Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Goodbye, GM

Goodbye, GM

by Michael Moore

Monday 01 June 2009


Visit article original @ MichaelMoore.com


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 MMFlint@aol.com MichaelMoore.com

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