3 Jun 2009
America's General Motors filed for bankruptcy on 1 June 2009, and will be bailed out by the federal government, making the government a 60% shareholder in the company. The bailout is valued at US$30bn.
The company is to be remodeled and emerge as a "new GM," which will be smaller. Thousands of GM jobs are on the line.
Somewhat disappointingly, President Obama announced that "the federal government will refrain from exercising its rights as a shareholder in all but the most fundamental corporate decisions. When a difficult decision has to be made on matters like where to open a new plant or what type of new car to make, the new GM, not the United States government will make that decision."
Speaking to Keith Olberman on Countdown, documentary filmmaker, Michael Moore contrasts with Obama's views in that he hopes that the government will actually take a stronger position in determining the future direction of GM. He encourages the Obama administration to steer GM away from its original mould, where it would just become a smaller version of the old, "bad GM," promoting unsustainable car products and laying off workers.
Moore argues that GM should reorient its operations to become a company that provides fast and energy efficient public transport, such as bullet trains and cleaner buses. This would enable the company to maintain its enormous industrial infrastructure as well as employ more people.
Moore says, "We have to kill GM in order to save it. This is a company that invented the concept of planned obsolescence back in the 50's when they decided - hey a great way to make money is to start building cars that fall apart in two or three years, so (people would) have to buy another car ... and they thought that's how they'd make a lot of money."
"They've planned their own obsolescence, by destroying the middle class that was buying those cars. You lay those people off. They don't have the money to buy the cars. Who do you think is going to buy the cars?" asks Moore.
Moore argues the bailout money should be used to protect the 21,000 GM jobs that are on the line.
Visit Moore's website to read an article he penned, outlining suggestions for GM to develop a people and planet friendly response to its crisis.
Editors Note: A 2006 documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" also alleges that GM favoured technological stagnation for profit maximization and that it was responsible for "murdering" the electric car.