Wed, 26 March 2014
Latest GM Scandal is Business As Usual, But What Would a Green Jobs GM Look Like?
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
“Endangering the public in these ways is a fundamental feature of capitalism, one that's baked in....”
The latest GM scandal, in which the giant automaker consistently refused to correct product defects that endangered the lives of its customers and their families, ought to remind us of two things.
The first and most obvious is the basic antisocial nature of corporate capitalist enterprises. The drive of corporations to offload their costs onto customers, the public, and the environment by means ranging from special tax breaks and corporate welfare to skimping on safety or poisoning the land, air and oceans is not a bug in the capitalist system that can be rooted out. Automakers do it, companies that deliver water do it. Companies that make building materials & foodstuffs do it, along with mining concerns, retail, you name it, they all do it. Endangering the public in these ways is a fundamental feature of capitalism, one that's baked in.
The second thing this particular GM scandal should remind us of, is the series of colossal missed opportunities coming out of the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies and bailouts of 2009.
For a brief time, the US government became the biggest stockholder in GM, with the power to appoint its operating officers. This is no small thing, because General Motors has a research and development arm about as big as that of France, certainly one of the largest and most able groups of scientists and engineers ever assembled.
A visionary and transformative US president might have used his executive powers with one hand and appointed a real “Green jobs team” to run GM with the other to begin weaning the US economy off fossil fuels. Having GM manufacture and the the post office buy and operate electric delivery vehicles would have enabled GM scientists and engineers to radically lower the cost and increase the reliability of electric vehicles, and begun to force the rest of the auto industry to keep up, follow suit or die.
“The latest GM scandal, with a few more deaths and injuries or a few thousand, are just the cost of doing business. Your cost, that is, not theirs.”
It gets mighty cold sometimes in Detroit, where GM is still headquartered, and heating homes and buildings is the single biggest contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide. A Green Jobs team at GM could have put those engineers and scientists to work on the cheapest ways to retrofit existing homes and apartments for energy efficiency, using Detroit's large stock of unemployed people and buildings empty and not as exhibit A for building the world we want and deserve.
But instead of a visionary leader in the White House who aimed to stop the rise of the oceans and/or identified with Detroit's unemployed we had slick black corporate hack. GM and Chrysler got huge cash bailouts. They were allowed to largely offload their pension and health care costs onto the workers themselves, and go back to their natural antisocial behaviors, manufacturing fleets and shiploads of environmentally destructive vehicles with as many safety defects as they imagined they could get away with.
The latest GM scandal, with a few more deaths and injuries or a few thousand, are just the cost of doing business. Your cost, that is, not theirs. That's capitalism for you. Who says the system doesn't work?
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce A. Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA and is co-chair of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.