Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2009, at 6:45 AM ET
The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal continue to lead with the nationalization of General Motors. When the automaker filed for Chapter 11 protection yesterday morning it "became the second-largest industrial bankruptcy in history," notes the WSJ. President Obama marked the moment "by barely mentioning it," points out the NYT, instead choosing to focus on how filing for bankruptcy will give GM another shot at survival. Some Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize the Obama administration's decision to infuse more than $50 billion in taxpayer money into the automaker and called it another example of the deepening involvement of the government in the private sector. Others were skeptical that so much money was given "to a company lacking an answer to its most profound problem: how to get more car buyers to choose its cars and trucks," notes the LAT. Some members of Obama's party, particularly from industrial swing states, criticized the restructuring plan that will lead to more job losses.
有些朋友知道 Dr. Deming 在轉危為安中 引用過他的作品
GENERAL MOTORS HOLDS A MIRROR UP TO AMERICABy Robert Reich 2009-06-02
As president of General Motors when Eisenhower tapped him to become secretary of defence in 1953, “Engine Charlie” Wilson voiced at his Senate confirmation hearing what was then the conventional view. When asked whether he could make a decision in the interest of the US that was adverse to the interest of GM, he said he could.
Then he reassured them that such a conflict would never arise. “I cannot conceive of one because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country.”Wilson was only slightly exaggerating. At the time, the fate of GM was inextricably linked to that of the nation. In 1953, GM was the world's biggest manufacturer, the symbol of US economic might. It generated 3 per cent of US gross national product. GM's expansion in the 1950s was credited with stalling a business slump. It was also America's largest employer, paying its workers solidly middle-class wages with generous benifits.
Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest employer, Toyota is the world's largest carmaker and GM is expected to file for bankruptcy. And Wilson's reassuring words in 1953 now have an ironic twist. There will be little difference between what is good for America and for GM because it is soon to be owned by US taxpayers who have forked out more than $60bn (€42bn, £37bn) to buy it.
But why would US taxpayers want to own today's GM? Surely not because the shares promise a high return when the economy turns up. GM has been on a downward slide for years. In the 1960s, consumer advocate Ralph Nader revealed its cars were unsafe. In the 1970s, Middle East oil producers showed its cars were uneconomic. In the 1980s, Japanese carmakers exposed them as unreliable and costly. Many younger Americans have never bought a GM car and would not think of doing so. Given this record, it seems doubtful that taxpayers will even be repaid our $60bn. But getting repaid cannot be the main goal of the bail-out. Presumably, the reason is to serve some larger public purpose. But the goal is not obvious.
It cannot be to preserve GM jobs, because the US Treasury has signalled GM must slim to get the cash. It plans to shut half-a-dozen factories and sack at least 20,000 more workers. It has already culled its dealership network.
The purpose cannot be to create a new, lean, debt-free company that might one day turn a profit. That is what the private sector is supposed to achieve on its own and what a reorganisation under bankruptcy would do.
Nor is the purpose of the bail-out to create a new generation of fuel-efficient cars. Congress has already given carmakers money to do this. Besides, the Treasury has said it has no interest in being an active investor or telling the industry what cars to make.
The only practical purpose I can imagine for the bail-out is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise. Yet if this is the goal, surely there are better ways to allocate $60bn than to buy GM? The funds would be better spent helping the Midwest diversify away from cars. Cash could be used to retrain car workers, giving them extended unemployment insurance as they retrain.
But US politicians dare not talk openly about industrial adjustment because the public does not want to hear about it. A strong constituency wants to preserve jobs and communities as they are, regardless of the public cost. Another equally powerful group wants to let markets work their will, regardless of the short-term social costs. Polls show most Americans are against bailing out GM, but if their own jobs were at stake I am sure they would have a different view.
So the Obama administration is, in effect, paying $60bn to buy off both constituencies. It is telling the first group that jobs and communities dependent on GM will be better preserved because of the bail-out, and the second that taxpayers and creditors will be rewarded by it. But it is not telling anyone the complete truth: GM will disappear, eventually. The bail-out is designed to give the economy time to reduce the social costs of the blow.
Behind all of this is a growing public fear, of which GM's demise is a small but telling part. Half a century ago, the prosperity of America's middle class was one of democratic capitalism's greatest triumphs. By the time Wilson left GM, almost half of all US families fell within the middle range of income. Most were headed not by professionals or executives but by skilled and semi-skilled factory workers. Jobs were steady and health benefits secure. Americans were becoming more equal economically.But starting three decades ago, these trends have been turned upside down. Middle-class jobs that do not need a college degree are disappearing. Job security is all but gone. And the nation is more unequal. GM in its heyday was the model of economic security and widening prosperity. Its decline has mirrored the disappearance of both
Middle-class taxpayers worry they cannot afford to bail out companies like GM. Yet they worry they cannot afford to lose their jobs. Wilson's edict, too, has been turned upside down: in many ways, what has been bad for GM has been bad for much of America.
The writer, former US labour secretary, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent book is ‘Supercapitalism'
从通用汽车破产看美国命运作者：美国前劳工部长罗伯特•赖克(Robert Reich)为英国《金融时报》撰稿 2009-06-02
1953年，当艾森豪威尔(Eisenhower)提名通用汽车(GM)总裁查理·威尔逊(Charlie Wilson)担任美国国防部长时，威尔逊在确认这一任命的参议院听证会上，提出了当时的一个传统观点。当被问及他是否会做出对美国有利、但对通用汽车不 利的决定时，他给出了肯定答复。
威尔逊只是稍微有些夸张。当时，通用汽车的命运与美国的命运紧密联系在一起。1953年，通用汽车是全球最大制造商，是美国经济实力的象征。它创造 了美国国内生产总值(GDP)的3%。通用汽车在50年代的扩张，被誉为阻止了商业滑坡。它也是美国最大的雇主，向员工支付绝对达到中产阶级水平的薪资， 外带慷慨福利。
如今，沃尔玛(Walmart)是美国最大雇主，丰田汽车(Toyota)是全球最大汽车制造商，而通用汽车申请了破产保护。威尔逊1953年所说 的那些让人放心的话，现在听来有些讽刺意味。对美国还是对通用汽车有利的事情几乎没有差别，因为通用汽车很快将被美国纳税人所有，他们已付出逾600亿美 元收购该公司。
然而，美国纳税人为何希望收购当今的通用汽车呢？原因肯定不是当经济复苏时，该公司的股票将带来高回报。多年来，通用汽车一直在走下坡路。上世纪 60年代，消费者利益的维护者拉尔夫·内德(Ralph Nader)揭露，通用生产的汽车不安全。70年代，中东产油国的行动显示，通用生产的汽车不经济。80年代，日本汽车制造商的成就，则暴露出通用生产的 汽车不可靠而且昂贵。许多较年轻的美国人从来没有买过通用汽车，也不会想买。鉴于这种记录，纳税人连自己的600亿美元会否得到偿还都有疑问。但得到偿还 本身不会是纾困的主要目标。想必，纾困的理由是服务于某种更大的公共目的。但这个目标不明显。
我能想到的唯一现实的纾困目的，是减缓通用汽车的衰落速度，争取足够多的时间，让其员工、供应商、经销商以及社区适应其最终的灭亡。然而，如果这是 目的，那么除了收购通用汽车之外，难道就没有更好的办法来分配600亿美元？这笔资金还不如用于帮助美国中西部经济从汽车转向其它领域。资金可用来对汽车 业工人进行再培训，并在他们接受再培训期间持续发放失业保险金。
因此，奥巴马政府实际上正出资600亿美元，收买这两大群体。政府正告诉第一个群体，依赖通用汽车的就业和社区，将因为纾困而得到更好的保留，同时 告诉第二个群体，纳税人和债权人将因此得到报酬。但它没有把全部真相告诉任何人：通用汽车终将消失。纾困旨在让美国经济赢得时间，以降低这一打击的社会成 本。
在这一切的背后，是公众越来越严重的担忧，通用汽车的灭亡是其中很小、但很说明问题的一部分。半个世纪以前，美国中产阶级的富足，是民主资本主义制 度的最大胜利之一。到威尔逊离开通用汽车的时候，美国几乎一半的家庭都达到了中等收入水平，而多数一家之主并非专业人士或高管，而是技能娴熟和半熟练的工 厂工人。就业稳定，医疗福利有保障。美国人当时在经济上正变得更为平等。
本文作者是美国前劳工部长、加州大学(University of California)伯克利分校公共政策教授，其最新著作名为《超级资本主义》(Supercapitalism)