Flimsy Sanity: Bail Out GM?

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bail Out GM?

GM Must Re-Make the Mass Transit System it Murdered

By Harvey Wasserman

In a 1922 memo that will live in infamy, GM President Alfred P. Sloan established a unit aimed at dumping electrified mass transit in favor of gas-burning cars, trucks and buses.

Just one American family in 10 then owned an automobile. Instead, we loved our 44,000 miles of passenger rail routes managed by 1,200 companies employing 300,000 Americans who ran 15 billion annual trips generating an income of $1 billion. According to Snell, “virtually every city and town in America of more than 2,500 people had its own electric rail system.”

But GM lost $65 million in 1921. So Sloan enlisted Standard Oil (now Exxon), Philips Petroleum, glass and rubber companies and an army of financiers and politicians to kill mass transit.

FDR forced Detroit to manufacture the tanks, planes and guns that won World War 2 (try buying a 1944 Chevrolet!). Now let a reinvented GM make the “weapons” to win the climate war and energy independence.

It demands re-tooling and re-training. But GM’s special role in history must now evolve into using its infrastructure to restore the mass transit system—and ecological balance—it has helped destroy.


  • At 3:32 PM, Blogger ryk said…

    It's a great idea, but I'll not hold my breath hoping our Congress makes GM do anything for the money we will inevitably give them, because even as GM claims to be on the verge of bankruptcy, there's no doubt they still employ a small army of lobbyists in DC.


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