From the Mailbag: Michael Moore and the Chairman of General Motors

Remember Michael Moore's Documentary Roger and Me a documentary about how General Motors had turned Flint Michigan into a ghost town as a result of massive layoffs, and how its then chairman, Roger Smith refused to meet with Moore to explain why GM was doing this at a time of record profits and rising automobile sales. Now the tables have been turned and it is former GM chairman Rick Wagoner who has been handed the pink slip. Here is a letter from Moore.


Nothing like it has ever happened. The President of the United States, the elected representative of the people, has just told the head of General Motors -- a company that's spent more years at #1 on the Fortune 500 list than anyone else -- "You're fired!"

I simply can't believe it. This stunning, unprecedented action has left me speechless for the past two days. I keep saying, "Did Obama really fire the chairman of General Motors? The wealthiest and most powerful corporation of the 20th century? Can he do that? Really? Well, damn! What else can he do?!"

This bold move has sent the heads of corporate America spinning and spewing pea soup. Obama has issued this edict: The government of, by, and for the people is in charge here, not big business. John McCain got it. On the floor of the Senate he asked, "What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?" Senator Bob Corker said it "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise." The stock market plunged as the masters of the universe asked themselves, "Am I next?" And they whispered to each other, "What are we going to do about this Obama?"

Not much, fellows. He has the massive will of the American people behind him -- and he has been granted permission by us to do what he sees fit. If you liked this week's all-net 3-pointer, stay tuned.

I write this letter to you in memory of the hundreds of thousands of workers over the past 25+ years who have been tossed into the trash heap by General Motors. Many saw their lives ruined for good. They turned to alcohol or drugs, their marriages fell apart, some took their own lives. Most moved on, moved out, moved over, moved away. They ended up working two jobs for half the pay they were getting at GM. And they cursed the CEO of GM for bringing ruin to their lives.

Not one of them ever thought that one day they would witness the CEO receive the same treatment. Of course Chairman Wagoner will not have to sign up for food stamps or be evicted from his home or tell his kids they'll be going to the community college, not the university. Instead, he will get a $23 million golden parachute. But the slip in his hands is still pink, just like the hundreds of thousands that others received -- except his was issued by us, via the Obama-man. Here's the door, buster. See ya. Don't wanna be ya.

I began my day today in Washington, D.C. I went to the U.S. Senate and got into their Finance Committee's hearing on the Wall Street bailout. The overseers wanted to know how the banks spent the money. And many of these banks won't tell them. They've taken trillions and nobody knows where the money went. It certainly didn't go to create jobs, relieve mortgage holders, or free up loans that people need. It was so shocking to listen to this, I had to leave before it was over. But it gave me an idea for the movie I was shooting.

Later, I stopped by the National Archives to stand in line to see the original copy of our Constitution. I thought about how twenty years ago this month I was just down the street finishing my first film, a personal plea to warn the nation about GM and the deadly economy it ruled. On that March day in 1989 I was broke, having collected the last of my unemployment checks, relying on help from my friends (Bob and Siri would take me out to dinner and always pick up the check, the assistant manager at the movie theater would sneak me in so I could watch an occasional movie, Laurie and Jack bought an old Steenbeck (editing) machine for me, John Richard would slip me an unused plane ticket so I could go home for Christmas, Rod would do anything for me and drive to Flint whenever I needed something for the film). My late mother (she would've turned 88 tomorrow if she were still with us) and my GM autoworker dad told me in the kitchen they wanted to help and handed me a check for an astounding thousand dollars. I didn't know they even had a thousand dollars. I refused it, they insisted I take it -- "No!" -- and then, in that parental voice, told me I was to cash it so I could finish my movie. I did. And I did.

So on that March day in 1989, as I was driving down Pennsylvania Avenue, my 9-year-old car just died. I coasted over to the curb, put my head down on the steering wheel and started to cry. I had no money to take it in to be repaired, and I certainly had nothing to pay the tow truck driver. So I got out, screwed the license plates off so I wouldn't be fined, turned my back and just left it there for good. I looked over at the building next to me. It said "National Archives." What better place to donate my dead car, I thought, as I walked the rest of the way home.

Though it wasn't easy for me, I still never had to suffer what so many of my friends and neighbors went through, thanks to General Motors and an economic system rigged against them. I wonder what they must have all thought when they woke up this Monday morning to read in the Detroit News or the Detroit Free Press the headlines that Obama had fired the CEO of GM. Oh -- wait a minute. They couldn't read that. There was no Free Press or News. Monday was the day that both papers ended home delivery. It was cancelled (as it will be for four days every week) because the daily newspapers, like General Motors, like Detroit, are broke.

I await the President's next superhero move.

Michael Moore
(Go State!)

P.S. Please know that it has not been lost on any of us from the Rust Belt how our corporate bigwigs were treated (remember, the auto companies wanted a loan, not a handout) compared to how the titans of Wall Street got trillions of free cash, lunch at the White House and a photo op with the Prez. Trust me, we get it. And, if there is a God in heaven, the thieves of Wall Street will soon pay. Also... the sight of our president having to promise that he would back every GM warranty and give consumers a bonus if they trade in their old Grand Am for a hybrid, was alternately sad, hilarious, and just plain weird. This is what it's come to: the Commander in Chief of the Free World is now Mr. Goodwrench. Jeesh.

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When I was buzzing this I checked out the buzzflash pending page and this headline caught my eye, Detroit auto workers denounce Obama's concession demands. Not an unimpeachable source but I am looking for the union response.

How Japan's Other Hyrbid Can Save American Jobs. This one is an interesting discussion of Japanese labor and investment philosophy (not vectored toward short-term profits and offering some worker protection. The introduction on buzz flash is by protect_democracy is also to the point:

Under current law, when a majority of workers indicate they want union representation, management gets to decide when the certification election will take place. Meanwhile, the company can campaign against the union in the workplace by holding workplace meetings, distributing literature, and even meeting privately with employees one-on-one. Such campaigning often includes heavy doses of intimidation and threats of job loss. In fact, employers illegally fire union supporters in 25 percent of organizing campaigns. Meanwhile, union organizers may not enter the workplace; employees can only campaign during breaks, or before and after work. And even if 100 percent of workers indicate by signing authorizations that they wish to be represented by a union, the company is not required to recognize and bargain with it. In short, employers are playing with a stacked deck.


According to the HuffPo Moore is in D.C., camera in hand:

"All the usual suspects have dodged us, but I'm moving a little faster these days so we were able to catch up with some of them," said Moore in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Moore was spotted at a hearing of the Senate Financial Services Committee Tuesday morning, seated behind TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren -- baseball cap and all.

He spent the rest of the afternoon wielding his camera in the Dirksen Senate office building, looking for members to go on the record.

Yeah, of course there was some dramatic license, but to my mind it was spot on.


are supposed to be entertaining. Without the leeway of making the points of the basic facts in a sensational way, do you think anybody would have watched the whole thing and learned about many of these problems?

I watched the tail end of "Sick Around the World" on PBS last night:

Frontline correspondent T.R. Reid was online Wednesday, April 16 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his film "Sick Around the World," which examines how five other capitalist democracies -- United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland -- deliver health care, and what the United States might learn from their successes and failures.

One of the things I found most interesting was the fact that Taiwan studied 10 to 15 of "the best" healthcare systems in the world before trying to implement their own version of Universal Healthcare from scratch. In the end, they chose the basics of the Canadian model and added some of the better parts of other nations systems to create their own hybrid version of single payer universal healthcare.

It isn't as hard to do as some would make it out to be.

Another interesting note is that any of the countries that have achieved Universal Healthcare coverage with private insurance companies as the payer... Had not-for-profit private insurance payers. Imagine that?



to all of it!  next thing I know, you'll be saying those CEOs didn't earn their bonuses, that Presnit Bush was a crook, that we didn't invade Eyeraq for freedum, libr'ty and justus.

drat to that, i think it's time to move ta, ta, ta...well somewhere in tarnation that ain't heading fer commyvillle, maybe China!


"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

Where they are in the process of building their Universal Healthcare system right now?  It is central to their stimulus plan. Who would've thought giving everyone access to health care would create jobs, long term an' all?