What's good for General Motors...

People used to bridle at the equation of the automaker's welfare with the nation's. But it has never been truer

Published May 29, 2009 9:03PM (EDT)

During the Friday edition of the White House's regular news briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs got into some back and forth with a persistent questioner on the topic of whether the UAW was getting a better deal than GM's bondholders.

One could argue that both sides would stand to be in pretty bad shape if the U.S. government wasn't around to pump billions and billions of dollars into the enterprise to keep it a going concern, so keeping score on who is doing better out of the deal is beside the point. But I couldn't help recalling GM President Charlie Wilson's testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing for the position of Secretary of Defense in 1953, to the effect that he could not conceive of a situation where, as Secretary, he could make a decision that would hurt GM's interests "because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa."

If the bankruptcy filing goes as planned, the U.S. Treasury will own 70 percent of the new GM, meaning, to all intents and purposes, that "the country" will be General Motors. So I guess now we have to ask: "Is what's good for the country good for GM bondholders or vice versa?"

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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