Matthew Yglesias is right to point out that bailing out car companies when they are making a product that at present is fundamentally unsuited to future profit generation is stupid, but he and his commenters largely place the blame on GM’s corporate culture. Let’s be honest here: speaking as a lefty (and a strongly pro-labour lefty at that), the unions own this idiotic idea just as strongly as management does.
As an Ontarian, I am deeply, deeply familiar with CAW president Buzz Hargrove’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to spew stupid bullshit, but Hargrove’s bullshit is not only stupid but short-sighted: every solution he has boils down to “the government should give auto workers money,” and he’s happy with that strategy regardless of whether that money goes directly to auto workers or to auto companies who will trickle it down to said auto workers. It’s almost like the right wing decided they needed the most stereotypical left-wing labour boss they could imagine, then went to a lab and had Buzz Hargrove grown in a tube.
Of course, the Ontario government particularly shouldn’t give auto companies money to maintain their operations in Ontario, because there is simply not enough money in the coffers to do that successfully, because people are buying less cars. They are especially buying less of the shitty gas guzzlers that for years have been the mainstay of Ontario’s auto production (the list of GM and Ford cars manufactured in Ontario reads like a Consumer’s Digest warning list). Consumer advocates have been saying for years that Ontario manufacturing needed to diversify before things got bad, but Buzz Hargrove wasn’t interested in that because skilled manufacturers might not necessarily be interested in joining the CAW if they weren’t making cars.
Now, things are bad, and it’s going to take a massive effort to turn Ontario’s economy around, and government investment will be vitally necessary to do it. But giving money to car companies, especially in Ontario’s case, is just a bad idea.