Are Americans a ''generous'' people? General Motors Co. CEO Dan Akerson says so, but I'll bet he'd rather not put that proposition to the test.
Here is how The Detroit News recently reported Akerson's views on the federal bailout of GM, which would lose taxpayers more than $12 billion at current GM stock prices:
''We are in the midst of transforming an iconic American company so 20 and 30 years from now (taxpayers) will look at this company and they'll say, 'Absolutely it was the right thing to do,' '' Akerson said. ''And it shouldn't be measured on did it sell for $43 or $53 (a share) or did they lose a couple billion dollars?''
GM was saved, he said, because of the extreme generosity of Americans - a spirit that helped restore Europe and Japan after World War II and rebuilt cities such as New Orleans after natural disasters.
''We're the most generous country, even in terrible times,'' Akerson said.
Can he really believe taxpayers that would have been thrown in prison if they had refused to send tax money to Washington to hand to General Motors were being generous to his company?
If Akerson really believes Americans would be generous toward an automaker whose line workers and managers receive far more in pay, pensions, health benefits and other perks than most Americans whose tax dollars paid for the bailout of GM (and of Chrysler, GM's crosstown rival for automotive failure), why didn't he just put out a plea for money directly from Americans? Not from a government backed by armed tax enforcers, but from the people themselves?
Generosity is not forced. It is given. People don't pay taxes because they are generous. They pay them because they are forced.
Which brings us to another part of the Akerson interview: his call for sharply higher taxes on the motorists he hopes will buy GM cars and trucks. Here is more from The Detroit News story:
A government-imposed tax hike, Akerson believes, will prompt more people to buy small cars and do more good for the environment than forcing automakers to comply with higher gas-mileage standards ...
''You know what I'd rather have them do - this will make my Republican friends puke - as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas,'' Akerson said.
That's not necessary at all, if Americans are so generous. Instead of forcing people to pay another 50 cents or one dollar on a gallon of gas, we should simply make it easy for people to voluntarily pay more.
We could program gas pumps to charge two prices, one with an extra 50 cents or dollar a gallon and one without.
I, for one, don't believe Mr. Akerson and his corporate welfare-sucking ilk believe Americans are ''generous'' when government forces us to pay for their failures and mistakes. They know better; they just hope we don't.
For Akerson to speak of ''generosity'' while knowing people were forced to save his company, and to call for higher gasoline taxes so his industry won't be as horribly strangled by regulations as others, shows how little he thinks of the American people. He flatters us and then insults us with sophistry, mendacity and cynicism.
Stanek writes for Heartland Institute.