Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
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GM Could Have Become a “Green” Industrial Machine

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama has passed up his chance to become a transformational president, by failing to convert the excess capacity of General Motors – 60 percent-owned by the U.S. public – to “green” manufacturing. Instead, the public has paid $50 billion, and counting, for 14 industrial junkyards where car factories used to be. Obama’s refusal to rise to the historic occasion shows that he “worships at the altar of private capital – the same corporate developmental model that has been de-industrializing the United States for the last four decades.”

GM Could Have Become a “Green” Industrial Machine

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Did the people pay $50 billion for a bunch of junkyards?”

President Obama’s super-cynical chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is fond off saying that a serious crisis should not be allowed to go to waste. By that, he means that crises provide opportunities to accomplish big changes that would be impossible in less stressful times. It is safe to assume that his boss feels that way, too. It is, therefore, fair to conclude that the terms of the bailout and reorganization of General Motors reflects Barack Obama’s core beliefs regarding the role of government in the economy. Certainly, Obama would not allow a crisis to be wasted. So, when Obama failed to make any attempt to put GM’s unused plants and people to work as the epicenter of a new, “green” industrial machine, it was because he opposes a strong federal role in transforming the economy. Obama worships at the alter of private capital – the same corporate developmental model that has been de-industrializing the United States for the last four decades.

Obama’s wishful supporters on the left fantasized that their hero would seize the historic opportunity created by the crisis to transform the auto industry into a mighty nexus of green manufacturing. After all, the public has already committed $50 billion to General Motors, with more to come. But the end result is the loss of 21,000 GM workers, many times that number at factories that supply GM, and about 100,000 lost jobs at shuttered GM car dealerships. Obama had the perfect opportunity, born of crisis, to retool General Motors and retain its disciplined workforce in green industry, building public transportation vehicles and infrastructure. After all, the American public owns 60 percent of the company. Having paid for the property, most Americans would prefer that GM’s factories and workers be put to good use, rather than putting padlocks on 14 auto plants. Did the people pay $50 billion for a bunch of junkyards?

Obama had the perfect opportunity, born of crisis, to retool General Motors.”

Obama would have been thought of as a new Franklin Roosevelt, had he seized the time and opted for industrial transformation, rather than the junking of yet more of the country’s industrial base. But Obama is no Franklin Roosevelt; there is no political resemblance whatsoever between Obama and the president who put 8 million Americans directly to work on the federal payroll during the Great Depression, at the same time transforming the national infrastructure in ways that still serve us, today.

Obama engineered a one-shot stimulus whose effects are undetectable among the growing army of the unemployed. His approach is to massively bribe corporations and banks to do the right thing, and then pretend he is helpless when the fat cats take the money and run. At any rate, no amount of bribery will change the behavior of people who have spent their entire lives shutting down and selling off the U.S. manufacturing sector. Such a transformation must occur against the wishes of the finance capitalists that created the crisis. Massive federal intervention, through direct investment and control of the new, green enterprises, is the only solution.

The auto industry crisis was the perfect opportunity to retain industrial jobs and begin a green economic transformation. But Barack Obama is not a transformational leader. He works for the banks. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



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