juan; Jun 2nd, 2009 at 12:16 PM..
 
SirJosephPorter
#3
GM should have declared bankruptcy a long time ago. When the first bailout package was given to GM, I said so at that time, instead of bailout package, let GM declare bankruptcy.

They are doing that now, better late than never, I suppose. Anyway, GM itself is to blame for its predicament. But ‘Goodbye, GM’? GM isn’t going anywhere. It will emerge from bankruptcy leaner, meaner, smaller and more efficient. It will be around for a long time to come.
 
wulfie68
#4
The problem I have with the GM bailout is the same one I had with Air Canada: the constant infusions of taxpayer dollars might stabilize the company but at whose expense? Air Canada was able to keep afloat courtesty of never ending financial aid and instead we saw their main competitor, Canadian Airlines go under and end up being swallowed by the entity our federal gov't propped up. The reverse should and probably would have occured without the interference of the feds. If in 5 years Ford is the company to go under because they didn't take/get that same funding and thousands of jobs are lost from a company that was healthier to begin with, is our way of life better served? All we've done is reward and protect inefficiency.
 
pegger
#5
The problem with Mike's letter is that there needs to be political will and long term thinking to put this sort of thing into action. Sadly our current crop of political "leaders" are too busy scoring cheap partisan points, on yesterday's issues than to deal with the future, and actually governing this country.

If we look at our own "stimulus" plan, there is no one iota of long term planning, aside from "fixing potholes." The high speed rail lines are a perfect example - will it be costly? Yes. Will it bring benefits? Damn right it will. Why there isn't a high speed link between Toronto and Montreal, or Edmonton and Calgary. I will never know.

This recession represents a great time for renewal, growth and the chance to invest in tomorrow. Instead we throw money and effort at failed business models, and are further failing our children and future generations by not being bold enough to embrace the challenges of this century - we are embedding ourselves in the failed policies of the past.

Don't believe me? Wait till the Credit Card debt bubble bursts - that will make this recession look like child's play...
Last edited by pegger; Jun 2nd, 2009 at 02:10 PM..Reason: can't spell
 
normbc9
#6
GM is a failed business following a continued failing business model for years. They were arrogant in the marketplace and now this. What surprises me is the US government rush to send the failing automakers into bankruptcy but not the major banks which were behind some of this financial collapse to begin with.
 
Risus
#7
Michael Moore is an idiot. What he has to say is worth less than the paper it is written on.
 
lone wolf
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by Risus View Post

Michael Moore is an idiot. What he has to say is worth less than the paper it is written on.

Ha! It's printed on a monitor screen - the replacement for paper.
 
bobnoorduyn
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by SirJosephPorter View Post

GM itself is to blame for its predicament. But ‘Goodbye, GM’? GM isn’t going anywhere. It will emerge from bankruptcy leaner, meaner, smaller and more efficient. It will be around for a long time to come.

I can see leaner? maybe, meaner? definately, smaller? of course, but more efficient?, I highly doubt it. What I see coming is much like I've seen with many other large corporations that have emerged from bankrupcy:

- huge concessions from unionized employees, lower wages, less vacation, gutted pension plans.
- bonuses given to management for getting these concessions.
- more departments and programs requiring more VP's to oversee these departments.
- parts of the company will be sold off to a shell company to make it look like they are selling assets, at inflated prices, making it look like they are doing something, and more management will be needed.
- The shell company will oversee all the worthless parts, but it won't be held responsible for the failure of any of them.
- The middle management will have been served the Kool Aid and baffle their underlings with new buzzwords and programs that give the appearance of prosperity being just around the corner, but in reality, due to cutbacks the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off, they just won't tell you that.
- all the management in this top heavy, multi layered house of cards will reward themselves with hefty bonuses for doing such a good job, and besides, the government has a bottomless trough, right?

Am I cynical?
 
L Gilbert
#10
lol Moore has opinions, same as anyone else; sometimes wrong, sometimes right.
 
lone wolf
#11
Stronach wants to market his new electric car through Ford....
 
SirJosephPorter
#12
You may be cynical, bobnoorduyn, and I don’t blame you. However, as I see it, this is the end of the line for GM. If they get into trouble again, I don’t see government giving them more handouts. Even this handout was very unpopular. But since Obama himself is very popular, he can do one unpopular thing and get away with it.

However, I don’t see even Obama giving them more handouts. So if they have not learned their lesson after this and get into trouble again, I think GM is gone.
 
TenPenny
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by bobnoorduyn View Post

I can see leaner? maybe, meaner? definately, smaller? of course, but more efficient?, I highly doubt it. What I see coming is much like I've seen with many other large corporations that have emerged from bankrupcy:

- huge concessions from unionized employees, lower wages, less vacation, gutted pension plans.
- bonuses given to management for getting these concessions.
- more departments and programs requiring more VP's to oversee these departments.
- parts of the company will be sold off to a shell company to make it look like they are selling assets, at inflated prices, making it look like they are doing something, and more management will be needed.
- The shell company will oversee all the worthless parts, but it won't be held responsible for the failure of any of them.
- The middle management will have been served the Kool Aid and baffle their underlings with new buzzwords and programs that give the appearance of prosperity being just around the corner, but in reality, due to cutbacks the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off, they just won't tell you that.
- all the management in this top heavy, multi layered house of cards will reward themselves with hefty bonuses for doing such a good job, and besides, the government has a bottomless trough, right?

Am I cynical?

Back in the late 60s/early70s, the US railroad business was hit with massive, unprecedented bankruptcies. The failure of PennCentral, which was itself a merger of the Pennsylvania and the New York Central System, was stunning and huge.

The US gov't took over a group of failed railroads, and merged them into what was called Conrail. At first, it was the laughingstock of the railroad business. After a few years, however, it was strong and reliable enough to be privatized, so it was sold off, and eventually was so successful and valuable that two other railroads (CSX and Norfolk Southern) engaged in a bidding war for it, each one ending up with about half.

The key was that the people put in charge of Conrail were devoted railroad people. That's what GM needs, is a team at the top who are dedicated car people, not just random business managers.
 
ironsides
#14
Gosh darn it, I thought this was about the demise of Michael Moore. Mr. hindsight himself.
 
bobnoorduyn
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by ironsides View Post

Gosh darn it, I thought this was about the demise of Michael Moore. Mr. hindsight himself.

I can't be bothered railing against the guy, he's already been discredited, even by folks who've appeared in his mockumentaries. He make a good story but I value his "facts" about as much as I value Paris Hilton's.
 
bobnoorduyn
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by TenPenny View Post

The key was that the people put in charge of Conrail were devoted railroad people. That's what GM needs, is a team at the top who are dedicated car people, not just random business managers.



That was then, this is now, there seems to have been a shift in mentality in the last 10 to 15 years, maybe longer, that shows no sign of abating. Management teams are hired for their "management skills", (or gift of gab) rather than knowlege of the business. Some make themselves rich while quietly bleeding a company dry leaving no hope of becoming profitable. Yet others do the Frank Lorenzo thing, actively and openly driving the company into the ground and blaming everyone else. It's a very American thing but one needs only to look at the former "People's Airline" up here, which will probably end up in CCAA this summer, run by a guy whose talent was memorizing airline schedules. Oh, there's a new name on the front page, but Mr. M runs the shell company that pulls the strings.

I can see the point that you have to offer the money to attract the talent, we've seen the money but I have yet to see the talent. Where's Lee Iacocca when you need him?
 

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