Don't Get Political
The country is moving into new terrain with General Motors. This is a high risk experiment, and no one knows whether it will work. If GM was too big to fail before, the downside is even worse now.
The danger is that GM will be politicized and become part of the pulling, hauling and horse trading that happens among all of the issues facing the country. The federal government now has a conflict of interest. As a dominant shareholder, there is a huge stake in a quick turnaround. But there are also compelling and competing stakes in other issues, like labor contracts, environmental concerns and international trade relations.
If the administration really means what it says, it will put the best possible people in key roles, protect GM from the pressures inside the Beltway to micromanage its operations and expose it to the pressures of the consumer marketplace and Wall Street.
Obama will have a tough time keeping his "hands-off" commitment when good business decisions come crashing into favorite policy positions. He's already succumbed to some of those pressures: naming an insider as CEO, giving the unions a big ownership role and decreeing what kind of cars GM must build, commercially viable or not.
The president's willingness to expend political capital to protect GM from political pressures--and risk the vagaries of the marketplace--will determine the administration's new role as its dominant shareholder.
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