Keith Crain, publisher and editorial director of our sister newspaper Automotive News, wrote a very strong column in last week's issue about the U.S. government takeover of General Motors Corp.
Crain starts by saying he is surprised and disappointed that corporate America has been painfully silent as the government usurps more and more authority at General Motors.
He notes the White House and Treasury Department fired CEO Rick Wagoner and appointed an interim CEO and an interim chairman. The government decided that the United Auto Workers will have a large block of GM stock, and it dictated terms of the payment to bondholders.
All this from folks who have never run a manufacturing company, Crain wrote. They are mostly politicians and regulators with a smattering of Wall Street financial types. This scenario should never have happened. There has hardly been a peep from anyone that perhaps this is a formula for disaster.
The White House types might argue that they can't do a lot worse with GM than the previous management, including Wagoner. But the fact is, they can do worse and they probably will.
What part of the car business will thrive under Washington's tutelage manufacturing? Product development and design? Marketing? I don't think so.
As Crain argues, it is ridiculous for the government to dictate GM's business plan: If the White House is going to decide on future models for GM, we probably can write off the rest of GM now. There is a huge chasm between what the government would dictate GM should manufacture and what the public would like to buy.
Why hasn't there been more of an outcry against the White House takeover of Government Motors?
Here's a proposed law related to plastic bags that the industry could get behind: Madison, Wis., Alderman Judy Compton and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz on May 5 proposed banning the disposal of clean, recyclable plastic bags.
Under the proposed law, consumers can still throw away soiled bags. But, if the measure passes, citizens who throw away a clean bag instead of recycling it could receive a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $400 for additional offenses.
Compton would prefer to ban bags a la San Francisco. But she offered this proposal as a compromise, because she does not want to penalize residents who like using plastic bags.
Madison does not plan to create a trash cop who will inspect everyone's garbage, looking for offenders. But the city will make it easier for residents to recycle bags: The plan calls for investing in new drop-off recycling sites.
This is an interesting idea. It should boost bag recycling, which is pretty pitiful in most communities. It also allows people who like reusing plastic bags to do so without being penalized (assuming they don't litter, of course). That's a plus for dog owners.
Will the plastics industry actually support this idea, with its roots in the liberal hotbed of Madison? I don't see why not.
Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News and author of The Plastics Blog.