In this season of celebration, when even families of humble means somehow find reasons for comfort and joy, we shouldn’t forget those who are truly suffering deprivation and hardship.
An eloquent plea to ease such suffering came last week from Dan Akerson, CEO of General Motors, and it’s truly heart-wrenching.
In a speech to the Economic Club in Washington, Akerson said government limits on executive compensation at bailed-out companies are hurting GM’s ability to keep top talent. “We have to be able,” Akerson said, “to attract and retain great people.”
Let’s presume he means a different set of “great people” from the ones who steered the American auto industry into bankruptcy, then flew to Washington in private corporate jets to schmooze Congress for twelve-digit welfare.
Mind you, Akerson, who says GM has learned “a lesson in humility,” isn’t pleading his own case. He’ll unselfishly make do on the meager $9 million a year the heavy hand of big government grudgingly allows him.
No, he’s arguing on behalf of the other GM executives he had the unhappy duty of telling not to expect increases or bonuses next year. Think about it: There are people in Detroit who might not be able to buy that chalet in Aspen, or build another wing on the house at Grosse Pointe. The yacht on Lake Erie might have to go another year without a new Jacuzzi.
If you can live with that, Ebenezer Scrooge has nothing on you.
We’ve heard this “best and the brightest” argument before. In fact, a historian named David Halberstam wrote a book by that name. It’s about the Ivy League brain trust that led the Kennedy and Johnson administrations deeper and deeper into the Vietnam War.
By the way … how’d that work out?
I’m not comparing General Motors to Vietnam, but they do have this in common: Both are on the American taxpayer’s tab. In fact, we still own a third of GM.
So it’s up to us. Yes, I know budgets are already strained this time of year. I know some of us are having a tough time just getting by. I know unemployment is close to double digits. And I know we’ve already given GM close to $50 billion. But that’s clearly not enough.
So let’s open our hearts and wallets just a little wider for those who really need it. If you’d like to help, call 1-800-55-GIMME.
Or just write a big check to General Motors. By now, we should all be used to that.