The GM Ignition Switch Crime

A grieving Laura Christian (far right) appeals to GM and America for justice (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

A grieving Laura Christian (far right) appeals to GM and America for justice (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

W.J. Astore

Truthout has a powerful story on the GM ignition switch design flaw, the one that killed at least thirteen people, and possibly as many as 29 (or more).  If many are so eager to support capital punishment for mass murderers, why not the death penalty for GM?  GM knew about the problem with their switch, but apparently decided it was more cost effective not to engage in a recall that would cost the company roughly $1.5 million, or 57 cents per car.

As Truthout suggests, the big problem is no one is held responsible for corporate murder.  Some money washes hands in various lawsuits, perhaps a big fine will be levied by the government, but no one goes to jail, no specific person is punished.

This sad and tragic fact put me to mind (once again) of Don Henley’s song, “If Dirt Were Dollars,” in which he sings:

“These days the buck stops nowhere/no one takes the blame/but evil is still evil/in anybody’s name.”

If corporations are people, as the U.S. Supreme Court decided, and as Mitt Romney reminded us while he campaigned for president, can’t we punish them as people?

The death penalty is popular in many places in America — it allegedly deters the worst crimes, its supporters claim.  Isn’t it time for an ignition kill switch to be activated against GM?  That would certainly deter future companies from valuing their bottom lines more than the lives of their customers.

But I’m dreaming, of course.  Corporations are citizens, my friends, except they are much more equal as citizens than you and me.  How can we measure their value?  Look again to their financial bottom lines, and how much “free” speech that allows them to exercise in the halls of power.

And so it goes in the land that equates speech and honor with money and power.


4 thoughts on “The GM Ignition Switch Crime

  1. Prof. Astore. Why of course Corporations are people, but a very special kind of people. Aren’t we taught that
    corporations are the “lifeblood” of the nation? Isn’t that the reason why we give them extra money as tax breaks so that their blood will flow faster and make all of us common citizens happier? Isn’t that the reason we sent 7000 men and women to death in Iraq and Afghanistan?
    Would you wish to stop that corporate lifeblood from flowing by incarcerating them like ordinary citizens who may steal a loaf of bread to feed a hungry child.? One can’t compare a single hungry child to the “lifeblood” of the nation. Have you no mercy Prof. Astore?

  2. “Fight Club” immediately sprang to my mind. This movie so dazzled me it wasn’t until my third viewing or so that I absorbed the contents of a montage showing some of the jobs formerly held by ‘Tyler Durden.’ One of these was to examine the ghastly results of corporate irresponsibility–we see him examining the remains of an automobile that spontaneously combusted, frying its occupants–and advising those corporations on their odds of getting away with NOT admitting the problem’s existence. The ultimate decision to be made based on which choice will cost the company least. It is a sublime, deliciously witty commentary which almost whizzes by too fast to be apprehended.

  3. Unveiling the schema in ottava rima:

    Oath of Avarice

    I pledge allegiance to the corporation:
    A “person” as the judges have proclaimed,
    And place this “him” or “her” above my nation
    Whose Constitution “he” or “she” has maimed
    Pursuant to no legal obligation
    Except immunity — however named —
    For those investors in their campaign suites
    Who’d rather that we call them our “elites.”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2014

  4. At the very least GM is guilty of “negligent homicide” since it has admitted to knowing about the ignition switch issue but chose to do nothing about it. And all this over a 59cent part…

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