General Motors' planned new wave of shutdowns, including its Janesville plant, represents an escalation of its corporate decision to effectively secede from the United States. While it remains headquartered in Detroit, GM has wiped out some 85% of its U.S. jobs since 1990.
As the company abandoned U.S. communities like Flint, Mich., causing economic and social devastation, it became Mexico's largest private employer. GM has also doubled production in China over the last several years.
Meanwhile, GM has withdrawn its considerable political clout from promoting health-care reform, even though it costs the company about $4 per hour more to build cars here than in Canada, due to higher health-care costs. In the 1990s, GM's CEO Jack Smith backed a single-payer system like Canada's. But recently, GM refused to support even the more modest Healthy Wisconsin plan.
As noted by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, an ardent champion of outsourcing jobs to low-wage nations, firms like General Motors have been "missing in action" when it comes to vital political battles, like pushing for national health care, that would make America much more economically competitive.
Instead, GM's response to high U.S. health-care costs has been to shut down more U.S. plants and rely more heavily on Canada and on low-wage, impoverished nations like Mexico and China that provide no health care for workers.