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.
Corrupt cronyism has never had quite so large as stage as the new American car business, and the ramifications flowing out from Monday's announcement are just beginning to be glimpsed. On the same day the president announced the seizure and blithely declared that he had no interest in running the company, he called Detroit Mayor David Bing to assure him that GM would be staying put in its downtown Motor City headquarters. When the president himself is decreeing the leasing arrangements for the company, it is well and truly nationalized, no matter what he says for the benefit of the still-seduced MSM.
This is a decision that must be reversed. GM must be denationalized, the federal government divested of not just its controlling interest but all of its interest in the company. The Republican leadership must immediately and loudly demand the sale of the federal share in the company, even if it costs a large part of the $50 billion already invested. If the Administration balks - and it will, for why would Rahm Emmanuel willingly give up such an enormous political cudgel as a great car manufacturing company with its myriad and powerful though indirect tools of reward and punishment? - then every GOP candidate in 2010 must begin almost every speech with a reminder that the Democrats have willingly crossed a line that has never been crossed in American history. This is not a loan, not a subsidy, not even a massive assist, they must argue, but a seizure. This is not a continuation of George W. Bush's emergency aid, but a radical expansion of that crisis-driven intervention of late 2008 into a wholesale takeover five months later.
In the effort to reverse this lurch beyond the farthest left fringe of previous Democratic statist urges, individual Americans have a role to play. They have to say no to GM products and services until such time as the denationalization occurs. This is a painful conclusion for those of us with friends still working for the company, and who had supported aggressive efforts to help the private company restructure.
But there isn't any alternative, every dollar spent with GM is a dollar spent against free enterprise. Every car or truck purchased from Government Motors is one not purchased from a private car company that competes fairly against all other car companies. Many are rightly afraid that the government will do to automobile production what it has done for Amtrack and the Postal Service, but the risk is much greater than a federally mandated lemon.
The real risk is the enormous power of the federal government will so completely subsidize its own cars in so many ways that the private companies will be crippled or driven wholly from the field. What private company would want to compete against the unlimited resources of the feds?
President Obama has made an enormous, unprecedented grab for power, and fair-minded Democrats should join with Republicans to reverse it, and quickly.