By on June 1, 2009

Here’s a no-no: Michael Moore’s open letter, on this day of GM’s bankrupty, in its entirety, via the Daily Kos.

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM’s birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

* Michael Moore’s diary :: ::
*

It is with sad irony that the company which invented “planned obsolescence” — the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one — has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh — and that wouldn’t start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the “inferior” Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to “improve” the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company’s body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with — dare I say it — joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know — who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let’s be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is “reorganized” by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made “Roger & Me,” I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war — a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call “cars” may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn’t give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true — that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don’t put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce — and most of those who have been laid off — employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades — and we don’t even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven’t used it, is criminal. Let’s hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we’re going to have automobiles, let’s have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories — that simply isn’t true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that’s a start. Please, please, please don’t save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don’t throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front — and the back — seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it’s over. It’s a new day and a new century. The President — and the UAW — must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Yours,
Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol.com 

MichaelMoore.com

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89 Comments on “Michael Moore on General Motors’ Bankruptcy: “Goodbye GM”...”


  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Michael Moore has his POV – and is now convinced that the industrial know-how and capacity of defunct GM should be used to reach for the transportation solution of the future.

    Some of his points will raise hackles, some deserve consideration.

    One thing is certain – Detroit auto executives have now laid waste to a significant portion of the US manufacturing base.
    Either sit back and go “it’s the gummint’s fault” – or aim for the future.
    As Moore says – the Japanese have had bullet trains for 50 years, average speed 167mph, and they are on an average 30 seconds late at the stations.

    The French will soon be laughing at those dependent on planes to get around their countries.

    The US, with its ingenuity, industrial clout and consumer base, could lead the world, once it decides to take transporation to the next level.
    Detroit moved us from horse-and-buggy, and can do it again.
    If not, the Chinese will, together with the various strange consortia now forming around the planet.

    We will want to keep moving, but we will have to think hard about how, and through what means – and whoever provides the best solution will own the next 100 years, just as GM almost owned the first 100.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    The only word I can think of to describe Michael Moore is delusional. Okay, maybe there are two, as douchebag also comes to mind.

  • avatar
    drifter

    I agree with everything he wrote except for #9.
    Realistically, “our freedoms” to pollute will override everything else a far as American public is concerned. Public transport is considered to be socialistic by many.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @superbadd75

    And your learned and informed comment is based on what? Prejudice?

    Michael Moore is far from my cup of tea, coffee or hooch – but in Roger and Me he called it, 100%

  • avatar

    I don’t always agree with Moore’s points or how he goes about proving those points, but some of these are at least interesting. I’m very much in favor of any plan to keep industrial jobs in the US, and updating our electrical and transportation infrastructure are good ways to keep jobs in the US and contribute to needed improvements.

    It’s easy to write him off as a big fat blabbermouth, and he kind of is one, but I don’t think he’s completely off-base here. Some of the things wouldn’t work, the “war on the environment” business is a little shrill and overdone and the attacks on many GM’s business practices (planned obselescence, ceding markets to the Japanese & Germans) are better suited for 80′s GM than recent GM, but he has some intriguing things to say.

  • avatar
    1998S90

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day…

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    For the past sixty years this country’s population and infrastructure has been for the most part car oriented. Low density urban sprawl is the norm in most of the country.

    Short of some type of Stalinist dictatorship, there is no way to undo that much urban sprawl in 20 or 10 years, not to mention Michael Moore’s 5 year plan.

    Urban rail and inter urban rail takes land. Try taking that much land for mass transit in an area like Houston, Texas, Broward County, Florida or between cities for that matter. It won’t be pretty.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    I cant even come up with words either. However I do agree that some of the factories need to be used for other things that would benefit those skilled laborers that are losing their jobs. To get rid of all the cars I would disagree with totally. I don’t want to see this in the next 60 years, that would make me 102 years old and then I can die and know that he and his type didn’t get their way. These folks believe that everyone should walk and have no concept of the joy that driving brings to some of of “earth hater types”. I love to drive. I have driven a Prius that trust me that ain’t driving. I am open to new forms of energy but not because there are a group of folks that have been lying of the last decade about the environment and now even have the common folks believing that cars created all the green house gas. Like I said I am all for alternative energy (windmills, solar power, and even nuclear). Just dont lie about the benefits and then leave out the negatives. of each.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    1998S90 :
    June 1st, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day…

    + 1

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    I don’t think much of Michael Moore in general but I’ve taken the Ave high speed train in Spain a few times and it is a very nice way to travel between cities. I really wish we had something like that here.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    We’re going to have better mobility, overall. Better and more fuel efficient cars; better personal transporation solutions; better public transportation and better long-distance over ground transportation. That’s what’s going to happen, because it has to happen.

    If we’d had long term business leaders, whose rewards were calculated in real ROI instead of hot air, we’d already be well on our way.

    Still, we’re on our way now. I will never be able to forget the top GM executive who stood next to me, as we were looking at Honda’s line-up at an auto show: “Building cars like that would be a career dead-ender at GM,” he said.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Michael Moore is “Cassandra”.

    He warns people of the truth and people dismiss him as a fat blabbermouth.

    But the truth is, Mr Moore is nearly always spot on, as much as we hate to admit it.

    It’s like your most hated enemy giving you advice which turns out to be good. You’re grateful for the information, just not where it came from.

    Mr Moore had GM pegged back in the 80′s and no-one wanted to believe him. “A fat wanker speaking out against the jewel of US industry’s crown?!”.

    Personally, I like the guy. All he wants to do is use his right of free speech to make his country a better place. Is that really a bad thing?

  • avatar
    mocktard

    Moore is a toolbox.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    mocktard :
    June 1st, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Moore is a toolbox.

    How can anyone take this guy seriously?

    Writing about the Detroit meltdown now is easy.

    Robert & Co. were foretelling today’s stories, right here, years ago.

    You really should watch “Roger and Me.” (1989)
    I’m pretty certain Toyota honchos did.

    “Ahhhh, GM’s business model is to get everyone to hate them, the workers, the suppliers, the dealers, the customers, the media? Hmmm … maybe we should think different.” Or diffelent.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    @KatiePuckrik

    Mr Moore had GM pegged back in the 80’s and no-one wanted to believe him. “A fat wanker speaking out against the jewel of US industry’s crown?!”.

    I knew in 1976 that GM was in trouble. The evidence was there for anyone who cared to look and be open-minded. I credit Moore with seeing this too, I’m just amazed that so many so-called experts couldn’t see what was obvious to some of us.

  • avatar
    kkleinwi

    Hey Mikey – here’s a radical idea:

    GM should focus on making a profit by selling goods and services that people want to buy.

    GM will be nothing but a rat hole for taxpayer money if all they do is make things that Michael Moore thinks are good for us.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    Now that we’ve come off of our pot-smoking high, let’s get back to the business of building cars.

  • avatar
    mattstairs

    As much as I can’t stand Michael Moore’s politics, he actually makes a few good points here.

    I rode the TGV in France a few years ago. Fantastic. It’s embarrassing that we don’t have anything like that in the US.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    “It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with.”

    Does this guy really believe that all those vices and ills would be absent Flint had it been the world center for manufacture of aluminum siding instead of for the auto? Makes no sense, does it.

    No worries, though, Michael, let’s go have a Big Mac (or 10) and a Coke and forget about it.

  • avatar
    357Sig

    The resolution on his picture wasn’t high enough, but I’m pretty sure there are some little burn holes in his shirt. I think they are from the seeds popping out of his “peace pipe” as he smokes his daily “uptake”.

    OK, he made a couple of valid points, but much of what he says requires the american people to give up some of their most signifiant freedoms. It isn’t going to happen.

    He makes the following presumptions: First, that global warming is fact (only time will tell); Second, that we are running out of oil (we just keep finding more and more of it, and we are getting better at getting more of it out of each well); and Third, that if you beat-down the American people long enough (for example with a $2 tax on every gallon of gas) they will finally cave-in to the pressure.

    I would ask these questions of Mr. Moore: How would adding a $2.00 to a gallon to the cost of a gallon of gas (I’ve heard this same mantra before but it’s usually more like $10) on the premise that the tax will be used to build a massive infrastructure (bullet trains, light rail, busses out in the country) help the average family that lives in a modest suburban setting and makes a modest wage? What if I live a mile from where the bus stops and I have small children? Will the busses and trains have child seats? If so, what if there aren’t enough? Do I just stand around for another hour and wait for the next bus/train with babies on my hip? How do I cary my 6 to 8 bags of groceries home from Wal-Mart on a train/bus, or under your plan I would have to make multiple trips?

    What do I do when it is 95 degrees and I have a business meeting that requires me to be dressed for the occasion and I’ve got to walk a mile from my home to the bus, then another half mile from the bus stop to the office where the meeting is taking place. Michael, you are a man of size, how would you handle that situation? What about all of the folks that are just making it financially, who couldn’t physically walk the distance to catch a bus and couldn’t afford a new Prius or a Smart for Two, or other vehicle that meets your standard?

    I could go on…

  • avatar
    jaje

    “Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?”

    I can imagine…It would be like seeing one of MM’s documentaries on opening day – over half the theater empty, anxious as to how exaggerated and overly blown most of the documentary is – even if it contains a kernel of truth at times.

  • avatar
    MikeyDee

    I know it’s all gloom and doom this morning, but let’s not overlook the silver lining in this grey cloud. This could be a great opportunity for us to take out a clean sheet of paper and re-think the whole transportation industry. It’s time for the next Alfred Sloan to come up with a new radical idea and a new business plan for a new century. The next auto entrepreneurs should be younger, with new ideas about not only transportation products, but also how to run a corporation. Kick out the old business plans and let’s have some fresh blood in Detroit.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I won’t speak for Superbad, but I will speak for myself on this…

    Stein X Leikanger to @superbadd75:

    And your learned and informed comment is based on what? Prejudice?

    Not prejudice. Track record.

    A man’s track record and character do count for something.

    In this day, I don’t have time to read EVERYTHING everybody writes, so I have to cull out mass quantities of material somehow.

    Some gets culled on subject matter. For example, product reviews bore me, unless they’re about certain sportscars. So I skip the ones on minivans, pickup trucks, and SUV’s.

    Some material gets culled on presentation. If I see all-caps writing, or if I can’t get through the first paragraph due to bad grammar, I’ll skip the whole article.

    Other material gets culled on an author’s past record. In this case, his record of running loose with the facts (and that’s being kind), and his far-left stance. Maybe one drives the other. So yes, I discriminate! I have to discriminate somehow. But this is not “prejudice”. This is my personal time saving filter mechanism.

    The ONLY reason I began reading Michael Moore’s letter was becasue it was presented here on TTAC by Stein X. My initial urge to filter out this was temporarily overridden by my respect for TTAC, its editorial board, and for Stein. Not to mention my respect for the truth about cars (not the site, but the truth itself).

    I started reading his letter, then scrolled down and saw that it was going to be a lot more than 800 words. I will have to come back to it.

    Or not. I’m a busy guy, and there will be a lot of things competing for my attention this week.

    But whatever the case, please do NOT mistake my apprehension of all things Michael Moore for anything resembling prejudice. That does me and my personal judgement no justice, and it lets a man like Michael Moore off the hook for some of the tripe he’s responsible for.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @MikeyDee

    Amen.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Michael Moore is a big fat idiot. GM killed his hometown? Would it have been therre without GM?What killed his hometown was their failure to diversify. Companies aren’t in the business of supporting towns. They are, or used to be, in the business of making profits. GM’s mistake was not shutting down too many union jobs and American factories, it was not shutting down enough. I could go on but I can’t stand reading any more of what he wrote.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @ZoomZoom

    We’re on the same page when it comes to Mr. Moore. My thinking is that along the way, he became opportunistic.

    But back when he created “Roger and Me” he was a firebrand, with a personal involvement in the story. He was incensed by what was happening to the people he grew up with, because of GM’s disregard for the workers they relied upon for their products.

    Back then, Moore earned my respect — and as he predicted that things would turn dire for the US if GM was allowed to keep barging ahead without regard for the consequences of its decisions, I found it apposite to quote his letter today. Whereas Moore has become a loose cannon on deck in many regards, his heart is still in Flint, Michigan, and I’m certainly relieved I’m not.

    Thanks for the vote of trust, though, it’s something I don’t take lightly.

  • avatar
    wulfgar

    I’ll leave my personal opinion of Mr. Moore out of this. However. as I have not ridden a high-speed rail, could those that have recount how many cities/suburbs are connected? Or is this just major city to major city?

    In a still rural state such as Alabama, I see no legitimate business model for rail within these boundaries. And buses can not hope to meet the needs of all citizens. Once again, I think we have people oriented to major, dense metropolitan areas trying to make decisions for all of us.

    America is a vast, and vastly diverse, country. In comparison to Europe, we are multiple countries bound together. Hoping to best decide how to meet the transportation needs of this country based on New York, Los Angeles, or heaven help us, Flint, Michigan, is absurd.

  • avatar
    Alcibiades

    I think Obama and Mr. Moore are in general agreement about what to do with GM. It will be pretty easy to tell, before too long, if they are right. I think they will be proven completely wrong. I disagree with Mssrs. Moore and Obama on almost all policy issues, so I am interested to see whether their policy views about Government Motors are sound.

  • avatar
    BlisterInTheSun

    Michael Moore didn’t make out with anyone in the front or back seat of any car in high school.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    There is already a working public transportation vehicle that is very flexible. It’s called the bus. You can change a bus route when population trends change. You can’t do that with a light rail system, unless you force people from moving. And light rail systems are rarely self-sustaining. Another problem with light rail is that it’s supporters always want it to go into the downtown area. Here in Detroit, most traffic is suburb to suburb. So a light rail system that doesn’t address this is worthless.

    The biggest problem with public transportation is that it takes three times as long to get anywhere compared to using a car. And using high speed trains for national travel, well it works when your nation is the size of a US state, but very few people will be willing to take a train from one region of the country to another (i.e. New York to Denver or Houston to Portland). High speed trains will work in the denser east coast or even Detroit to Chicago or Chicago to St. Louis situations. But only an express option. If I’m a businessman needing to go to a meeting, I don’t want to waste my time stopping five or six times on a 200 mile route.

  • avatar

    It seems to me that the problem isn’t rescuing GM or the rest of the industry per se. I see it as consisting of 3 parts: the management, its financial enablers (banks, etc) and the workers.
    The first two bone-headedly and consisted NSFWed up over 20-40 years and should be exiled to the wilderness to die. What is happening, of course, is that after many, many defeats, the generals are getting medals…and all the soldiers are getting executed. What’s *really* needed is a way to retrain and redeploy/re-employ the enormous number of workers getting NSFWed. If the management and financial enablers were to be shot, the country would hardly miss a beat, but when hundreds of thousands of workers are put on the street, we’ve got a gangrenous leg that may kill the body. Trying to resuscitate GM (using the same tired, clueless management) is pointless, what we should be doing is figuring out (and Moore has some suggestions) how to get the workers employed usefully and with a vision for a future.

  • avatar
    zenith

    Idiots like Moore live way in the past when they rail about auto-related pollution.

    You have to go back to the ’60′s to find cars with road draft tubes and breather caps letting blow-by gasses, unchecked, into the atmosphere.

    You have to go back to 1970 to find cars that vent gas tank and carburetor vents directly into the atmosphere.

    1974 was the last year that most cars got away without catalytic converters.some “Lean Burn Chrysler engines made as late as 1977 could meet stanards without one.

    You have to go back to the mid-to-late ’80s to even find a carburetor!

    Without the troublesome automatic choke that made flooded engines commonplace, winter air is far cleaner.

    I love the look of the old cars, but one thing that always strikes me at a car show full of correctly-restored old cars without benefit of any new or new-ish tech is how badly they smell of gas! And 66% of all adults smoked 40 years ago
    (mine was the only household I knew of where neither parent smoked). It’s a wonder so few cars went up in flames!

  • avatar
    TaurusGT500

    Could write 10,000 words disputing Mr. Moore’s polemic. I’ll just comment on one absurdity.

    He says, ….. a corporation (GM) that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with….

    Uh…no. Wrong. Very wrong. GM didn’t “cause” divorce, alcoholism, etc etc in Flint any more than US Steel caused the same in my beloved Steel Valley 25 years ago.

    They (GM/US Steel) certainly screwed up their businesses bigtime, no argument there …which led to closed factories…. which led to lost jobs.

    And certainly losing a job is not a good thing …and life is hard and not always “fair”.

    But at the end of the day we all make choices we have to live with. …And to put the literal blame for divorces, addictions, etc on GM is classic victomology writ large.

    Mr. Moore has successfully honed this POV to a shrill point with his fellow travelers Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    I won’t usually admit to this but the duchbag is spot on.

    Since we are taking the grand step of the American Taxpayer taking over a Corporation (or two), it would be unfair to compete directly with others in the industry. It would be better to refocus the resources into areas that don’t have them or to inact a change in society.

    Look, the Airline industry is a larger polluter than the auto industry. I don’t know what percentage a High Speed Train (HST) is but I’m sure it’s less than aircraft. By building a few HST’s between the larger cities, we’d elimate at least some pollution. I don’t see trains as the beat all answer, we still need cars, but having a clean alternative – especially since we have to pay for it any way is a positive change. So – good idea.

    Wind, Solar, etc.? I don’t think the production lines are falling behind in producing these items. I don’t believe the are a viable solution. Are there areas of manufacturing that these factories could assist? I am sure there are. It only takes a little research to get us in the right direction. So – nice try, come back later with more information.

  • avatar
    akear

    If we do have a high speed rail system it will probably be reliant on foreign technology.
    We can’t make trains either.

    How much worse can it get.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    I rode the TGV in France a few years ago. Fantastic. It’s embarrassing that we don’t have anything like that in the US.

    People — we live in a huge, low-density country. We also have no central hub city like Paris to which all roads (and high-speed rail lines) lead. High-speed rail does not make sense here. But we already have a high-speed transportation that’s a appropriate to huge, low-density country. It’s called air travel. No right-of-way to acquire, no tracks to build for untold billions. Easy to add or subtract service depending on demand. And keep in mind, despite the TGV, most Europeans drive to get where they’re going (try driving in or around Paris for a while and then try to tell me how everybody in France rides the train).

    Michael Moore is an idiot who totally mistakes the causes of Detroit’s demise and offers even worse prescriptions for the future. Detroit was ultimately sunk by having a much higher cost and much less flexible work force (both active and retired) than it’s competitors. Yes, there was plenty of management stupidity to go around. But even geniuses would not have saved Detroit. If GM had build cars to go head-to-head with Toyota in every segment, they’d have lost in every segment because their costs were higher. Detroit went into SUVs big-time because that was the one kind of vehicle that the Japanese weren’t (yet) good at making. Doing so put off the inevitable for another decade or so.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    The reason I think Moore is a douche is simple. Moore’s claims that GM cut thousands of jobs and ruined thousands of lives for no good reason is ridiculous. What does he expect a company to do when they’ve been continuously losing market share for decades? GM can’t keep paying tens of thousands of employees that they don’t need just to save Moore’s home town. When International Harvester shut down my hometown plant in the ’80s, it affected hundreds of families, including my own. That’s business. Sometimes layoffs happen. It doesn’t mean that the company is trying to be malicious, it means that for some reason or another they must reduce the work force. I’ve been laid off twice. It happens.

    His ideas that we should invest billions in light rail and bullet trains is pie in the sky. Starting from scratch to build these things would take years, and where are the rail lines going to be built? On top of that, where’s the money going to come from, and how do you ensure public support. Americans like the freedom of their cars, and mass transit is not a part of our culture as it is in other countries. To handle most people’s transportation needs in this country what we need is better alternatives to fossil fuels.

  • avatar
    mel23

    Short of some type of Stalinist dictatorship, there is no way to undo that much urban sprawl in 20 or 10 years, not to mention Michael Moore’s 5 year plan.

    The issue is energy, not how we’re spread out. High speed rail isn’t the answer in all areas, but our lack of public adequate public transportation is a big part of our excessive energy use. A Stalinist dictatorship isn’t needed to address these issues, higher energy cost will do it nicely, but painfully. However, the pain is coming anyway as the effects of climate change intensify and as energy costs escalate regardless of climate change. Sure, there’s lots of oil, but it’s getting more expensive, and that cost will escalate too as our currency falls and consumption in China, India, etc. increases rapidly. The days of oil companies controlling oil supply are coming to an end as the countries that have the oil are taking control. This will drive up prices more quickly than has been the pattern in the past. With their huge piles of cash, China is positioning themselves to have access to oil in the future. This will come at our expense, so we’d damn well do a better job with energy policy than in the past when we’ve had no energy policy worth the name.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Can’t make trains? General Electric may beg to differ.

    No right-of-way to acquire, no tracks to build for untold billions.

    You’re forgetting one small part of air travel: runways, aprons, terminals . . . infrastructure. Most big cities have built up around their airports. The only way for them to expand is to either buy the properties surrounding them or use eminent domain.

    Trains may not work for every town in America, but having traveled from Lyon to Avignon to Paris on a TGV, it’s a damned good, fast, comfortable alternative to the hell that is air travel.

  • avatar
    Crush

    Just because MM and his ilk have been succesful in bringing down a large part of the American auto industry does not make it right or even good for our future. GM and it’s peers have been under attack from enviromentalists and big labor for years. The enviros want us to go back to walking for transportation. (dont use a horse and buggy, the horse flatulance will melt the ice caps). The unions have succesfully killed the goose that lays the golden egg. Now the current administration wants to raise fleet averages to a point that will kill the auto industry further. I will be happy when the bus or light rail will replicate my 18 minute commute to work. That time plus the hours I work are all that I care to spend away from my family.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Good luck with all that, Mr. Moore.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Matt Simmons recently presented his views on the Energy Insecure World.
    The facts he outlines can’t be disregarded – and as we take them into account, we will change how we move, and through which energy sources.

    The US can choose to lead that development, or to be left in the lurch, with an economy that is tanking, as the rest of the world begins to compete for the oil the US has been bingeing on.

    One very simple observation from Simmons: the nations we get oil from (with the exception of Norway) are all poor and underdeveloped. The moment they get a middle class of any size, they’ll keep the oil for themselves.

    Here’s the presentation (pdf):
    http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/files/Oklahoma%20State%20University.pdf

  • avatar
    Pch101

    And light rail systems are rarely self-sustaining.

    The interstate system and adjoining road networks are also not self-sustaining. Even our fuel taxes can’t support them; they are supported through the general fund.

    Transportation is a money loser. Every single method of it, including flight, has infrastructure that is subsidized in some way.

    The benefit of transportation is derived from what happens when people and goods can move more freely from one place to the next. If a rail system can move people expediently and more efficiently, than it can make sense. A comprehensive national system probably wouldn’t work in the US, but we could certainly build regional high-speed transit corridors that would work, particularly in the northeast and the west.

    It is criminally stupid to be as dependent as we are on an energy source whose production is dominated by people who don’t like us. We act like slovenly junkies who defend the status quo and demand the help of enablers because we would rather keep plunging the needle into our arms than to take the pain, grow up and go to rehab.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    @ Jeff Puthuff

    Trains may not work for every town in America, but having traveled from Lyon to Avignon to Paris on a TGV, it’s a damned good, fast, comfortable alternative to the hell that is air travel.

    +1 to that. I’ve taken the Ave between Madrid and Seville a few times and it’s fast, comfortable and the view can’t be beat. I think about this every time I take off my shoes at the airport.

  • avatar
    kdb

    It’s really interesting to see the response to Moore’s letter here relative to the ones on the Huffington Post. While they are mixed here, they are 100% in favor over there. The combination of far left liberal thinking and non-car folks engenders a lot of support.

    While Moore is great with logical argument, he is not always as diligent with the facts as he should be. In this case, we can call it a gross oversimplification. He forgets the first oil shock that led to a quick left turn in design right at a time when the companies were building “what Americans wanted” – unfortunately they were muscle cars with really big engines. He forgets years of trade restrictions into the countries that now dominate our market. He also forgets Americans were buying very, very profitable SUVs in droves. Sure GM could have planned better, and they missed a ton of signs from the market, and are where they are of their own doing, but Mr. Moore, Toyota lost billions last year too.

    The other portion is really a truism guised as an idea. We should have high speed trains, is kind of like saying We should feed all the hungry children. Yes we should and no one can argue in good conscience. But does it really have anything to do with the collapse of GM? Can Mr. Moore point to the GM R&D on high speed trains, and if not, how about using Amtrak? A factory is a building and sure manufacturing employees can do something else, but his argument is for an alternative to GM, not a new GM. Why put them into something they no nothing about? Trains and windmills are even further from its expertise than building better cars than Toyota.

    Maybe American are rethinking their relationship with cars and I question whether a smaller GM justifies the government investment, but Mr. Moore’s proposal simply makes GM a proxy for the government. I certainly understand his bile and frustration, but the plan is to right the ship and let it set sail. Not to become a vehicle for funding long term R&D in areas otherwise not appealing to public companies.

    Mr. Moore may have introduced to a post GM America, but he did not give us the solution for a post c11 GM.

  • avatar
    menno

    Michael Moore is an ass. GM did not make the drug addled workforce take illicit drugs. They CHOSE to do that. Likewise, they CHOSE to go apply to GM as line-worker grunts instead of doing something else with their lives. They wanted a short-cut to middle-class wages without benefit of going to college and working their way up a ladder; they got it. When they didn’t like it, THEY chose to become drug-addled to “reduce the boredom” or whatever their pathetic excuse was.

    As for light rail (also known as interurbans), there were so many rail lines in the United States that it was technically possible to take interurbans from central Wisconsin, all the way to the east coast, were you crazy enough to want to do so as late as the 1910′s. Within virtually every US city and medium sized towns, as well as even small towns, there were trollies, electrified by the 1890′s.

    The reason that people CHOSE not to go on them were many, including:

    1) personal freedom of having an automobile rather than waiting in the rain for a bus or interurban or trolley
    2) convenience of being able to move about
    3) ability to move about without being crowded in with others (remember, there was no penicillin yet and epidemics were not uncommon)
    4) the cities were stink-holes of dried horse dung which hooves, boots and shoes put into the air – automobiles were considered a health BOON at the beginning of the 20th century
    5) Henry Ford and later General Motors made it possible for people other than the wealthy, to be able to move about by automobile.

    Remember, before the 1910′s, it was uncommon for the average folk to even visit outside a 10 to 20 mile radius of their home. Difficult for us to fathom, but this was reality. Along with outhouses, children working, 8th grade education being about as high as most went, etc.

  • avatar
    akear

    Moore has plenty of criticisms but very little solutions. I really feel he kind of wants to see America fail.

    If we can’t produce a compact car in this country how are we going to build a high speed rail system?
    The Acela express on the North East corridor is currently the only high speed rail system in the US. I have seen it blast by at 150mph at Princeton Junction.
    Below: Acela express passes station at 150mph
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rkHL7JTIwM&feature=related

    GE is the world leader in Diesel locomotive technology. However, their trains are designed to travel from 60-100 mph.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Once again, I think we have people oriented to major, dense metropolitan areas trying to make decisions for all of us.”

    84% of all the people in the US live in one of the metropolitan areas. The peculiar structure of the US Senate gives as much political power to a Senator who represents 340 thousand people (1/2 the population of Alaska) as it does to one who represents 19 million people (1/2 the population of California). Combine this effect with the 60 vote requirement to get anything done in the Senate today and you have quite the opposite thing to metropolitan rule going on. The seven largest states by themselves have over 1/2 the population of the US.

    The small minority of people still living in rural America and lightly populated states are in fact holding the vast majority of the people political hostages, and oddly enough have every constitutional right to do so.

    Obviously transportation solutions which make sense for the Bosh-Wash corridor don’t make sense for rural Montana. But, the auto industry grew to 17 million units per year in the US primarily by selling to the 84% of people living in those metropolitan areas.

    “If we can’t produce a compact car in this country how are we going to build a high speed rail system?”

    BS on the first point. Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas are built in large volume in the US, and the Corollas are built at a UAW plant (NUMMI in California). The question is: What has gone so wrong with American management that it can’t get what needs doing done? Our engineers and workers are as good as any in the world. Our managers, by and large, have become the people who make “Dilbert” and “The Office” big hits with the poor sods who work for these clowns.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Michael Moore makes a good living doing the easy thing: pointing out the obvious in a simplistic and undeveloped way. I inevitably end up agreeing with some of what he says, because its not hard to point out the obvious. But when you look a little more closer…

    “Roger and Me” was typical: he mixed up cause and effect. By the late eighties, GM had to shut down factories, as a result of the mistakes made the prior forty years.

    And his proposal here? Of course the basic concept is right, but the execution is not nearly as easy as he (always) makes it sound. The US was built on cheap oil, and creating European-style connectivity, and walkable/bikeable/busable/trainable cities is going to be a much larger challenge than turning GM’s factories to make buses and trains.

    He’s blaming GM for national problems of a scope bigger than GM: cheap gas being culprit #1.

  • avatar
    JMII

    While Mike’s letter is a bit over the top that’s his style… but clearly he had this GM thing figured out a long time ago.

    As for trains, like others I’ve taken the TGV from Paris to London and it was a thing of beauty. Clean, comfortable, fast (duh!), on time, no hassle, a real eye-opening experience. There has been talk in Florida of building a bullet train running from Miami to Orlando for YEARS but so far nothing. An elevated line going over the Everglades would be an awesome experience at 120 MPH it would cut the drive from 4 hours do to just 2 which is almost faster then you can do by plane given all the security and rental car BS these days.

    As for not having central “hubs” like Paris in the US just take one look at Atlanta, Chicago or New York’s airports, we already have hubs. A high speed rail system *could* work in the USA (LA to Vegas and Vegas to Denver would be a good route I think). However as bad as air travel is these days its still very cheap for the time saved. And as they say: time is money. Thus I fear high speed rail is doomed, after all Amtrak is a government funded operation and its a mess.

  • avatar
    Crush

    I’m not sure who this Matt Simmons is, but it would be really cool if he would use a little logic in his assertions. His statement regarding the middle class of oil exporting nations is laughable. Is he talking about our largest supplier, Canada? Wow. Canada’s middle class is going to be suprised when they find out that they don’t exist. Or is he talking about other countries like Venezuela or Iran? Venezuela’s current regime is destroying their middle class and using their oil revenues to support their new dictator’s pet projects, mainly making his region more unstable. Iran is busy using their oil revenues to develop nuclear weapons so that they can destroy someone they don’t like. The rest of the oil exporting nations have so much corruption that the middle class will never have a chance. I looked through Mr Simmons presentation via the link provided. He seems to be the perfect example of the Educated Fool.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    You’re forgetting one small part of air travel: runways, aprons, terminals . . .

    I’m not forgetting them. And they are expensive. But they’re nothing in comparison to the cost of acquiring (condemning) the right away for rail and building and maintaining the high-speed tracks, bridges, crossings, tunnels, switches, etc. California recently approved plan for high-speed rail — how do you think that’s going to work out for them financially? Construction costs for LA to SF are somewhere between $40 billion (if you believe supporters) and $80 billion if you believe the critics. And what do you bet it’ll require operating subsidies on top (if it’s ever built). That’s just insane.

    The interstate system and adjoining road networks are also not self-sustaining. Even our fuel taxes can’t support them; they are supported through the general fund.

    False. Fuel taxes more than pay for interstates (a significant portion of fuel taxes are siphoned off for mass transit and even bike paths).

    Obviously transportation solutions which make sense for the Bosh-Wash corridor don’t make sense for rural Montana.

    It also doesn’t make sense for Indianapolis or Kansas City or Nashville or Minneapolis or … Most American aren’t rural, but most Americans live in places other than dense coastal areas with short distances between major cities.

  • avatar
    NBK-Boston

    Michael Moore writes:

    [T]he technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train.

    But who in their right mind would want to?

    I agree with Pch101 and many other writers here that high-speed rail makes sense in the U.S. only on a regional basis. Basically, any trip with a distance of 150 — 450 miles and high enough ridership is a candidate. Shorter than 150 miles it probably makes sense to drive, while longer than 450 miles is probably makes sense to fly.

    And if you look at Europe, that’s what you find — regionalized and only partly integrated high speed rail systems — Spain, France and Germany each have their own systems, and there are only a few international routes (generally fairly short ones in the France/Benelux region, and the Chunnel trains).

    Moore is, as usual, blowing a lot of hot air when he predicts or demands the end of automobiles / personal mobility in favor of a strict public transportation vision of the future. But he is making an important moral point, which is that we should try to turn the GM bankruptcy into some sort of beneficial opportunity (and some degree of public transport spending is probably beneficial) rather than just let things fall apart while sitting on our hands.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I don’t see why the automobile couldn’t also be the salvation of it all.

    A big country that holds a highly decentralized population relies on point to point transportation. Trains and buses are only good for hub-spoke based transit. Cars and planes are far superior for the point-to-point needs.

    Of course I’m looking at the ‘trend’. But having to look at the success of Toyota’s hybrid program, current investment by manufacturers, and the public’s interest in hybrids and electric cars, I believe that most developed nations that rely on point-to-point transit will be heading towards energy independence…. with cars.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    wulfgar :
    June 1st, 2009 at 9:33 am

    In a still rural state such as Alabama, I see no legitimate business model for rail within these boundaries. And buses can not hope to meet the needs of all citizens. Once again, I think we have people oriented to major, dense metropolitan areas trying to make decisions for all of us.

    Transportation infrastructure is an investment. You don’t see any revenue coming from the interstate highway system, do you? And yet the economic activity generated by a high-quality highway system more than pays for it. Same with rail. If high-speed rail and feeder lines existed, there would be economic development as a result that would pay back the investment. Perhaps not everywhere, perhaps some places would be money-losers (like mail service to far-flung places). It’ll work even better if car travel is made to be more expensive and less convenient than rail transit. How? Taxes and less investment in roads.

    What we’re witnessing are the early death throes of car culture itself. It has become unsustainable…the Dutch went through this when their wind-based economy was overtaken by the coal-based British economy. The British had the same experience when everyone else moved to oil and they were stuck with an outmoded infrastructure. Now it’s the US’s turn as oil and car-based transit become untenable. I am not confident the US is going to make the transition in an orderly fashion.

  • avatar
    wsn

    And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

    ———————————————-

    1) Learn some history. The U.S. had a very sophisticated passenger rail system. Who killed it? Car companies.

    2) There is still Ford. Ford stands a much better chance is GM is allowed to die.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    akear, your use of false logic isn’t fooling me. Because, as you claim, America can’t build a compact car, it can’t build high speed trains? Poppycock.

    If GE can build a locomotive to haul thousands of tons of freight across the country, it could very plausibly build a high-speed passenger train product. It’s not rocket science (another thing we Americans are pretty good at).

  • avatar
    geeber

    Note to Mr. Moore:

    People still want cars (and trucks). They just don’t want the ones built by GM. At least, not enough of them to keep the company profitable with its current cost structure.

    This should help him in the future.

    And the idea that we are going to connect the entire country with high-speed rail is silly. Who wants to travel 17 hours via train from New York to Los Angeles when it can be done in 4-5 hours by jet?

    This weekend we spent the weekend in Washington, D.C., with my wife’s brother and his two children. We drove in from Harrisburg to Alexandria (where our hotel was located), while they drove in from western Pennsylvania.

    The ideal weekend from a transportation standpoint?

    Driving from Harrisburg and western Pennsylvania to Alexandria, and then taking mass transit from Alexandria to the city. No worries about parking, damage to the car, traffic, etc. After leaving the city, we could then determine our own schedule on the way home (stopping at a roadside stand or a shopping center, for example).

    As much as people such as Mr. Moore hate to admit, there is a reason people drive, and will continue to drive in the future.

    Slocum: False. Fuel taxes more than pay for interstates (a significant portion of fuel taxes are siphoned off for mass transit and even bike paths).

    Fuel taxes pay for the federal portion of highway construction. States are still expected to pay for interstate highways. How they raise the money for their share is up to them.

    In Pennsylvania, the money is raised through a fuels tax and driver’s license fees, which, per the state Constitution, can only be spent on road construction and maintenance.

    bfg9k: It’ll work even better if car travel is made to be more expensive and less convenient than rail transit.

    If the only way to make rail feasible is to artificially price car travel out of the reach of ordinary people, that doesn’t say too much regarding the attractiveness of rail travel.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    After re reading my post, let me correct:

    I don’t think Moore is right. He is not, however, is general point is. Please don’t get wrapped around his retoric of Detroit meltdown and the failure of civilization, of his reference to divorce and drug addiction. Moore is a …Mooron ;) .

    And don’t think about him wanting to force you out of your car so stand in line for a train or buss like the city folk do in NYC. Think of trains as augmented transportation. A train direct from Atlanta to NYC. From NYC to Chicago. From Chicago to STL. STL to Houston, LA, SF, Seattle.

    Sure, some folks will want to pay the higher cost to fly and get there faster. Just like some spend the millions to have a Gulfstream on awaiting on the tarmac. Rail could become an inexpensive alterative.

    Is point is that we have the opportunity to rethink what we are collectivly doing, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. Let’s not just continue to make the same mistakes that got us into this mess.

    And anyone who thinks that the Middle East, South America, Africa and China are going to continue much longer without a growing middle class, it would be they who are the fool.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I used to like Moore. Then in the mid 90′s he went off the rails and become a self contained echo chamber. So I stopped listening to him.

    We already have a bullet train in the US. It is called Southwest Airlines. And I strongly suspect that it moves more people quickly around the country for less than a govt’ subsidized bullet train system could even dream of.

    We can’t compare ourselves to France and Japan. They are a fraction of our size, and their population distributions are very different than ours. They also have extensive metro public transportation systems that mesh with a cross-country bullet train system.

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    Yes, Michael Moore, GM is responsible for drug use and alcoholism…….also they planned the Russian Revolution, built the nuclear bomb, and introduced Africanized honeybees to the US.

    What a dumbass.

  • avatar
    paulie

    Stein…

    Why did you give this fool the status of an open letter posting on this web sight?

    If Moore, along with all the society reformist really wanted to lead, they would lead by example.

    He should stop flying his fat ass around the world. He uses more fuel than the entire city I live in.

    He should push away from the table a course or two earlier. He consumes more beef and uses more of our grassland up, and creating tremendous methane gas, than any single family.

    Now he wants to tell me where to invest for future technology?
    Michael Moore?

    It was sad to see this feature on what I consider to be a very informative sight.
    Now, it looks like TTAC has begun to lean towards exploitation as a means to enrage us and liven up the postings.

    Michael Moore?
    Please.
    Can we feature more intellectual rather than intellectually challenged?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s time for the next Alfred Sloan to come up with a new radical idea and a new business plan for a new century.

    Sloan was not a radical. Far from it: he was a conservative manager who was put in by DuPont to clean up the train-wreck resulting from the scatterbrained hand of William Durant. Managers since Sloan shared that conservatism, but haven’t enjoyed the room to grow. Sloan didn’t have to compete against Toyota, to his benefit.

    Sloan’s methods worked because GM was on a upswing and would be for the next fifty or more years. But his accounting methods badly crippled GM, largely turning it into the slow-witted dinosaur. GM needs a manager who can focus on the core business as Sloan did, but also someone who can get them to give a damn about product and make hard decisions quickly.

    Looking for the next Sloan is not a recipe for success. By GM standards, the best (and this is horrific) executive they’ve had during the hard times was Roger Smith.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Judging from the comments, it seems like people have a problem with the messenger and are ignoring the message.

    What, did Michael Moore run over your dogma?

    You may not like the man any more than I like P.J. O’Rourke, but you can’t dismiss that Moore a) was right about GM when he did Roger and Me and b) is probably right now. And the whinging by several posters above comes off as sour grapes at best, or partisan vitriol at worst.

    I’ve said this to conservatives who bitch about anything Al Gore does: if it was Dick Cheney saying it, would you complain? The same applies here: if, instead of Moore (or Nader) it was O’Rourke or somesuch, would you be spitting mad or nodding in agreement?

  • avatar
    geeber

    psharjinian: What, did Michael Moore run over your dogma?

    Many of his solutions are no more “reality based” than the economic projections relied upon by GM management. Yes, there are the usual “I hate him because he’s a fat and obnoxious left-winger” screeds, but I’m also reading quite a fair number of solid critiques by posters who are hardly right-wingers.

    Why on earth would anyone – except perhaps John Madden – want to take a high-speed train from New York to Los Angeles when one can travel the same route by plane in a much shorter timeframe?

    The simple fact is that he has a ideological axe to grind, and he is using this opportunity to grind it. (And he also plays fast and loose with the truth, a trait that started with Roger & Me, and continued through Bowling for Columbine and Sicko.)

    His editorial is no more accurate than the one written by Mr. O’Rourke that claims that we no longer care about cars, because we basically let GM go bankrupt.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    What makes America great is choice. It might not always be the best choice, or it might not always be a choice that doesn’t leave someone out in the cold, but overall, its the choices we have, and (formerly) a free-enough economy to allow those choices, that has made us who we are, provided us the standard of living we have, and given us tremendous comfort with the least investment. Doesn’t mean environmentalists won’t be upset, or that everyone likes suburbs or big cities or Montana, or that there won’t be poor people, etc

    But what Moore proposes, and this government is doing, is taking our money, making choices for us, and telling us we’d better like it, because they make better choices for us than we can for ourselves. And its dangerous as hell. Unsustainable spending, putting billions into projects that won’t support themselves and require billions more just to keep from falling into a state of total waste is the worst idea in the world. Not only is it dangerous economically, it is dangerous in the way it takes away choice and the way it takes away incentive to work hard and make the best possible choices. Bottom line is it puts all eggs in one basket and allows us to be lazy.

    Just stop. This guy is a big moron.

  • avatar
    f8

    I’d rather have good bullet trains and alternative energy stuff that we can sell to other countries when oil runs out than shitty cars that GM builds.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Michael Moore:

    Any idea on what this system would cost to build and maintain? What similarities are there with countries that have built bullet trains? Are those similarities shared with the US?

    Like most lefties, Moore appeals to emotion by leaving key facts out of his argument. It makes him feel good, and that’s the most important thing. This is the consistent challenge the left has with arguing their points in economic matters. Oftentimes, there’s some funny math used to reach their conclusions, or in Moore’s case, no math at all.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Fuel taxes pay for the federal portion of highway construction. States are still expected to pay for interstate highways. How they raise the money for their share is up to them.

    Correct. The federal fuel tax goes to roads, but that doesn’t pay for all of the costs. Nor do the state fuel taxes.

    Overall, US roads run deficits that are not covered fully by fuel taxes. The deficiency of in Soviet goods distribution was measured by long lines; in the US, we measure the transportation deficiency with potholes, deferred maintenance, deferred construction and traffic.

    We can then look at state and city budgets, and see how they have road budgets that are not self-supporting. They also require other infrastructure support, such as first responders to manage them and clean up the messes.

    I don’t know where some people got the idea that transportation is supposed to be a profit center. We don’t buy plumbing for our homes, or toilet paper, or refrigerators, or a whole host of other things with the expectation of turning a profit with them. Some things are in our lives because they make our lives better.

    Transportation is critical for our overall economic performance. It doesn’t have to be monopolized by cars, and in many cases, it would be more efficient if much of it didn’t involve cars.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Like most leftiesdemagogues, Moore appeals to emotion by leaving key facts out of his argument.

    Fixed that for you.

    After all, how is Moore’s less realistic propositions and emotional appeals different from that of your average libertarian? Answer: they’re not, only you (the reader) make the distinction based on what you do or don’t like. I find the average “If the government would just leave us alone, everything would be hunky-dory” line of argument to be just as fallacious, unrealistic and ignorant of human nature as that of your average Marxist.

    I’d also like to point out that, by the standards of the rest of the planet’s democracies, Moore is a centrist, not a leftist.

    Let’s not turn this into a debate on Michael Moore’s character: the point here is that he was one of the first people to scream—very loudly—about where GM was going, and how what happened in Flint was going to happen elsewhere as GM got sicker. He was right, and just because you don’t like the naughty things about George Bush doesn’t make him not worth listening to.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    His editorial is no more accurate than the one written by Mr. O’Rourke that claims that we no longer care about cars, because we basically let GM go bankrupt.

    I don’t disagree with you on this, but there’s a distinct lack of criticism over in the P.J. O’Rourke post, and an utter lack of vitriol.

    I don’t happen to like Michael Moore all that much because I find him imprecise and overly general, but I feel that what he (or Ralph Nader) have to say about GM or the auto industry is being disregarded because of who he is.

    Again, it’s like Al Gore and the environment, or left-wingers and Iraq (yes, I’m a lefty who things the international community needs to stay there for a long while yet): were the issue not tied to a given talking head, it wouldn’t be am issue at all.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Well said, Michael Moore.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    psarhinjian makes a very important point.

    The discussion has become so politicized, with camps so segregated, that people have stopped considering arguments and their validity.

    It is perfectly possible for someone on one’s own side to be an idiot, and for someone on the other side to make an intelligent proposal. But partisanship is destroying the potential for progress that lies in reasoned discourse – and that’s what happens when all becomes polemics. So we applaud our own idiot and criticize the smart guy, just because he’s not our smart guy.

    I personally got fed up with Michael Moore when he became a Cause-Jockey, looking for something to hitch his wagon to.
    But not posting his open letter on a Truth About Cars site would be strange – back in 1989 (when GM top executives were fired for writing memos questioning company policy), he put together Roger and Me.

    Disagree with him, agree with him – try to see whether there’s something useful in what he says.

    The US Transportation Secretary spent time riding Spanish high-speed trains recently, what does that tell you?
    http://www.chelseagreen.com/common/images/blog/original.jpg

  • avatar
    geeber

    pch101: I don’t know where some people got the idea that transportation is supposed to be a profit center. We don’t buy plumbing for our homes, or toilet paper, or refrigerators, or a whole host of other things with the expectation of turning a profit with them. Some things are in our lives because they make our lives better.

    I agree with you, but if you come to Harrisburg, I can describe what goes on at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (the mass transit agency serving the Philadelphia region), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. All three are hotbeds of patronage and waste, and even many liberals despair of ever really cleaning them out.

    The suspicion of government efforts to run various things doesn’t just come out of nowhere, or the pages of The National Review.

    psharjinian: Let’s not turn this into a debate on Michael Moore’s character: the point here is that he was one of the first people to scream—very loudly—about where GM was going, and how what happened in Flint was going to happen elsewhere as GM got sicker.

    There were people who warned that GM was a sick company in the late 1980s. (If anything, I would argue that the “old fashioned” media were more aggressive in their reporting at that time than they are now.)

    And it’s one thing to scream about a problem…anyone can do that…I don’t recall him offering any solutions.

    Also note that GM’s board didn’t stand by and do nothing. It ousted Robert Stempel in 1992…and one reason it ousted him was because he was too reluctant to close plants and shed excess capacity. It brought in Procter & Gamble managers who instituted the infamous “brand management” effort.

    In other words, Mr. Stempel was as concerned about the workers and the communities where GM had plants as Michael Moore was.

    And the board at that time DID try to correct the situation.

    And one reason that GM HAD too much capacity by 1992 was that it had not downsized its factories and workforce in the early 1980s.

    Which, I might add, was heartily applauded by the UAW at that time.

    People forget that one reason Ford bounced back in the mid-1980s was because it had drastically reduced its production capacity in 1980-82. Factories were shuttered and vehicle production capacity slashed. And there was no Jobs Bank to take care of the fired workers. They were on their own after their unemployment benefits ended.

    But by 1987, Ford was producing as many vehicles as it had in 1979, but with fewer workers and in fewer factories. Profits soared, and the remaining workers received fat profit-sharing checks (four figures, and in 1987 dollars).

    This is one reason the Jobs Bank existed. It was Ford, not GM, that initially proposed it. Why? Because Ford had ALREADY reduced its workforce, and saw no need for further reductions. The UAW, still smarting from the permanent, large-scale layoffs at Ford (and Chrysler), wanted better protections for members from this sort of action. GM arrogantly agreed to this, because it believed that the next round of all-new vehicles would arrest its market share decline (sound familiar?).

    And one reason that they flopped is that they were too small, in comparison to the vehicles that they replaced (particularly the full-size Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles). GM vehicles were built on the assumption that gasoline would be $3 a gallon by 1986 (in 1981 dollars). GM DID prepare for more expensive gasoline, and got hammered for its efforts.

    Mr. Moore conveniently left this out of Roger & Me.

    In many ways, the real story is far more interesting than the simplistic one he presented on the silver screen.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Menno–”Remember, before the 1910’s, it was uncommon for the average folk to even visit outside a 10 to 20 mile radius of their home. Difficult for us to fathom, but this was reality.”

    Uncommon for people to travel more than 20 miles from their homes? How did the expansion west happen in the 19th century? Who travelled the extensive rail system we had? Who emigrated to the US?

  • avatar
    Areitu

    akear : Sometimes you criticize someone you live because you worry about them. MM is more or less doing the same thing.

    wulfgar : Regarding having city-dwellers making decisions for the country, 80% of the US population lives in an area defined as “urban,” as of the year 2000 by the FHA. He doesn’t say anything about running light rail through rural kansas or anything. Cars and planes will be around for a very long time in America but having more options never hurts.

    People who cry foul towards any sort of environmentally friendly initiatives that increase efficiency baffle me. It’s like refusing to do brush your teeth because someone told you to do so. While becoming more efficient, long term costs go down, innovation is spurred and we’re slightly less dependent on foreign oil.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    geeber :

    And one reason that they flopped is that they were too small, in comparison to the vehicles that they replaced (particularly the full-size Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles). GM vehicles were built on the assumption that gasoline would be $3 a gallon by 1986 (in 1981 dollars). GM DID prepare for more expensive gasoline, and got hammered for its efforts.

    Mr. Moore conveniently left this out of Roger & Me.

    In many ways, the real story is far more interesting than the simplistic one he presented on the silver screen.

    That’s an interesting bit of history! Those $3-gas vehicles didn’t happen to be the Vega and Citation, would they?

  • avatar
    geeber

    ruckover: Uncommon for people to travel more than 20 miles from their homes? How did the expansion west happen in the 19th century? Who travelled the extensive rail system we had? Who emigrated to the US?

    It was uncommon for people to regularly travel very far from their homes once they were settled. Travel – even by train – was much more expensive in relation to income at that time, as compared to today. It was also more time-consuming.

    My grandmother told me about an all-day train trip that she took in the mid-1920s with her mother. It was from Shippensburg, Pa., to Allentown, Pa.

    A trip that, today, is about two hours via car.

    During the 19th century, when people headed west, most did not return to their former homes. They stayed in the new place. “Travel” did not mean a day trip. It was relatively expensive and time-consuming, and not undertaken lightly. And only the extremely wealthy could afford what today we think of as vacations.

    Areitu: Regarding having city-dwellers making decisions for the country, 80% of the US population lives in an area defined as “urban,” as of the year 2000 by the FHA.

    Remember, though, that within that defintion of “urban area” are small towns and suburban areas.

    The Philadelphia metropolitan area, for example, includes the Center City neighborhoods where a car is not needed, and many outlying suburbs and small towns where a car makes life more pleasant and easier.

    Areitu: That’s an interesting bit of history! Those $3-gas vehicles didn’t happen to be the Vega and Citation, would they?

    I was referring to the downsized full-size Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles introduced for 1985-86, along with the downsized 1986 Seville, Eldorado, Toronado and Riviera.

  • avatar

    Michael misses one small point – most of the carbon emissions are from factories, not cars.

    In fact, animals raised for meat emit more carbon emissions than vehicles.

    So we could all go vegetarian and have a bigger impact than if we all got rid of our cars. But who’s going to do that, that’s inconvenient!

  • avatar
    Luther

    That little slob has the mind of an 8 year old.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    @cretinx:

    +1 for what you said here:
    In fact, animals raised for meat emit more carbon emissions than vehicles.

    $20 and a tofu steak dinner says Mr. Moore likes him some steak. I’m sure he and Al Gore have broken bread over some lavish meals, most of which were probably meat.

    How inconvenient for them, indeed.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    After all, how is Moore’s less realistic propositions and emotional appeals different from that of your average libertarian? Answer: they’re not, only you (the reader) make the distinction based on what you do or don’t like.

    Wrong. Moore argues for tremendous government oversight and involvement to execute a social agenda he believes in…. at the heart of libertarian thought is the idea that people can decide better for themselves than if the government decided for them.

    You can choose to fixate on the hard core libertarians and say that represents the crux of libertarian thought, but you’d be wrong. That would be the equivalent of saying that Obama is a Marxist, which is just as silly.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    geeber–the claim was that people did not even visit more than 10 to 20 miles from home. This is false. My grandmother, and aint stories great because we can use one experience and act like it’s the norm, was born near Grand Haven, MI. in 1892; she went out of state to secretarial school, moved to Washington DC, moved to Saginaw (to work for the famed Ruggles Motor Truck Company), then moved to Florida.

    Have you ever read The Canterbury Tales? That was written in the 14th century, yet no one was freaked that they were going from London to Canterbury.

    Hell, look at the rise of the bicycle clubs in the 1890s. People moved around. It was not as simple as today, but people have always travelled.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    The sad truth is that Micheal Moore was right in 1989 about Roger Smith killing GM and he is right now.

    If GM is going to survive… Things need to change… and Micheal is probably right… the changes need to be radical.

    And I love the argument “cars aren’t the biggest GHG problem problem so we will ignore them”

    I’m sure that makes sense to someone… if GHG is a problem we should be considering ALL problems big, medium, and small… GM could help with the problems that are cars… how is GM going to help cows fart less? Last time I checked GM does not make cows.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe so many otherwise-intelligent people get so worked up over the idea of public transportation. Hundreds of millions of people in big, sophisticated cities the world over get by without owning a car. They do all the things we do – work, shop, take their families places. In buses and trains. And guess what? They still feel like free people!

    As an auto writer, I rely on new cars to make my living. But I like Michael Moore’s vision. I’m fixing to take a trip from California to Knoxville, TN for a press preview. Because the airline industry has royally screwed itself up, it’ll take me a good 12 hours door-to-door to get there. That’s 12 hours of driving, waiting in line, taking off my shoes and belt, sitting around in the terminal, filing onto the plane, hoping the guy ahead won’t recline his seat so I can open my laptop, and taking a car to the hotel. If I could board a train in LA at dinner time, stretch out and sleep, then get to TN after breakfast — hell yeah, I’d do that in a heartbeat.

    Mattstairs is right — it’s embarrassing that we don’t have high-speed mass transit in this country. I can’t even take a train from Cali to Knoxville because there’s no Amtrak station in Knoxville. The closest station is 100 miles away — and getting there from California, according to Amtrak’s web site, would take 60 hours.

  • avatar
    geeber

    ruckover: geeber–the claim was that people did not even visit more than 10 to 20 miles from home. This is false.

    In those days, a trip of 10-20 miles was a big deal and a special occasion.

    Today, it’s a daily occurrence.

    That’s the difference.

    If you believe that people hopped in the horse-drawn carriage and visited someone 20 miles away for the day – like we do today with a car – you are mistaken.

    ruckover: My grandmother, and aint stories great because we can use one experience and act like it’s the norm, was born near Grand Haven, MI. in 1892; she went out of state to secretarial school, moved to Washington DC, moved to Saginaw (to work for the famed Ruggles Motor Truck Company), then moved to Florida.

    Your grandmother moved permanently from one location to another, which is a completely different scenario from visiting relatives for a short time.

    No one has said that people didn’t move permanently from one place to another. They did do that. What they didn’t do was take day trips of 10-20 miles in one day and think nothing of it, like we do today.

    ruckover: Have you ever read The Canterbury Tales? That was written in the 14th century, yet no one was freaked that they were going from London to Canterbury.

    The trip described in the story was a special occasion, and a long one…which today would probably be covered in a brief amount of time by car or train today.

    ruckover: Hell, look at the rise of the bicycle clubs in the 1890s. People moved around. It was not as simple as today, but people have always travelled.

    Travel was a privilege for the well-to-do, not the common man. Do not confuse moving permanently from one place to another (people have always done that) with vacations (which only the rich could afford until the 1950s) or simple day trips to places 10-20 miles away (which were not common until the automobile became affordable).

    CamaroKid: The sad truth is that Micheal Moore was right in 1989 about Roger Smith killing GM and he is right now.

    Read my earlier post. One reason GM was in the crapper by 1990 was that it hadn’t made the drastic cuts in its workforce that Ford and Chrysler did in the early 1980s. Mr. Moore conveniently skipped that part.

    What he was complaining about was the closure of GM facilities. Well, when Toyota can make the same number of vehicles with one-third the number of workers, something has to give. Again, he skips that part.

    Changing customer preferences, and the company’s inept response to them, killed GM. Roger Smith thought he could out-automate his rivals, and avoid factory closures and lay-offs.

    The UAW SUPPORTED him in this bid.

    That’s because the UAW was no more enthusiastic about making the necessary changes than management was. The union had its head in the sand as much as management did. Again, he skips that part.

    autonerd: That’s 12 hours of driving, waiting in line, taking off my shoes and belt, sitting around in the terminal, filing onto the plane, hoping the guy ahead won’t recline his seat so I can open my laptop, and taking a car to the hotel. If I could board a train in LA at dinner time, stretch out and sleep, then get to TN after breakfast — hell yeah, I’d do that in a heartbeat.

    A fair amount of the time spent on air travel is caused by security delays. Do you really believe that there won’t be security checks for high-speed trains? If not, I’m sure not getting on one…

    Second, is there really going to be more “stretch-out” room on the train than there is on the plane? I doubt it – I’ve ridden on trains, and there is no more room on a train than there is in a plane (unless one is flying first class). Trains will have to pack a certain number of people into each car to be profitable – just like airplanes do now.

    Unless train travel becomes the reserve of the rich (i.e., the equivalent of first-class travel on a plane).

    Third, the train station is unlikely to be any closer to the hotel than the airport is, and you will still need a car to get the hotel.

    Fourth, do you really believe that the rail line will run right through EVERY city? I highly doubt it, given that most people are no more enthusiastic about having a high-speed rail line run through their neighborhood than they are about having a highway dissect it.

    I have no problem with high-speed trains. But they aren’t the panacea that their supporters seem to believe that they are.

  • avatar
    jjacob9105

    There are lots of would be central planners on this website competing with Michael Moore for the best 5 year plan. Why is it that most, includng Moore, don’t seem to like what the central planners in the White House (who actually have access to other peoples money to fund their plans) are doing?

  • avatar

    @geeber:

    Second, is there really going to be more “stretch-out” room on the train than there is on the plane? I doubt it

    Er, have you ridden Amtrak lately? Check this out, and those are the cheapest seats. (Overnight, you can sleep like this. You even get your own shower.) Last time I traveled Amtrak — and granted, it was almost 20 years ago — I had my own private compartment with a bed and a toilet. And that was *second* class. I’ve peeked into the Superliner coach section, and the amount of space is pleasantly obscene. — Aaron

  • avatar
    geeber

    autonerd: Er, have you ridden Amtrak lately? Check this out, and those are the cheapest seats. (Overnight, you can sleep like this. You even get your own shower.) Last time I traveled Amtrak — and granted, it was almost 20 years ago — I had my own private compartment with a bed and a toilet. And that was *second* class. I’ve peeked into the Superliner coach section, and the amount of space is pleasantly obscene.

    That does seem to be roomier than the trains I’ve ridden (Harrisburg-New York City).

    There is still a big problem – for a coast-to-coast flight, I won’t need to sleep, because the entire trip is shorter. I’ll gladly trade the extra room for the time savings.


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