Upon GM's announcement of bankruptcy, celebrated self-promoter Michael Moore patted himself on the back while typing out one of the most singularly anti-capitalist, reality-free diatribes we've seen in quite some time.
Take a couple minutes to head over to his cute little website and read it. No seriously. Though if you have a weak stomach or troubles with high blood pressure we'd advise you to be careful. HERE it is.
Now that you're back, we're prepared to address Moore's points. First, his obviously biased introductory statement. Moore's central argument is GM needs to die because his lazy friends and family in Flint didn't have the guts and motivation to build their own companies and provide for themselves when GM closed a poorly performing plant. Furthermore, GM is evil for pursuing profits and reacting to the business environment in a prudent fashion.
We can agree GM has made some heinous mistakes in the past and that's why they're in Chapter 11, but vilifying capitalism for working properly is plainly moronic. Moore goes on to outline his vision of a transportation future free of personal choice and based on bullet trains and electric cars and rainbows and unicorn farts. We'll make fun of all the points in order:
1) Automobiles contribute between 3 and 6% of the total greenhouse gasses to the environment (depends on what source you use and what their motivation is). If he wants to make an impact, perhaps he should look to heavy industry and sea shipping. Of course, it's easier to attack the faceless corporate enemy who pays their employees so they can buy tickets to Moore's poorly researched films.
Let's just forget that calling the Detroit Three out as the culprits of global warming is obnoxiously biased. Are we to believe no other automaker in the history of the world wasn't interested in making cars? And please don't pay attention to the fact that Moore's beloved foreign brands fight against emissions regulations as fervently as Detroit does.
2 through 5) Moore advocates giving the government funds allocated to GM to the workers so they can build future transportation. Problem is this is essentially what's being done by funding vehicle programs and maintaining payrolls. Dropping 50 billion into a company like GM isn't like paying off banks, GM actually makes things and runs factories. The central concept he maintains is GM must die and be rebuilt as a renewble energy and train company. Bullet trains, light rail, wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars for all. We won't point out that there are plenty of companies in these segments already, but we will look into this train business a little closer.
We're fervent believers in the free market. If there's a niche, a service, a product, a system that consumers want, we're confident the market will provide it. We also believe in the power of consumer choice, each dollar is a vote and a winning product will be rewarded. Moore argues we force should GM to build up a far more train and bus dependent society. It's been about a hundred years of wide scale transportation in the US, that's a long time and a lot of modes of transportation. When the highways system was implemented, people abandoned trains and buses en mass, rail cars and cross continental train traffic plummeted, and when air travel became more mainstream it was hit even harder. The public had spoken, and continues to speak about trains in the US.
Certainly, there is an argument which says trains work in Europe, why not the US? Because the US is big and yet largely empty. Densely populated areas along the coastal regions already have trains like the Acela or have plans for high speed trains like the planned system in California. Add to that many cities already have light rail or subways for urban transportation. There's profit to be made and the market spoke in those areas. If you live anywhere between the coasts feel free to watch your government subsidized Amtrak train pass every day with four or five passengers on it.
6) This point is incredibly ignorant on so many levels, but a commercially viable, long range electric car which consumers will buy in large numbers as more than a toy of the wealthy is still not within our technical capabilities. Additionally changing over a plant for an entirely different product which isn't even designed will absolutely take more than a month.
7) Windmill and solar plants already exist, if the demand for their implementation was so strong, not only would there be new competitors popping up daily, but they'd compete on price and reduce the overall cost, that's how capitalism works. Introducing a glut of unwanted product onto the market would only serve to bankrupt current competitors developing new technologies leaving a bloated, flabby, government subsidized GM holding the bag on a product they aren't interested in building.
8) Apparently Mr. Moore doesn't pay very close attention to the goings on of the world as there's a hybrid tax incentive already in place. These incentives exist on both the Federal and local levels and wouldn't you know it, people stopped buying hybrids anyway when gas fell back down to reasonable levels.
9) A gas tax would most certainly move people out of gas guzzlers, but because people like personal freedom and the ability to travel when they want and where they want, it won't necessarily mean they move to mass transit, just to smaller cars, which, we're pretty sure the big bad gas engine producing, environment hating Toyota will be happy to provide. Moore seems to think because there was a momentary rise in fuel efficient car sales, people actually want those kinds of cars. On the contrary, Americans buy the biggest and best they can get for their money. If we move to all-electric cars, we'll buy the biggest, fastest, most comfortable electric car we can get, it's just the way it is.
The bottom line is, Moore isn't really arguing against GM and its sins, he's indicting you, the consumer, for making the best choice for you. If he wants to change the way we think about intermodal transportation, he shouldn't be meddling with a company which hopes to emerge from bankruptcy as a stronger competitor and pay off debts, he should be building business models, collecting capital, getting government subsidies and building these magical systems he's dreaming of. Otherwise he's just a loud-mouthed blow-hard begging for someone else to change the world for him.