In recent months we have seen the Obama administration nationalize the majority of the domestic automobile industry. A recent poll indicates that a decisive majority of Americans think this is a really, really bad idea. Furthermore, the action is illegal. The Constitution of the United States of America has endowed the congressional branch of the government with the sole power to spend money. Article 1, Section 9: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law [i.e., by the legislative branch].” This makes the financial seizure of General Motors with money appropriated by congress for the use of stabilize the banking system a brazen act of embezzlement. (The witless leader of the House of Representatives says that King Obama has not requested that they pass legislation authorizing expenditures to GM and Chrysler, so it must not be needed.) And so there has been cry among some right wing bombasts to boycott the purchase of GM cars. This too is a bad idea.
Twenty-six years ago my father traded in our family Buick for a Toyota Camry. It was the first time that a Buick had not darkened our family garage, but this car, a gas guzzling ’77 Skylark had been fraught with problems from the first day that we brought it home. I vividly remember watching the red vinyl-topped gray car get dragged by winch out of our La Mesa, California, garage onto a flatbed the morning after dad brought her home because the transmission had seized. The tranny was fixed and we had her back in a few days but at 30 thousand miles a multitude of other components began to fail. Before long my folks were ready for something much more dependable and something that provided a little relief at the pump.
The cream colored Camry was a breath of fresh air blowing in from across the Pacific. The Toyota felt light and maneuverable after the stodgy Buick and the high-revving I4 engine loved to sing while delivering 35 mpg on the highway. The steering was nicely weighted and, other than excessive body roll, it handled reasonably well. And despite accusations to the contrary, it was safe, comfortable, and did not rust and blow away.
By the time the Camry arrived I was driving and was highly attuned to all things automotive. The country was in an uproar because the domestic steel industry was in full meltdown and Motown’s long decline was already underway. The mantra of those attempting to guilt trip the country into buying over-priced second-rate domestic manufactured goods was, “Buy American.”
My response was, “Buy the best.” Even then it was clear to me that sheltering the manufacturers from superior competition would only exacerbate the problem. Sure, “Buying American” might provide some short-term relief to the complacent industries, but it would rob American consumers the best goods and remove the incentive for what was left of domestic manufacturers themselves. If Americans “Buy the best,” the market will stay strong and healthy, fueling an economic engine that will continue to provide jobs and pull people—at home and abroad—out of poverty.
Today, to those that advocate boycotting General Motors, I say, “Buy the best.” Right now The General has numerous products that should be on any consumer’s short list. Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Malibu, and the Pontiac G8, come to mind. In business we say, “Feed success and starve failure.” These cars are successes and deserve consideration—even if Mr. Goodwrench now lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Obama administration, or anyone’s administration for that matter, lacks the expertise and motivation to make a success out of something as complicated as the manufacture and marketing of automobiles. If they remain control of GM for long, its products will undoubtedly become outclassed by stronger free competitors. But that day is not here yet, so “Buy the best” even if it means condescending yourself to buy from a government-owned company.
To those who think that a government-owned auto industry is a wonderful marriage of the greatest attributes of the public and private sectors, I would ask, would you trust the next George W. Bush (Sarah Palin?) that gets elected to manage the domestic auto industry? Eventually it will happen and there will be regret, even if Obama manages to make lemonade out of GM lemons in the near term.
Let political considerations be political considerations and let your choice of cars be for that car that best serves your needs and wants at the price you are willing to pay. Eventually Congress will become re-staffed by those that recognize their mandate in counterbalancing excesses and misuse of Executive Branch power. As in the 1980’s, politics must be remedied in polling booths, not in dealership showrooms.