The race angle on Wagoner’s departure from GM

By Channing Kennedy Mar 30, 2009

I was saddened to hear the news today that Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, was denied access to public housing, welfare, and a living-wage job, due to failing a government-mandated test of his urine for traces of marijuana, and a decades-old prior conviction for a nonviolent crime. What’s going to happen to his family? What if one of his kids gets sick? Doesn’t it make your conservative blood boil to hear about the government holding people’s lives hostage with a list of preconditions seemingly designed to perpetuate poverty in our most vulnerable communities? In the name of the free market, don’t you agree that the government needs to treat those it assists with dignity and respect? So anyway, that’s what happened, with a few key details switched around. Wagoner resigned as CEO today, in accordance with the Obama administration’s refusal to dole out more federal aid to GM without a change of leadership. Conservative commentators are up in arms about this, saying ‘socialism’ and that a politician has no right to make business decisions, i.e. to place conditions on the financial behavior of others. I caught a whiff of hypocrisy in this, but John Cole at Balloon Juice nails it:

My reliably conservative relative called me last night and asked me if I was not upset about this, and then got mad at me and told me I was just blinded by love for Obama when I said I couldn’t care less. Why would I? Few on the right have any problem telling welfare recipients what to do. I doubt (The Atlantic‘s) Andrew (Sullivan) has ever seen a welfare reform bill he didn’t like. Other than Josh Trevino, I don’t remember any opposition from the right about the Bankruptcy Bill and all the draconian demands placed on individuals.

The unemployment rate in Detroit just hit a 26-year high of 22.2%, while more states consider drug testing for welfare recipients. Joblessness among former prisoners after a year is somewhere around 75 percent — three times the level among the same population before incarceration. While the the nationwide numbers of unemployment continue to grow, welfare benefits have not. Word on the street is that Wagoner, who presided over a layoff-riddled General Motors since 2000, is getting a $20 million severance check. Our thoughts are with his family.