That was in 1953, and Wilson was trying to make the point that General Motors was such a big company -- it sold about half the cars in the U.S. back then -- that its interests were inevitably aligned with those of the country as a whole.
Things are different now. General Motors' market share in the U.S. is below 20 percent. It has gone through bankruptcy and exists now thanks to a federal bailout. But Barack Obama seems to think that it's as closely aligned with the national interest as Wilson did.
"When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse," Obama told a campaign event audience in Colorado earlier this month, "I said, let's bet on America's workers. And we got management and workers to come together, making cars better than ever, and now GM is No. 1 again and the American auto industry has come roaring back."
His conclusion: "So now I want to say that what we did with the auto industry, we can do in manufacturing across America. Let's make sure advanced, high-tech manufacturing jobs take root here, not in China. Let's have them here in Colorado. And that means supporting investment here."
Was he calling for a federal bailout of other American manufacturing companies? And what does he mean by "supporting investment"? White House reporters have not asked these obvious questions, for the good reason that the president, who has been attending fundraisers on an average of one every 60 hours, has not held a press conference in something like two months.
Obama talks about the auto bailout frequently, since it's one of the few things in his record that gets positive responses in the polls. But he's probably wise to avoid probing questions, since the GM bailout is not at all the success he claims.
GM has been selling cars in the U.S. at deep discount and, while it's making money in China -- and is outsourcing operations there and elsewhere -- it's bleeding losses in Europe. It's spending billions to ditch its Opel brand there in favor of Chevrolet, including $559 million to put the Chevy logo on Manchester United soccer team uniforms -- and just fired the marketing exec who cut that deal.