Wednesday, June 10, 2015

GM bosses knew their cars were killing people.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

US Mulls Criminal Charges For GM, the Wall Street Journal announces this morning.  The offense that GM is accused of is Wire Fraud.  One of the definitions of Wire Fraud is:
“Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

It describes exactly the economic and related activities of capitalism but in this case we are talking about the activities of a major US corporation.

What to an ordinary person would be murder with intent appears, in the eyes of the bourgeois justice system to be, well, Wire Fraud.  You see, some 100 people have died due to a defect in a product made by GM, namely, automobiles. It’s tricky. GM, the US Justice Dept. claims, “failed” to recall vehicles that had a defective ignition switch that led to these deaths.  GM didn’t simply “fail” to recall the vehicles, it “…made misleading statements and concealed information” from the public and the Justice Dept. we assume. GM under pressure, commissioned a report last year that produced evidence the company had “failed for more than a decade to recall millions of vehicles……even though it had evidence of the safety problem.”

So GM made “misleading statements”  GM “wasn’t forthcoming” GM, “Concealed information” “The company in 2005 and 2006…” the WSJ states, “Avoided” describing the problem accurately and “for years didn’t alert regulators” to the problem. In 2014, GM paid $35 million regulatory fine for its transgressions.

In a previous case Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion under similar circumstances and with similar charges.  Toyota admitted it “mislead” customers but has been “…working hard to communicate even faster. Better and more transparently with our customers and regulators…” a Toyota spokesperson says. To this writer’s knowledge no one was killed due to the “deceptive statements” Toyota made about safety issues and its vehicles.

With regards to GM in the aftermath of the above mentioned report from 2014, “….it isn’t clear what specific evidence prosecutors are focused on in the GM case…”, the WSJ writes. Well how about dead people? Are they not evidence?

The first thing that stands out is that it appears GM can speak. GM says this--- GM says that. Toyota too is quite talkative.  But the language of Mr. GM and Mr. Toyota does not seem to include the word “lie” or lying”.  Nor does the US Justice Department.  Mr. Toyota and Mr. GM have not been accused of lying as we can see from the quotes I share here. Toyota’s lawyers tried to get around the fine by arguing that if the Justice Dept. was not willing to charge individuals and prove their guilt in court they should charge the company.

The prosecutors claim that Toyota wouldn’t make its employees available for interviews. Well, the FBI just showed it doesn’t let that stop them as indictments and extraditions of foreign nationals are moving along quite smoothly in the FIFA corruption scandal which is less a corruption issue rather than a geopolitical one.  The US government doesn’t care too much about corruption. But it is rare indeed that the 1%’s justice system will imprison some of its key members.

So 100 American citizens were murdered is what happened. Well, maybe only 95 as perhaps Mr. GM was informed of the cause after 5 deaths or so and for ten years let the carnage continue---profits come first. How can this not be murder? You can get murder charges for drunk driving and killing a pedestrian. 

In that case they don’t interview the car and reports in the media tell us that the “car” explained that it was unaware the pedestrian would run out in front of it and the “car” said it acted within the framework of the law and the pedestrian was at fault.

The people responsible for these deaths of innocent Americans (assuming they were all Americans) have names and faces. They are very wealthy and have connections in high places.  They live in homes, most likely in communities we cannot enter and where first amendment rights like the right to picket or protest do not apply. I learned long ago through union activity that the First Amendment does not apply in the workplace.

And while we wouldn’t oppose regulation it has its limits. The capitalist mode of production cannot be regulated to the point where profits are curtailed. Capitalism is a coercive and exploitive system of production; it will not regulate itself in to an egalitarian system.  Those responsible for the murder of 11 deep-water oil rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico and the environmental disaster that market driven catastrophe has created are not known to us, after all, Mr. BP paid the fine and that is the justice the 1% needs.  It is somewhat laughable were the consequences not so tragic that the drafting of the regulations for deep sea oil drilling were placed in the competent hands of MR. BP, MR. Exxon and the others in the energy industry.

As a steward at work, the bosses were not shy about using terms like theft, lying, dishonesty and other descriptive terms when it came to workers’ transgressions. This is why I have no problem defending “guilty” workers”. There’s two sides in this war and we can see quite clearly that a corporation can get away with murder. In a fair world we’ll treat all people equally but the 1% don’t so nor should we.

But capitalism is not fair. It is theft. The productive forces are set in motion on the basis of private gain not social need; transparency in the corporate world is not possible. The development of transportation in society should not be a for profit activity, it is a social need and should be a social project and if it was, it is without doubt the inefficient and wasteful automobile would not be king.

Meanwhile we need to find the actual murderers of 100 Americans who are being aided and abetted, by Mr. GM.

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