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GM on the Hot Seat

and another GOP myth is aired out

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

Cherished conservative fairy tales and myths are in the news this week, although not acknowledged as such. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, is before Congress today trying to explain how an ignition switch error led to the deaths of not a few folks for over a decade, and had been known about and discussed internally by GM's experts and lawyers without anything constructive being done to fix it or warn the public. By the way, nothing I or anyone can say would improve upon John Oliver's hilariously brutal takedown of GM a few weeks back. His show "Last Week Tonight" is the funniest half hour monologue or program on the tube, and I cannot recommend it too highly. It's HBO, but you can see it on YouTube almost immediately.

Speaking of Oliver, he is a product of the Jon Stewart Daily Show which also gave us Steven Colbert, who is replacing David Letterman next year on CBS. Stewart himself just interviewed Tim Geithner, the former Secretary of the Treasury who was in the SEC and on Wall St. when many of the problems evolved before Obama raised him up, to not inconsiderable progressive complaint. Geithner has a book, Stress Test, about that time out, and Stewart elicited about the best interview of a newsmaker I've seen in years, perhaps ever. Stewart was totally informed and prepared, polite, funny, and did not destroy Geithner, who despite a few bureaucratic speaking templates which Stewart caught him on, did a fine job and did not collapse and was fully capable of standing up to a grilling, something not likely to ever emerge on Meet the Press or FoxNews or CBS.

It went on for about a half hour before an audience of some shills and young adults who were alert and involved. It was both great television and it demonstrated that Geithner is both articulate and able to explain complicated - very complicated - concepts well and to that key audience of consumers - important to the sponsors - and voters, important to us all. I watched it and felt really good and proud the bloody Comedy Channel has more stones and journalistic acumen than the elderly blowhards my own age emoting for the ages on the networks. But, back to GM.

Barra returns to Capitol Hill today for a grilling by a House panel, this time with the former U.S. Attorney who prepared GM's internal report on why it took the company over a decade to recall 2.19 million cars for fatally flawed ignition switches. Barra had a bad day April 1, and since that time the GM report was released to the public.

The switch problem was first noted by GM in 2001, and GM attached 13 deaths and 54 crashes to this "problem" - as they reference it - and recalled millions of cars. The government and others thinks it over 300 deaths. The report's author was hired by GM to discover how this could have happened. His June 2 release blamed ignorance and irresponsibility among GM employees. Apparently the bosses didn't know, somehow. So General Motors has recalled 20 million cars this year alone with 44 recalls. Barra removed from the company 15 lawyers and engineers whose actions contributed to the switch problem.

GM, you remember, received government support, a bail out, during the recession horrors, although as Geithner noted, it's been repaid and the government made a profit. Republicans point to that and the recall and say that Ford, which didn't need any financial help, shows that we should have let GM die on the vine. Yet in late May, Ford started recalling millions of vehicles, something about loss of power steering. It proves nothing relevant except that the GOP is trying to oversimplify and divert attention away from their reluctance to do the job of government by financing the oversight needed.

Back in the 1950's, the head of General Motors was falsely credited with saying what's good for GM is good for America, and although it is now claimed as out of context, the fact is that big business and Republicans of the Taft persuasion thought it true enough and used it in many campaigns. Till recently, the GOP business wing claimed if not flaunted their belief in its essential soundness. And so today, GM is on the hot seat trying to explain how bonuses and profits were credited when their product knowingly killed people, and this long before the Recession, long before the bailout, long before the lawsuits by hated trial lawyers forced out the truth.