Obama rescued GM? Maybe, maybe not

Hoping to find at least one thing Barack Obama did right in his first several years as president, supporters say this lifeguard jumped in the water, swam out to where it’s deep and saved General Motors and Chrysler from drowning.

They Don’t mention that another lifeguard got shoved aside, that the victims, while still afloat, are not on shore yet — or that Obama tied anchors to their feet.

Though it’s nowhere near a certainty, normal bankruptcy procedures might have rescued these companies already plagued by too much government, chiefly in the form of those misdirected, consumer-ignoring rules about fuel efficiency.

We can reasonably assume, however, that we would still have had an auto industry in the form of other companies if a normal Chapter 11 proceeding had taken precedence over politically advantageous, socialist intervention. And this way out would not then have perverted long-standing legal rights while unconstitutionally picking the pockets of the citizenry.

In its takeover — the government still owns more than a quarter of General Motors, is still owed billions and is still the boss you best not ignore — the Obama team stole from tacky, old bondholders and others to give to one of the industry’s foremost malefactors, the United Auto Workers.

We can respect the individual workers while noting their huffing, puffing organization had rendered Detroit near-lifeless with negotiated wages and benefits it had gradually been agreeing to roll back for the sake of having any wages and benefits at all.

Unions are buddies of Democrats, the source of votes galore, of campaign contributions galore, and so if Congress won’t go along with a deal that helps keep them in clover, forget Congress.

Forget, also, what the Troubled Asset Relief Program says about who can get what and just go ahead and give $60 billion to the auto industry. You will get away with it. President George W. Bush had already forked over $20 billion to the industry, and the Supreme Court was never, ever going to intervene in any of this.

GM was able to announce record profits, and that’s great: Long live GM, and Don’t anyone mention the tsunami that set back its Japanese competition.

Someone might mention, however, that what the government gives, it can take away. As a Wall Street Journal editorial explains in making the whole situation splendidly clear, GM has happily agreed to go along with more demanding fuel efficiency standards, meaning it is going to be making fewer and fewer of the pickups and SUVs its customers want and trying to sell them more and more of the sedans they do not want.

There is no better example of this stupidity than the GM flop known as the Chevy Volt, a $40,000 electric-and-gas car that had a dangerous battery and that everyone and his cousin has shied away from purchasing despite government incentives to buy it and government subsidies without which it might cost a quarter of a million dollars. General Motors — some now call it Government Motors — has a solution to consumer reluctance. It wants higher federal taxes at the gas pump.

The glory that is Detroit won’t necessarily remain glorious for long, as much as even Obama critics must truly hope it will. Shed those anchors, GM. Do what your business sense directs you to do, understanding that Big Brother is himself drowning in debt and may never again be able to swim your way.

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