Conversations with Karma - G. Richard Wagoner Jr.

Monday, March 30, 2009
* ring, ring *

Executive Assistant: Chairman Wagoner's office.

Karma: Hello! Is Former Chairman Wagoner available?

EA: I'm sorry, this is Chairman Wagoner's office - may I ask who's calling, and what your business is with the Chairman?

K: This is Karma, and I'm calling with news about the Federal bailout monies General Motors requested.

EA: Oh! I know the Chairman will be interested in hearing about that. Let me see if he's available.

* feelings...nothing more than feelings...trying to forget my....feelings of LOOOVE! *

G. Richard Wagoner Jr: This is Chairman Wagoner. Is this Secretary Geithner?

K: No, this is Karma.

GRW: Karma? I don't recall anyone on the President's staff by that name...

K: Oh, I don't work for President Obama. I don't work for anyone, really. I'm the eastern idea that you will receive your punishment or reward for your deeds. You know...what comes around goes around, people get what they deserve? Karma.

GRW: So you're here to give me the money?

K: Not exactly. I'm actually here to prepare you for what's coming.

GRW: Money?

K: No, not money.

GRW: I don't get it. I asked the Feds for money.

K: Yeah, I know. And I think they'll probably give some to GM. But first, they want a plan that doesn't actually, you know, suck.

GRW: What do you mean? I submitted a SOLID BUSINESS PLAN.

K: A "solid business plan" that bears a striking resemblance to the business plans that ran your company into the ground isn't really what they're looking for. After all, under your watch, GM lost more than $73 billion.

GRW: That wasn't my fault! It's the Union! And the economic downturn!

K: I'm sure. Listen, I don't have time to argue with you about your ability to execute on your plan. I'm afraid you're going to be asked to resign.

GRW: WHAT? Resign? Why should I resign?

K: Because if you don't, the Federal government will not give GM any more bailout money. It's a condition of GM's participation.

GRW: Well, that just sucks. None of this is my fault. At least I'll get my multi-million pension...

K: Not so fast, zippy. You won't actually be leaving the company. You'll stay, for your $1.00 salary, and do nothing. That way, the government doesn't have to outlay your so-called "pension."

GRW: This is so unfair! Where does the government get off telling a private company how to conduct their business? It's unAmerican! Contrary to the idea of free enterprise?

K: But it's not contrary to the idea of free enterprise for a private company to ask the government to bail them out?

GRW: Of course not! We just want what everyone else is getting!

K: Dude, everyone else is getting unemployed. So, really, you are getting what everyone else is getting. Really, it's kind of poetic justice, if you think about it.

GRW: I'm not thinking about it.

K: Clearly.

*click*

12 comments:

mattw said...

Why is it that none of these people are ever familiar with Karma?

I love GRW's initial reaction. Very funny.

vince said...

Yeah, I already heard Mike Huckabee talking about how unfair the gumment is about this.

I'm with karma on this one.

Frank said...

Smells like the National Recovery Administration

I'm thinking President Obama is more like FDR than Lincoln.

Of course, some might consider that a good thing.

But there was a word for when Government gets into running private business: Fascism.

It didn't work for Italy. It didn't work for FDR. So I'm thinking it might not work now either.

Janiece Murphy said...

Frank, do you believe the government should have no input into a company's business if the company in question has their hand out?

Should the government then just give away stimulus monies with no strings attached?

I don't think the government should be able to dictate terms to a private company if the company really is making or breaking it on the merits of their own decisions and capital. But if you want my money, then you should be prepared to accept some terms.

Frank said...

Janice

Should the government then just give away stimulus monies with no strings attached?

I think it is totally appropriate for the Government to attach strings when it decides to give money to a private company.

But I also think that giving tax-payer money to help "bail out" a private company is inappropriate for just that reason: it is an inherent conflict of interest.

And let's be clear: this is bail-out money not stimulus money.

I would also point out, that karma would have worked better and faster had the government (in this case Bush) not offered to bail out GM in the first place.

There is no getting around it: the more companies you bail out, the more the government can claim that they have a stake in running the company. And at some point, you have done this to enough companies and Government is on the board of Directors of all the major private players.

We already have a seat at the table on a number of big banks. Now it is clear we have at least strategic control at GM and Chrysler (bet Ford is feeling better about taking the road they took, eh?)

And Mr Geithner's plan gives the Government the ability to take over any big company they deem a threat to the economy with no published guidelines.

I'm sorry if it sounds like we are heading down what was once called "the middle way" between Socialism and Capitalism: Fascism.

But that's they way it looks from here.

Janiece Murphy said...

Frank, I can agree to disagree with conservatives who believe the government should just keep their grubby little hands off private industry, even if the industry fails. That position is consistent with belief in the Invisible Hand, and is at least defensible.

The ones that chap my ass are the so-called free market capitalists who beg for government funds out of one side of their mouths and then bitch and cry about the conditions of such a bailout out of the other side. Such hypocrisy makes me want to break out the Shovel of Doom™ and figuratively cave in their skulls with it.

However, since the primary definition of "fascism" is a single party system, I don't think we're quite there yet, in spite of government meddling. So while such plans may have some elements of fascism (in your view), we're not really there yet.

Frank said...

The ones that chap my ass are the so-called free market capitalists who beg for government funds out of one side of their mouths and then bitch and cry about the conditions of such a bailout out of the other side.

Hey baby, you wanna dance with the devil then you got to pay the piper.

It appears that at least some have figured that out.

There's a growing sense among some bankers that Troubled Asset Relief Program known as "TARP" has become toxic. As a result, they want to bail out of the bank bailout program.

"It should be called 'TRAP,' not TARP," said Brian Garrett, chief executive of Bank of the Bay in San Francisco, who is trying to return bailout funding. "Giving it back is harder than getting it."


Too late though. The reason they say it's a trap, is because now that they have accepted the money, the government won't let them give it back until they pass an audit that shows that if they give it back, they will still have enough liquidity to remain viable. Of course, no one will tell them exactly what level of liquidity is necessary...

...no one will be permitted to return funds before completion of regulatory "stress-tests" of the major banks to determine how they would withstand a severe recession.

"We want to return the TARP money as soon as possible. We feel more bullish about economic prospects broadly, but we recognize we can't repay the money without the approval of the regulators," said Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas Van Praag.

The "stress-tests" are supposed to be finished next month. But it's likely the Treasury will not permit bankers to return taxpayer money for many more months.


And the devil grins.

However, since the primary definition of "fascism" is a single party system, I don't think we're quite there yet

Many systems have one party rule. China does and it's not a fascist state. Hard to say just it is, but it's not that. Back in the day, most political systems had a King and were not fascist.

No, the salient feature of fascism was corporatism: an unholy alliance of government and private business that was not socilism, because it retained the idea of private property, but was not capitalism because corporate entities had to run their plans by government monitors.

FDR tried to emulate Fascist Italy during the Great Depression (hey! It seemed like a good idea at the time. That time being before WWII) but it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as were so many of his New Deal initiatives that were passed during his first hundred days in office. This so incensed FDR that he tried to double the size of the Court by appointing nine additional justices that would agree with him and his plans.

He failed. As did the NRA.

Janiece Murphy said...

Frank, again, we'll have to agree to disagree - I don't think we're heading into a fascist state, but apparently you do.

We also appear to disagree about the basic definition of what "fascism" is. Since the liberals were accusing W of "fascism" during his administration, and now conservatives seem to be doing the same for the Obama administration, I suspect the word has more hyperbolic power than actual meaning at this point.

Frank said...

we'll have to agree to disagree

OK. I'm easy.

I don't think we're heading into a fascist state, but apparently you do.

Well, to be precise, I think that the actions being taken present that possibility. I agree with you, we are not there yet.

And we may not get there. But I think that the current situation bears watching and requires vigilance.

Just like the Patriot Act in and of itself was not a police state, but it has the potential for being used to create a police state. The situation did, and still does requires vigilance.

Since the liberals were accusing W of "fascism" during his administration, and now conservatives seem to be doing the same for the Obama administration

Again, to be accurate, Conservatives today are accusing Obama of heading towards Socialism, not Fascism. I'm one of the few correctly identifying where we are potentially heading.

Over time, words lose their original meaning. Which is fine. But Socialism really does have as a linchpin tenet the abolition of private property. And I don't see signs of that. Socialism would also nationalize industry, and that's not evident either. So to me, I am simply identifying the economic theory correctly.

Oh, and since we are talking about using words as they were originally intended, I consider myself a Liberal, not a Conservative. Liberalism arose to promote individual freedom and responsibility. Liberals should not be in the business of easily ceding power to the State.

Accusing Bush (and the Republicans) of fascism was also incorrect. What they were really fearful of was that he was creating a police state, which is not the same thing. Stalin created a police state and was not a fascist. I also saw that they believed Bush would try to be President for life. Neither came about.

Likewise President Obama (and the Democrats) probably won't create a fascist state either, but they could. So we recognize the warning signs and we watch. Turning a blind eye only makes one, well, blind.

But like the health care issue we discussed earlier, government bears watching. The Framers created the Constitution specifically because they were concerned with government power. It's why they divided the government. It's why the documents intent was to enumerate the things that the government could do believing that whatever the Constitution didn't authorize was reserved for the people.

In fact, there was a big debate about including the Bill of Rights. One side wanted to make sure these rights were codified.
The other side said that they should be assumed since the document specifically limits the power of the government to those things of which it spoke and by including the Bill of Rights, it might be construed that these are our only rights when the intent was that the people retained all rights not specifically granted to the Government.

So forget the terms fascism, socialism, communism, capitalism and look at the effect: Is the Government being given more power than you are comfortable with?

That is the only question of concern in any and all of these matters.

And that question gets answered every time we have elections.

We'll see how it all plays out.

Janiece Murphy said...

Just like the Patriot Act in and of itself was not a police state, but it has the potential for being used to create a police state.

So forget the terms fascism, socialism, communism, capitalism and look at the effect: Is the Government being given more power than you are comfortable with?


Well, at least we can find common ground on those issues.

And I do not use the term "liberal" in the way that you do, but more in the modern way it is defined here.

Frank said...

And I do not use the term "liberal" in the way that you do, but more in the modern way it is defined here.

he definition of liberal can be divided into 6 key principles:

1. Belief in positive law
2. Faith in progress
3. Preference for equality over liberty
4. Belief in the benevolence of government and individuals
5. Belief in the perfectibility of human beings
6. Belief in the community


Clearly I disagree with aspects of this, most especially 3 and 4.

But to engage in this would result in serious thread drift.

Perhaps we'll have an opportunity to discuss this at some point in the future.

Janiece Murphy said...

Frank, around here, thread hijacking is a time-honored tradition. But we'll leave it for another day.