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June 2nd, 2009
06:49 PM ET

Goodbye, GM

Michael Moore
For RealClearPolitics.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.

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Filed under: Economy • GM
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Christopher

    Kind of funny from my perspective, if the words accociated with GM/auto companies are replaced with banks/finance, the story remains the same. Only with the exeption of the auto industry being over regulated and the bank/finance ind. being under regulated. The generations to come will not "pay" for the citizens lazy stance to revolt against the real crooks of today,(the likes of gldmn Sachs) nor will they invest with them. the result will be an insolvent population with beyond religous amounts of fortune harboured by coorperate leaders. What a way to run the USA. Jerks.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  2. Teresa, OH

    @ KAREN: I dont think you get the situation in this country. None of the three you mentioned are to BLAME for the current problem.

    We have to go back to the housing market. When people cant pay for thier homes due to the help by the mortgage companies giving them financially bad mortgages: the ARMS, everything else spirals out of control. The blame is for the Banks and Mortgage companies who started this descent into bankruptcy. Ask all the little businesses who are now GONE.

    I am appalled at the IGNORANCE in this country at why the auto industry is going under. It has nothing to do with CEOs, bonuses, pensions, high hourly wages, or UNIONS.....

    June 3, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  3. Melissa

    Greed got the best of them. The consequences of their actions are finally weighing in and they almost took the whole country down with them. Good riddance.

    June 3, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  4. earle,florida

    Wonderful article,by the best! Thanks Mr. Moore,and lets hope the Obama people listen.

    June 3, 2009 at 9:51 am |
  5. ronvan

    Sadly, this article hits the nail on the head. For me this has always been about $$$. Cannot blame the ordinary workers as they are/were controlled by the bosses & unions. They had the people & the technology to build better, safer, more fuel efficent vehicles but opted for the $$$$. Annie brings up another good point. Being a ret. Army vet., I spent many years in Europe. I was totally amazed by their transportation – rail – system. You can set your clock by their schedules. Their bigger cities also have large parking lots, on the outskirts of town, & then they take a bus or car pool to work downtown.
    This could be done in the U.S. but we are to spoiled & want to use our own vehicles!

    June 3, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    Corporate greed,Profits and bonuses and dividends plus bond holders milking high coupon rates, And labour unions demanding premium wages and Pension and health benefits and bond holders despite the fact the rating agencies continued to give GM good credit ratings when not deserved ( they were consistently losing market share) but nevertheless demanding premium coupon rates.
    They forgot one very old adage:- The higher the top the longer the drop!! Bond holders especially.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    June 3, 2009 at 2:25 am |
  7. Brent Eskridge

    I hate the fact that GM,Ford and Chrysler are always asking the union workers to take cuts. When are these three going to start taking cuts. Even while GM takes bankruptcy they will still keep to many members of management in the work force. Cut a third of management and they will save over 2 million a year. Just a thought big 3.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  8. Lynette

    Simple case of arrogance and bad management led to the downfall of this not-so great company- My sympathy with all those Americans who have lost their jobs.We in India are thankful we do not have companies like GM to drive us into a chaotic situation.

    June 3, 2009 at 12:03 am |
  9. David Bottman/Puerto Rico

    It couldn't happen to a nicer company , double charging their
    clients, horrible service , customer service, ha ha couldn't understand a word they were saying (overseas workers). there were no offices in Puerto Rico for customer service, no local banks would accept payments to GM, all payments had to be done buy western union, what a hassle. Thank god their gone
    hope they never rise from the dead.

    PS. your buddies from Puerto Rico

    June 2, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  10. John D.

    GM now stands for Government Motors these new events smack of socialism.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm |
  11. june

    hi michael, as we say here in quebec, canada , vous avez manquer le bateau! people should of woke up at least 20 years ago we have the same problem here i guees we are all asleep.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  12. Jim

    What happens if government fails at running GM?

    June 2, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  13. from 450K employee to bankrupcy???

    Hummer Arrogance killed it!

    June 2, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  14. Deb Purcell

    The demise not only of GM but of American and the economy started when our jobs were sent overseas. You talk about Detroit where every other house is empty. Try my neighborhood because it is the same thing. You concentrate on the big story of GM and the anxiety of the people who depended on them. Why not look at people who worked for IBM, Motorola, American Express, and so on. Our jobs have gone to 3rd world countries and no one once asked us if we would consider taking a pay cut or no raises. Bonuses were cut without notice. The corporate executives could care less about the people who work for them. There are millions of us "middle class" who are now jobless, homeless or close to and we are in a black hole. Baby boomers are too old to seek new jobs and too young to collect retirement. We are slowly sinking into an abyss of debt and poverty. Detroit is not alone.

    June 2, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  15. Enough

    The public didn't want crappy little fuel efficient cars from Detroit. Those who wanted those bought Toyota or Honda. Remember Chevette and Vega?? It was the SUV's, trucks and muscle cars. The Unions played a big part in the demise of GM. Consumers weren't willing to pay all the extra for a car to cover all those benefits. Too bad more Liberals didn't put their money where their mouth was and support their Unions. Liberals are the ones that typically drive the little crappy Japanese cars.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm |
  16. Isabel, Brazil

    The concordat impresses. GM has always been a symbol of American capitalism.

    The chairman of General Motors said it would be a quick recovery. But history shows that such processes of bankruptcy, they are unpredictable and sometimes very lengthy. Not always end well.
    This case is different because the US government is putting a lot of money. It is difficult to say if will be fast. It is a major restructuring.

    The truth is different from that expectation. The processes of bankrupt are unpredictable, can last years, the recovery can happen or not. After all, the taxpayer's money can not do everything. Sales of the company need to increase, and consumers have several options of competitors, that are doing everything to survive the crisis too.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
  17. Karen

    Who's at fault?

    1) Government bailing Chrysler in 1979.

    Moral hazard people. If Chrysler was to big to fail in 1979, what message does that give to General Motors who was multiple time bigger than Chrysler?

    2) Shareholders did not remove CEO Rick Wagner after continuously losing money quarter after quarter.

    3) United Auto Workers getting paid way too much. over $80 an hour when you include base pay, medical, retirement, etc.. benifits.

    United Auto Workers added a $2,000 average legacy cost for every vehicle!!!

    Of course CNN will continue to lie to you guys and pretty much blame the CEO when in fact it was all three parties mentioned above.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  18. JIM S CALIFORNIA

    What Michael Moore should have done is to bring the disparity in pay and benefits between American Car and Foreign car companies in the US. Why didn't he bring that to the attention of his messiah Barack Hussein Obama? The unions brought down General Motors. American carmakers could not make a small car profitably due to the exhorbitant benefits they gave union members. I hope GM can eliminate the unions completely and I would say good riddance. Michael Moore is too busy trying to see who will be fatter Rob Reiner or him.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    Michael,

    I like most of the things on your list. It occurred to me while reading it that if we convert in a large way to public transit, fast trains or energy efficient buses, we won't need all the parking lots that have been built over the last few decades for the ever increasing numbers of cars driven. What would you suggest that those be converted to?

    June 2, 2009 at 7:03 pm |

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