Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 8, 2009

A BOYCOTT IS A VERY BAD IDEA.... I can appreciate why government intervention in support of General Motors is controversial. I can even understand why Republicans would hope to exploit the issue for short-term partisan gain.

But organizing a boycott of a struggling U.S. auto manufacturer, just to spite the nation's elected leadership, seems like a spectacularly bad idea. Hugh Hewitt, for example, had this item the other day. (thanks to reader T.B.)

This is a decision that must be reversed. GM must be denationalized, the federal government divested of not just its controlling interest but all of its interest in the company. The Republican leadership must immediately and loudly demand the sale of the federal share in the company, even if it costs a large part of the $50 billion already invested. [...]

In the effort to reverse this lurch beyond the farthest left fringe of previous Democratic statist urges, individual Americans have a role to play. They have to say no to GM products and services until such time as the denationalization occurs. This is a painful conclusion for those of us with friends still working for the company, and who had supported aggressive efforts to help the private company restructure.

But there isn't any alternative, every dollar spent with GM is a dollar spent against free enterprise.

It would be an exaggeration to say this is catching on, but as one prominent industry blog noted, "Hewitt is by no means alone. The boycott theme is quickly spreading across the conservative talk radio world, as well as on websites like the one operated by the rightist Washington Times."

There's no shortage of reasons to find these efforts bizarre, but the one that stands out is how backwards it is. The Obama administration intervened to prevent the collapse of a major American company, but its goal is to see GM get back on its feet and divest as quickly as possible. A boycott, organized by far-right activists, would work against Americans' interests -- it would undermine GM, exacerbate the company's problems, and undercut taxpayers who obviously have a lot invested in this arrangement.

This isn't complicated. If GM's finances improve, the government can divest, American jobs will be saved, and taxpayers can get a return on their money. That would be a good thing.

There's been debate in conservative circles over the last several months about whether, in the midst of multiple crises, it's appropriate to root for failure. But it's even more striking to see some conservatives trying to actively ensure failure, regardless of the consequences for the country.

Steve Benen 1:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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They're failures themselves, and failure is the only outcome they know how to produce.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on June 8, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think there is any point in calling these guys adults anymore.

Posted by: Former Dan on June 8, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes you have to destroy an economy to defeat a union.

Posted by: PeakVT on June 8, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

But there isn't any alternative, every dollar spent with GM is a dollar spent against free enterprise.

Substitute "Toyota" for "free enterprise", and you'll understand what he is saying.

Posted by: Danp on June 8, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

NEWSFLASH: Conservatives propose disastrous policy.

Yawn. They're really good at bad ideas.

I would credit them with clipping quotes, but I'm beginning to think that's just a function of their short attention spans.

Posted by: JM on June 8, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"But it's even more striking to see some conservatives trying to actively ensure failure, regardless of the consequences for the country."

Not so striking at all. How long until Obama "owns" the economic and political crises? Every delay and/or failure of the Obama administration's effort to reverse the 20-year slide into the present disaster will contribute evidence to Repub talking points and their own hopes for electoral recovery in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Delay and obstruct is the minority party's theme. This is, unfortunately, just more of the same.

Why are republicans so anti-American? Power is more important than patriotism.

Posted by: Steve on June 8, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Where were they when we lent the banks more money than they were worth. Why would we want to listen to the greedy free marketeers who want to concentrate the wealth into a few hands and country be damned. These people don't give a damn about America as a nation...just their profiteering at the nation's expense. It would be better if major portions of their so called free market were owned by the people...for their benefit...but we are just helping GM out of the mess created by the logic of people like Hewitt. Now go stand in the corner and STFU before you create more and bigger disasters.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 8, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans, thy name is Social Irresponsibility.

These people out of allegience to some abstract principle are willing to wreak havoc on the public. And yet they are they very same people who coined the term Tree Huggers, and complained that environmentalists cares more about Owls and snail darters than people. Hypocrites. Crazy, mean spirited hypocrites.

Posted by: c4logic on June 8, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, I wonder what the (overwhelmingly Republican) surviving GM dealerships think about this?

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on June 8, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Everything the political right has done vis. the crisis at GM and Chrysler has been been both reactive and political. They have opposed whatever Obama is doing, or what they THINK that Obama is doing, regardless of merit. And for that reason, their approach to the problem has been completely incoherent.

They opposed the GM and Chrysler bailouts, but complain about the job losses from the dealership closings (and have wailed about partisanship in which dealers lost their franchises). They complain about "socialism" when Obama fired Rick Wagoner but demand accountability for bad business decisions ... like having the companies fail. And now they are trying to organize a boycott of GM's products ... to try to damage GM's chances in the open market, to prove that government help always produces failure?

So ... let's try to reason the results out. A total failure of GM would somehow be good, and the right result, because it would prove that the free market works. The job losses from such a failure would presumably be OK, since they are caused by the market. But a bailout is bad, because it involves government intervention, and it is wrong for idealogical reasons - and the job losses from restructuring are the government's fault, even though fewer people are hurt, since the government is involved. And now these guys want to put their thumb on the scale, by organizing a consumer boycott to intervene in the market, in order to countermand the government's actions and prove that the bailout won't work on its own merits ... and force GM to fail.

I have just one question - will people like Hewitt then blame the resulting job losses -- which come from THEIR actions -- on Obama?

Seriously - the anger and contempt that I feel for these guys is intense. Do they have ANY sense of responsibility for their actions?

Posted by: Bokonon on June 8, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with Steve: A successful boycott would help prevent a GM recovery, so that if it fails and the company's assets are liquidated, the Right can say We Told You So. The media would have forgotten about the boycott, of course.

Posted by: Bill H. on June 8, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

if there's one face i'd like to see the ol' iron boot come down on forever, it'd be hewitt's...

or instead, maybe a daily mammogram -- yeah, that's the ticket.

Posted by: neill on June 8, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

This is the same reason I won't call the police or the fire department, even if I need them.

Posted by: doubtful on June 8, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

The government should sell its stake in GM... to whom? Ford? Toyota? France?

Posted by: Seth Gordon on June 8, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

An insanely bad idea for all the reasons Steve gives. I don't think that it would be completely paranoid to suspect those behind it of a bit of low cunning, which wingnuts tend to be very good at instead of real thinking. There is a real chance that GM is going to have a very hard time as potential customers remain worried about buying their cars for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the mighty boycott. If things do go wrong, the wingnuts can claim credit and represent themselves as all powerful. Of course, one wonders whether getting the credit, or rather blame, is something they should want.
Suppose GM does get it's act together, produce some good cars that would suit a lot of customers, offer them at attractive prices and so on. How good is it going to look if a bunch of right wing loonies froth about refusing to buy GM cars, proudly cutting of their noses to spite their faces?

Posted by: J on June 8, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

When right-wing nuts boycott a company, I usually make an effort to give that company more business.

Unfortunately, this would require me to buy a GM car. So probably not.

Posted by: LaFollette Progressive on June 8, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's called "Revolutionary defeatism" and Lenin beat them to it by 90 years or so.

Posted by: Mischa Sogut on June 8, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I hear Hewitt is planning a grape boycott next.

Oh wait, that's been done before hasn't it?

Although I will say don't hold your breath until divesture comes. It will be a long time before that happens just to begin with. Have the Feds divested themselves of Amtrak yet? I didn't think so.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on June 8, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

It's quite a sight to behold Replublicans calling for free-market principles while telling their followers to embargo the products of a particular company.

Posted by: terraformer on June 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Ok. You want a scary picture of that bottom 20% of America political IQ - the Cheney dead enders?

Read the comments to Hewett's essay. Dude, they are scary nuts.

Posted by: Keith G on June 8, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should boycott food since the govt has been subsidizeing farm products for ever.

Posted by: Gandalf on June 8, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, I wonder what the (overwhelmingly Republican) surviving GM dealerships think about this?

Since Republicans all seem to be under the impression that the dealerships will still be able to operate as usual even if they have no stock to sell, I'm sure they like it just fine.

They're not real good at looking ahead and noticing the probable consequences of their decisions. See also: Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on June 8, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

The worst outcome for the right is that GM turns things around, becomes a profitable company and the U.S. divests any public interest in it. That would be bad because it would be an example of government successfully playing a constructive role and that would give "big government" greater legitimacy and engender greater public good will and trust. So now you can understand how horrible that would be to the right and how afraid they are that Obama might succeed.

Posted by: tomb on June 8, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

What's sad is that they are probably targeting a large part of the GM market; lower/middle class who still have a desire to buy American (and don't mind the quality lacking in the American models - and before anyone loses it on me, I rent cars weekly and GM is by far, the worst of the lot, right about at par with Chyrsler. If one cares to know why these companies went belly up, look at the vehicles they produce...they suck. All that said, I do not want them to fail because manufacturing is the core of our economy and we are seeing enough of it go away daily, as is.)

As someone said above, this is nothing but union busting on a grand scale.

And the dumbasses who support these conservative clowns are, yet again, cutting off their own noses to spite their spiteful faces.

I loathe these people with every fiber of my being. I have never felt this way in my life. This isn't just politics. Our country is broken and these fuckers broke it.

Can we PLEASE get some grown up's in government on the "conservative" side?


Posted by: MsJoanne on June 8, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"But it's even more striking to see some conservatives trying to actively ensure failure, regardless of the consequences for the country."

SOP for the GOP. Its striking only because it is so blatant. The only thing they want working in this country is the spigot that showers cash on the upper class. The rest can go to hell for all they care. Regardless of the consequences.

Posted by: henk on June 8, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Right wing boycotts work so well. Look at how that fundamentalist-wacko boycott brought Disney to its knees.



Disney still has same-sex benefits and still let's gay groups hold events in their parks.

I guess that didn't work so well after all.

Posted by: Anonny on June 8, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Why does Hew Hughitt hate American industry?

Posted by: hen3ry on June 8, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see any need to worry. If their boycott goes as well as the Tea Bagging events, GM's stock will go through the roof.
These people couldn't organize a cup of coffee.

Posted by: Fnord on June 8, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I can not really defend GM, but I did buy a Malibu recently for my daughter which was the first domestic car I purchased in the last 13 years--I used to buy Fords, but its quality kept going down too. The bottom line for me was the bottom line. It was too good a deal, given Consumer Reports, to pass up and my daughter was going to get stranded some where sooner or later with what she was driving. I feel even better about it if I am opposing the weird right.

Posted by: Terry on June 8, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Criticizing government policy, or even hoping those policies fail, is one thing. But actively trying to bring about that failure? That's a new low. That's like going to Iraq and replacing American soldiers' ammunition with blanks.

Posted by: shawn on June 8, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's called "Revolutionary defeatism" and Lenin beat them to it by 90 years or so.

All power to the soviets of hedge-fund managers and preachers!

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 8, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I get it. It's not a boycott of GM (in their minds), it's a boycott of Obama. Whatever he want to happen, they want the opposite. It's the Quincy Wagstaff school of politics.

As for the probable fate of GM in the event of a successful boycott and it's effect on Americans, that would require an understanding of basic economics and of arithmetic, neither of which appear with any frequency among Republicans.

Posted by: Daddy Love on June 8, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

If their boycott goes as well as the Tea Bagging events... -Fnord

I was just thinking it was a good thing GM didn't make tea or the right wing would have no way to illustrate their disdain.

Posted by: doubtful on June 8, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

The richness of Hugh Hewitt's analytical prowess - no level of stupidity is inconceivable.

Posted by: SRW1 on June 8, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

If huge numbers of people refuse to buy GM cars, how will that be different from now?

Posted by: lemonade on June 8, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

I read somewhere on Atrios' comments section that, were GM to go down, a handful of hedge funds would make a hell of a lot of money.

Does Mr. Hewitt have a connection?

Accurate? I don't know. But these hedgers have been betting against US businesses for a while now...


Posted by: MasterD, damn yankee on June 8, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if you want the president's attempts to revive the economy to fail, you have to work pretty damn hard at it. I wonder how Clear Channel feels about paying half a billion dollars to have its ad base attacked...

Posted by: paul on June 8, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Judging by GM's recent record, a boycott will not be necessary. People will just buy other American-made cars: Fords, Toyotas, Volkswagens, Hyundaes (made in Alabama.)

The economy-wide advantage of the boycott would be that the GM demise would be over more quickly and cheaply than if GM keeps limping along with ever more government subsidies and Congressional/Executive interference.

In the meantime, people are postponing new car purchases as they improve their bank/credit balances and wait for the whole management/technical reorganization (new fuels, new mileage standards, new engines), and jobs uncertainty, to settle down.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 8, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

And these people call themselves patriotic americans. Gm represents the jobs of hundreds of thousands of americans, most with families to provide for, the rich slob Limbaugh is really trying for Obama to fail to clear up Bush's mess. Didn't Cheney say that the GM problem was too involved for them to deal with so they left it for Obama (that and a lot of other problems) the republican governors in the south seem to dragging their heels with the stimulus projects and already are saying - see it does not work. I think they are the lowest of the low life, Obama is fighting for American families survival and the repubs care nothing but for themselves. I am angry.

Posted by: JS on June 8, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs to me that Hewitt & Limbaugh are engaging in what is, at rock bottom, the ultimate mission of the GOP: goading lower/middle class Americans to act against their own financial self interest.

Posted by: pinson on June 8, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

This could really hurt Cadillac sales! Most of the Cadillacs I see on the road are being driven by the rich, old, white country club Establishment. IE, a key component of the Republcan'ts' "base."

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 8, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

"but its goal is to see GM get back on its feet and divest as quickly as possible."

I don't believe the administration. Why should I really.

What's ironic about any conservative boycott is that I've no doubt conservatives are the ones most likely to have owned GM products in the past (muscle cars, pickups, Cadillacs), whereas liberals are probably most likely to own small foreign cars. So conservatives boycotting the company is more likely to have a larger effect than if liberals did, or so I would think (no data to back that up I'm afraid). So the question to liberals is this: Will you support your President by buying his cars?

Posted by: Mike on June 9, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

"A boycott, organized by far-right activists, would work against Americans' interests --"

Yeah, and? Far right politicians and their talk radio pit bulls are mesmerized by power and wealth. The larger welfare of the nation as a whole is just so much socialist girly-man talk to these troglodytes.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on June 9, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I hardly think unemployed, right-wing losers are in any position to be buying any vehicles at the moment, so this is a red herring.

Besides, even the ones with $$...what are they gonna do, run out and buy a Toyota Prius or a Honda Insight?

Posted by: scott on June 9, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

"The government should sell its stake in GM... to whom? Ford? Toyota? France?"

Maybe hedge funds will buy at a penny on the dollar and when the company does turn around, make a killing. Why let the gov't/taxpayers have the profit when you can undermine the President and enrich yourself in the process? That's how capitalism really works - it enriches the oligarchs at the expense of the working class every time. And if GM folds after their investment, what have they really lost?

In the process one of the last powerful unions in the country is busted and the American worker is another rung lower on the income scale - closer to third world wages. Das Base will be flush.

Maybe one day we will wake up and make capitalism what we want it to be. Who says what the rules are? We can make everything (including healthcare reform) uniquely American. I say it's American to channel capitalism so that everyone benefits.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on June 10, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK



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