Does the president really want to do for all manufacturing what he did for the auto industry?
Readers with long memories may recall that Charles E. Wilson, president of General Motors and nominee for secretary of defense, got into trouble when he told a Senate committee, “What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”
That was in 1953, and Wilson was trying to make the point that General Motors was such a big company — it sold about half the cars in the U.S. back then — that its interests were inevitably aligned with those of the country as a whole.
Things are different now. General Motors’ market share in the U.S. is below 20 percent. It has gone through bankruptcy and exists now thanks to a federal bailout. But Barack Obama seems to think that it’s as closely aligned with the national interest as Wilson did.
“When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, I said, let’s bet on America’s workers,” Obama told a campaign-event audience in Colorado earlier this month. “And we got management and workers to come together, making cars better than ever, and now GM is No. 1 again, and the American auto industry has come roaring back.”
His conclusion: “So now I want to say that what we did with the auto industry, we can do in manufacturing across America. Let’s make sure advanced, high-tech manufacturing jobs take root here, not in China. Let’s have them here in Colorado. And that means supporting investment here.”
Was he calling for a federal bailout of other American manufacturing companies? And what does he mean by “supporting investment”? White House reporters have not asked these obvious questions, for the good reason that the president, who has been attending fundraisers on an average of one every 60 hours, has had only one press conference in something like two months.
Obama talks about the auto bailout frequently, because it’s one of the few things in his record that gets positive responses in the polls. But he’s probably wise to avoid probing questions, since the GM bailout is not at all the success he claims.