President Obama's decision to seize General Motors and convert it into Government Motors is as shocking as it is unpopular. Polling shows, like the president's stubborn insistence that Gitmo be closed and its terrorist prisoners brought stateside, the president's insistence that GM be nationalized is appalling to large majorities of Americans. The socialization of America's biggest brand is not the sort of decision that can be cloaked in head-faking rhetoric. What had been a private company on the verge of bankruptcy is now a government actor competing against private sector companies and using the federal treasury as an enormous unfair advantage in the marketplace. Even if the cost itself was not so staggering, the idea of the federal government declaring itself on the side of one of many competitors is as distasteful as it is unprecedented. It must be reversed.
In the two days since the nationalization of GM was announced, the callers and e-mailers to my program have been 10 to 1 against the Obamaization of the American car business. The reasons are many and varied. Some simply hate the naked exercise of federal power. Others see the first undeniable instance of socialism understood as the government's ownership of the means of production. Still others cannot believe that the shareholders and bondholders of a once great company have been stripped of their equity while the unions that helped bring the company down, escape nearly unscathed.
Almost everyone grasps immediately the deep unfairness to Ford and even the offshore carmakers that now compete against the massive subsidies of the federal government. How exactly is Ford supposed to bear its 'legacy costs' while GM is relieved of its past mistakes? How will the UAW negotiate fairly with Ford while realizing that every dollar bled from it is a dollar more likely to go to GM, in which the union now holds a huge equity position? How can every federal official interacting with any car company not know and act with the knowledge that the 'home team' - the president's team - is GM.
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