Little surprises me anymore. But when the president of the United States fires the last chair of the American auto industry, I have to admit, I didn’t see that one coming. If there was any question that President Obama might not follow through on his promise of “change’, he answered with clarity.

Firing Rick Wagoner sent a number of messages. One message was that the good money on bad era is over. It’s been abundantly clear that GM and Chrysler were satisfied to continue an internal bartering process with their bloated infrastructure. Then, when the books didn’t balance, they’d fly in on their private jets and show up on Capitol Hill with fedoras in hand. It’s a process that began in the 1970’s and ensured their demise in the current climate.

A more important message is that business as usual is hereby terminated. The fact is that GM and Chrysler have failed as businesses. On paper, they’re a fire sale waiting for the auctioneer. For some reason though, our history has been one of staving off the inevitable by gouging the taxpayer. Folks hear that GM and Chrysler are begging the government to finance their inefficiency, bloated workforce and lower quality products. But the truth is, they’re asking every American taxpayer to dip into their pocketbooks and pay a premium to keep them swimming in empty real estate, overpaying underperforming laborers and producing cars that hold a fraction of their value compared to the competitors. Ironically enough, they ask for this while “foreign” automakers outperform them on their own turf.

But here’s the most important message. We have a President who will finally hold Lear Jet beggars like Wagoner accountable. Barack Obama has sent the message that we will finally weather the tough transitions necessary to right the ship. That is, if the ship is right-able. Of course Wagoner, and the rest of us never saw it coming. But has there ever been a more symbolic figure of the sleepwalking, “business as usual” condition of American Business?

Now Mr. President, what about Robert Willumstad?
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