Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Should Obama be able to “fire” GM CEO?

Whenever people suggest there ought to be some sort of bailout by the federal government to help prop up the news business (on the grounds that the information they gather is of great significance to creating an educated electorate), it makes me squirmish.

I wouldn’t want federal bureaucrats having any say in determining what gets covered. I don’t think they would have the slightest clue, and they definitely would put their political self-interest ahead of the information needs of the public.

THIS IS SOMETHING where the industry ought to succeed (or fail) on its own. And my attitude there is similar to what I think of President Barack Obama’s actions with regard to the automobile industry.

It bothers me that Obama was successful in getting the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors to agree to resign, as a condition of the federal government providing financial assistance to prop up the U.S.-based companies that manufacture automobiles.

Former GM CEO Rick Waggoner says he lost his job Friday when he met with officials of the Obama Administration, and had it put to him that he should “step aside.”

It may well be true that the new CEO, Fritz Henderson, is very qualified to head General Motors. But the governor of Michigan is correct when she says that Waggoner is being used as a “sacrificial lamb” for the auto industry.

I DON’T LIKE the idea of federal officials having a say in terms of who runs a private company. It ought to be up to the corporate types to figure out for themselves who is in charge and how they go about trying to resolve their economic struggles.

If it turns out that the federal government has that much of a problem with the thought of the current executives being able to take steps that could bring the company back to solid financial ground, then perhaps they should re-think the logic of providing such a company with any kind of financial assistance.

He might be well intentioned in thinking that the U.S. auto industry should not be allowed to wither away (even though the reason it is struggling is that the Japanese automakers these days often produce a better product). But a majority of the electorate last year voted for Obama to be president of the federal government. Trying to pick a new auto manufacturing CEO oversteps acceptable boundaries.

It would be as ridiculous as Mayor Richard M. Daley trying to pick new management for the White Sox. What other issues are in the news these days?

THEY BACKED DOWN: So much for Naperville North High School offering up controversial education professor (and one-time outspoken anti-war activist) Bill Ayers to speak to a new generation of high school students.

Officials at the school on Monday rescinded their offer to have Ayers talk to a select group of social studies students about contemporary issues. School officials told the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald newspaper they received more than 100 negative e-mails and several hostile telephone calls.

In the words of Supt. Alan Leis, “any value here is completely lost.”

I still think the conservative types who resent the fact that anyone from the ‘60s who didn’t adamantly support U.S. involvement in Vietnam can be considered a respectable person screwed up by making this an issue. Had Ayers come and spoke, there’s a good chance that most of the youth who heard him would have quickly forgotten his message. Ayers’ opponents turned his public speaking into an issue, and made themselves look petty in the process.

FINALLY SEEING SOME STIMULUS MONEY: Many municipal governments throughout the Chicago area (and across the country, for that matter) are trying to figure out how they can get some of the money created by the economic stimulus package to pay for local construction projects.

Most accept that they’re going to have to wait a couple of months before they know whether or not they get any cash.

Which is why I find it ironic that Chicago city officials are upset to learn that O’Hare International Airport will get $12.3 million in stimulus funds to repave a runway and relocate a parallel taxiway.

City officials are quick to note that the expansion projects they yearn for at O’Hare cannot be covered with stimulus money. Instead of being thankful that they’re among the first to learn that they’re getting something (the airport is run by the Chicago Department of Aviation), they’re getting worked up over what they have to wait a little while longer for.

SNOWFALL IN SPRINGTIME: I was glad to see the snow that hit the Chicago area this weekend melt away by Monday. The act of having to brush my car clear of snow before I could drive on Sunday was depressing.

In fact, the thought I kept having that day was to wonder if the people in Glendale and Mesa in Arizona were snickering at the thought of wet, slushy weather conditions befalling our city.

The significance of those two Phoenix suburbs is that they host the training camps for the Chicago White Sox and that certain other ball club that likes to pretend it too has major league status.

It is just another reminder that baseball will soon be back. For Opening Day comes Monday. Just six more days until we get to see the Kansas City Royals in town to kick off the 2009 season, or get to watch the Cubs in Houston on Comcast Sports Network.



Anonymous said...

Absolutely the Federal Government should be able to fire the CEO, and set any other conditions to borrowing tax payer dollars. When we small business owners apply for an SBA government loan, we have hundreds of very tough conditions set....these are painful, but in the end, they are designed to help us stick to a sustainable business plan. The auto industry leaders including GM's board is made up of stakeholders in the oil and gas industry and probably the key reason their business model included making the biggest gas hogs in the market...GM doesnt have to take a taxpayer bailout, it can continue to try to make it on its own, but if it asks for taxpayer hard earned money...yes, like the rest of us, they are going to have to learn to live with loan covenants and other restrictions.

Levois said...

The problem to me isn't that the Obama administration forced Wagoner to resign, it's the fact that they got a bailout. Under normal circumstances the government shouldn't be able to determine who can or can't run a particular company. Still GM has and I believe that Wagoner wasn't doing very well as GM CEO. When he asked for a bailout of his company the door was opened.