The Detroit Free Press discusses how President Obama has asked GM’s CEO, Rick Waggoner, to resign as an apparent precondition of further bailout funds. I’m a tad uneasy about this move. Don’t get me wrong, I see the sense of it. If they want more of our money we can damned well call some of the shots. I dig, I dig. I just don’t know if I like the road this takes us down…
On the one hand we have the obvious failure of leadership among so many sectors of our economy. These people, as a class, have nearly (or maybe actually) wrecked the economy. It’s easy to make this a class thing. A part of me very much wants to do precisely that. But something gives me pause.
I believe in regulation. I believe in vigorous oversight to ensure that our laws and values are respected by corporate America. Our government, via its many institutions, provides corporations with such protections that they might flourish. We do all benefit when capitalism works within reasonable yet watchful constraints. I consider myself a progressive because I don’t trust Adam Smith’s invisible hand alone.
But I have strong reluctance to support the notion that the public sector should be able to fire leaders of the private sector. Perhaps this is the right choice now after a prior mistake. Perhaps the size and scope of the bailouts has enmeshed us too much in private industry. There has to be a line, there has to be a limit.
I am not concern trolling. I am not decrying this decision, nor am I wailing at our President. I’m really just musing on this one. How far down does this rabbit hole go? How many more executives should President Obama “invite onward”?
It’s one thing for the American people to demand new leadership from firms we have to bail out. It’s another for the President to call them up and tell them they’re out. This may not be the wrong call and it may work out brilliantly. I do not know. I just think this moment requires some reflection and introspection. Do we want to select Waggoner’s replacement? Control GM more directly? Is this a substantive intrusion or was President Obama merely looking for a scalp to salve the angry public?
I don’t know. But maybe we should talk about this one. What are your thoughts?