Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Complex System Underlies Simple Story about GM Layoffs

I found this article in the Times yesterday about layoffs at GM.  It seemed pretty straightforward.
General Motors announced Monday that it planned to idle five factories in North America and cut roughly 14,000 jobs in a bid to trim costs. It was a jarring reflection of the auto industry’s adjustment to changing consumer tastes and sluggish sales.
It’s pretty remarkable because, as short as it is, it is directly or indirectly related to many dimensions of public policy I've devoted time and attention to in this blog, including inequality, taxes, interest rates, growth, trade, energy policy, climate change, globalization, immigration, and even automation and the future of work.

But then I thought about it and concluded I would have appreciated the article even more if Boudette, the author, had bothered to connect the elements in his article into a system.  As is, the story leaves the reader with a pretty clear victim (organized labor) and villain (GM management).  In this frame, the article appears to be a list of factors that help the reader understand why GM has decided to permanently close these plants.  It is, in effect, an apologia for GM management.  And relationships between public policy and poor socio-economic outcomes remain implicit if they are mentioned at all.