Michael Moore has written an open letter to President Barack Obama, with nine recommendations for saving the American economy and putting General Motors back to work.
[A]s GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided.
As Angus at Kids Prefer Cheese points out, Moore doesn't seem to remember exactly what his recommendations to save General Motors were 20 years ago. For those who haven't seen "Roger & Me," Moore's program for the American auto industry consisted of:
- Employing as many people as possible in Michigan, at higher-than-market wages with higher-than-market benefits;
- No employment of anyone outside the United States, where labor costs and factory overhead are cheaper than in Michigan;
- No use of computers, robotics, or other efficient, cost-saving technologies in the manufacture of cars; and
- That's pretty much it.
20 years later, it's clear that Moore was right. What forced General Motors into bankruptcy was an excess of efficient technology, along with low labor costs. The same problems bedeviled Chrysler.
In keeping with his status as a prophet, Moore has a number of recommendations for what can be done to save GM, and the American economy, today. I particularly liked these:
Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades — and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal.
While it might appear counterintuitive that a high-speed rail network would benefit an automobile company, we should keep Moore's track record in mind. He was right about GM 20 years ago. And of course business travelers will be happy to forgo air travel, in which one can reach New York from Los Angeles in 6 hours, for 17 hours aboard a non-stop bullet train, because in today's economy businessmen understand, like Moore, that efficiency is economically counterproductive.
But what of those who don't live in New York or Los Angeles?
For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.
Speaking as someone who lives outside the Boston-New York-DC corridor, I'll readily admit that the only thing that keeps me from taking a bus for my 17 mile commute, rather than driving to work, is that the buses in my area use too much energy. Well, that and the fact that I selfishly enjoy arriving at home 25 minutes after I leave work, rather than 2 hours later. But that will change under Moore's program:
To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.
Indeed it will. And although city dwellers may have to wait a few years or decades for their high-speed bullet trains, I'll only have to wait a few months for my solar powered bus network. A two-dollar a gallon gas tax, now, will also promote economic growth in the bargain. Because, as Moore's past predictions showed, low costs, whether in the labor market or in energy, are bad for the economy.
The President — and the UAW — must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.
As a former auto worker himself, Moore understands that what current auto workers and the UAW need, right now, is a high gas tax and a job in clean-bus technology. If that doesn't save them, perhaps they can work in stimulus-funded lemonade factories.
Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.
So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country.
Next week: Michael Moore demonstrates that the jobs of out-of-work longshoremen in Long Beach and New York can be saved by reverting to wind-powered sailing technology.