GM, what next?

It was never less than predictable the once the US government took majority ownership of General Motors,  all sorts of people would be asking whether or not it was going to be forced to participate in the day-to-day management of the company.

U.S. President Barack Obama may find it tough keeping a pledge not to meddle in the management of General Motors Corp once the government takes majority ownership of the giant automaker.

The White House has put a priority on encouraging environmentally friendly technology. It could be tempted to weigh in on issues such as the mix of vehicles.

And lawmakers — some of whom already have spoken out against a GM proposal to shift some production overseas — may insist on a voice on everything from the location of plant closures to the pay scales of top executives.

“We’re already seeing them force out the CEO, restructure the board and talking about the right kind of cars for them to build,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was a top policy aide to former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain.

He was referring to the decision to pressure Rick Wagoner to step down as GM’s chairman and chief executive.

“I don’t know where that ends and I don’t know how you easily end it,” said Holtz-Eakin, now a private consultant.

This, and what follows, is asking the wrong question. I believe that the question should not be  about whether a government which has taken over any business  is capable of managing any business – it’s not –  but whether the government can get a business which it has taken a stake in can shape itself so that it can serve the purposes for which the stake the stake was taken in the first place. But then, that wholly depends on the government in question fully understanding its purposes and their implications.


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