I've been having these recurring dreams about going to the final G.M. bankruptcy auction in the year 2014.
These dreams have been curiously episodic, with each one beginning where the previous dream ended.....
In my dream, I wipe my feet on the Hillary doormat and go into the former office of General Motors' CEO Barack Obama.
GM's President Obama had the strangest career path in automotive history. From his early days as a failed community organizer, then his unremarkable tenure as a constitutional law professor, to his generic stay in the Illinois state senate, and a brief pit stop at the U.S. Senate., Obama finally used all of his non-experience as a launching pad to become leader of the free world for about six months.
But what Obama really wanted to do was make cars. Using his status as president of a less vital organization to mount his hostile takeover, Obama forced Rick Wagoner, GM's Old School president, to resign.
Then Obama started rebuilding every element that mattered in the GM organization - the union, the lobbyists, the environmental compliance officers, the get-out-the-vote specialists, the Card Check goons, the retirees' pension fund administrators, the rent seekers, the UAW liaisons, and the company logo.
Judging by campaign contributions from employees and vendors, things went well at first. But then it became necessary to sell some cars, and the government could only purchase so many for itself. So the government began issuing new coupons to low income families. These coupons were good for Agricultural College staples like eggs and cheese, or could be traded in for a Chevy Cavalier.
Within a few months, middle schoolers were calling all GM products "Loser Cruisers". No amount of marketing (Tipper Gore was brought in for a YouTube video in a failed attempt to revive the GTO) could restore any level of coolness to GM automobiles.
There was a failed re-branding campaign....
I slid into the chair behind Obama's desk, and put my feet up. To my left was the famed trophy case, still containing Hillary's pride and Larry Summers' integrity. To my right was a large bookcase displaying titles like CEO For Dummies, Auto Design For The Complete Idiot, and several hundred copies of Dreams Of My Father. The office had a massive picture window looking out over the now-quiet assembly line, and I could barely hear the auctioneer droning away.
How sad it would have to be, to work one's entire life to become President of a major car company, only to have it go out of business.
I make a note to bid on the trophy case, and go back into the hallway toward the production floor. The auctioneer is on a rolling platform, obviously frustrated that there is no longer a market for much of what he is selling....
"Ok, let's move on to the next lot," he says. "Who'll give me three million dollars for this inline paint system? Who'll give me two million? Somebody start us off. One million? 500K? Somebody get us going...."
Mr. China looks at his shoes. Mr. Japan heads to the restroom.
"What do you want to pay for this system? Somebody start us off. It cost 40 million when they installed it in the nineties. Who'll start us off at fifty thousand?"
Mr. China says something about not having enough carbon credits. Mr. Taiwan is unseen, remaining the silent online bidder. They both look at me, and I have to explain that I'm not registered with the cap-and-trade system. Eventually I offer $500, out of guilt more than anything else, and the auctioneer immediately says "Sold". If I'm lucky, I'll clear enough from a scrap dealer to purchase a McDonald's Value Meal.
No one bids on the welders. They emit gases into the atmosphere.
No one bids on the shears or machining centers. The insurance is too expensive. Lawsuits waiting to happen.
No one bids on the giant punch presses - they're now White Elephants. With permits, fees, sin taxes, and other regulations, no one can afford to drive any of the large cars this machine once created. Most new model 2014 cars are small enough to be made on an anvil.
The auction goes on and on, with most of the lots going unsold, or selling for pennies on the dollar. And then I find myself raising my hand for one more irrational purchase.
I woke up at 6:00 this morning, wondering how I was going to explain paying $2,000 for a "Hillary" doormat. Thank God it was a dream. I get a feeling I'm going to dream about this damn auction again tonight.