GM Is Back in Black in a Big Way

The Cadillac logo (a division of General Motors) is viewed on January 31, 2012 at the 2012 Washington Auto Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. The auto show runs through February 5.

Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

General Motors is reporting record (nominal) profits for 2011, despite losses in South America and Europe driven by the strong recovery in demand for vehicles in North America. That still hasn’t recovered us all the way back to “normal” status so GM probably still has a ways to climb. “The company says union workers will get $7,000 profit-sharing checks,” so good for them.

To strike a bit of a discordant note about this, however, as an environmentalist and an urbanist I’m not super enthusiastic about the way that the bailouts have created a “what’s good for General Motors is what’s good for the United States of America” situation. The bailout issue is hardly the lone difference-maker here. Bailout-hating House Republicans are trying to pass a transportation funding bill that will starve mass transit of money and pour everything into highways, but I still think it’s unfortunate that we’ve basically doubled down on the auto-centric industrial policy that served the United States well enough in the 1950s and ‘60s but has long since passed its sell-by date.