This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
When General Motors lobbied for a federal bailout, the company left itself open to government intervention, and that's exactly what it got this week. The administration forced the departure of CEO Rick Wagoner and gave the company a deadline to come up with an improved plan to restructure or face bankruptcy. And not a minute too soon.
Once upon a time, this level of government activity in the private sector was unheard of and unwarranted. But once upon a time no one imagined GM going broke and coming hat in hand to taxpayers for help. This is not your father's Detroit model. Now that the federal government has funneled some $17.4 billion to GM and Chrysler, President Barack Obama has a duty to protect the government's investment. He also needs to protect jobs and ensure the viability of the auto industry. Anyone who bankrolls a private company would do the same when the company is in trouble and its future in doubt. Taxpayers should expect no less when their money is on the line.
Mr. Wagoner presided over GM at a time of massive losses, eroded shareholder value and dwindling market share. His fate was sealed the moment he asked for a bailout last year. He managed to hang on long enough to produce another restructuring plan. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to go forward.
Even bondholders agreed that GM's rosy scenario relied on a quick turnaround of the national economy, which is more of a hope and a prayer than a realistic plan. It is anyone's guess whether the auto industry can be put on the road to recovery, but the government has to try. It would be derelict to allow employers as important as Chrysler and GM to simply go out of business amid the biggest economic downturn since the Depression.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.