Painters who fell to their deaths are just 19 of the 75,500 Chinese Construction Deaths in 2011

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

China is exploding in construction activity.  There is a building spree going on over there.  Where it seems like money is no object.  And worker safety is not a great concern (see Workers killed as elevator plummets 34 floors to ground by Zhou Lihua in Wuhan, Hubei and Zhao Lei posted 9/14/2012 on China Daily).

Nineteen workers at a construction site in Wuhan, Hubei province, died on Thursday after the elevator they were using fell 100 meters to the ground.

The tragedy happened around 1 pm when 19 painters at the construction site of Donghujingyuan, a residential real estate project, were taking an elevator, according to the local fire department…

Residents living near the construction site said the maximum capacity of the elevator used by the workers is 12 passengers, reported cnhan.com, a major news website in Wuhan.

Why the elevator was overloaded remains unknown…

More than 347,000 work-related accidents happened in 2011, and more than 75,500 people died in such accidents, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

If you ever have the opportunity to tour a large U.S. construction site take it.  If you can, spend a day or two there.  See how they start every day.  With a safety meeting.  See them discuss hot work permits (any work that could act as a source of ignition).  You can’t just do this work without first having your hot work plan approved.  Note a worker on an 8-foot ladder.  Chances are he or she will be wearing a fall-prevention harness.  Note a worker in a manhole and the retrieval harness tripod above the hole to winch the worker out in case they are injured inside the manhole.  Note how they have a piece of test equipment to continuously monitor the air quality before they enter the hole.  And while they’re in the hole.  Note the big steel trench boxes inserted inside an open trench to protect workers from a cave-in.  Note the rebar ends sticking up out of the ground covered with bright colored protective caps to prevent anyone being impaled on one.

As you take all of these safety precautions in you can’t but help think of one thing.  How can they actually build anything having to comply with all of these costly safety requirements?  And they are costly.  Which is why they don’t build buildings like they used to.  The safety budget reduces the construction budget.  Greatly increasing the cost of construction.  So much so that small contractors can’t even afford to work on the big jobs because the safety requirements would bankrupt them.  Just as an OSHA fine would if they were caught in a safety nonconformance.  For being safe is very costly.  And trying to be unsafe is costlier still.  So our construction workers are safer.  But it comes with a price.  It makes construction much more expensive.  Giving us less building for the buck.

China doesn’t burden their construction industry with excessive safety requirements.  Based on the number of construction deaths.  In 2011 75,500 workers died.  By contrast the number of U.S. workers who died in the construction industry in 2010 was 751 according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Or 0.99% the number of deaths in China.  So it would appear that China is a little more lax with their construction safety.  Which probably explains why they can build so much.  Because they aren’t spending a large chunk of their construction budgets on safety.  Which means we could never build like the Chinese.

This is the advantage of one-party rule.  Of communism.  People are expendable.  In fact those 75,500 who died opened up jobs for more unemployed Chinese moving into the cities from the impoverished rural country.  So a little worker attrition actually helps.  And yet the American Left likes to point to China as the way capitalism should be done.  With the state running it.  So it’s fair.  And not all about the profits.  The Left would love to have the U.S. government run private industry like they do in China.  Even though that kind of state-capitalism comes with a higher death rate for workers on the job.

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China to Punish Airbus and EU Airlines if the European Union Proceeds with their Emission Trading System

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Fighting global warming is one thing.  But hurting aircraft sales is another.  Which will happen if the EU goes ahead with their Emission Trading System.  So Airbus is begging the EU not to ruin the aviation industry (see Airbus ministers seek EU CO2 plan delay: Hintze by Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan posted 9/14/2012 on Reuters).

Aerospace officials of the European countries where Airbus (EAD.PA) makes its planes will push for a suspension of the European Union’s Emission Trading System (ETS) for airlines to avert retaliation from China, an official said on Tuesday…

Michael Fallon, new business minister in Britain, said at the ILA Berlin Air Show on Tuesday: “Airbus has left us with no doubt that the threat of retaliatory action is a clear and present danger to its order list.”

There is harsh opposition to the ETS from European air travel companies and countries outside the EU such as the United States, Australia and Brazil that have said they want a global agreement to curb carbon emissions rather than a European law that extends to non-EU companies.

Which is a nice way of saying they should scrap the whole ETS.  But if they said that the environmentalists would say they hate the planet.  That they’re global warming deniers.  And that they, of course, hate children.   So by saying we should have a global system instead of just a European one sounds like they believe in global warming.  While at the same time knowing there will never be a global system because the world can’t agree on anything.  And that China is not going to fall for any of this nonsense.  Because they play hardball.

China has threatened retaliation – including impounding European aircraft – if the European Union punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its emissions trading scheme (ETS), intended to curb pollution.

The dispute between China and the EU froze deals worth up to $14 billion, though China signed an agreement with Germany for 50 Airbus planes worth over $4 billion during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Beijing last month.

If the dispute is not resolved, Airbus will have to cut its production target for the A330 “pretty soon”, Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier said late on Monday.

Cancel billion dollar orders AND impound European aircraft?  That’s right.  The Chinese don’t take crap from anyone.  Especially from a bunch of whiny global warming alarmists.  Airlines everywhere are thanking China (behind closed doors, of course) for playing the heavy here.  So they can act like they really want to do what is right for the planet.  Without losing billions in business.

The airline industry has said the ETS distorts competition, forcing European carriers to pay more simply because of the fact they are based in the EU.

“We feel we are being discriminated against,” Hintze said. “We demand a global solution from an industrial policy point of view because we could otherwise put ourselves at a disadvantage in major markets…”

Airbus sales chief John Leahy suggested at a separate news conference on Tuesday that one possible solution could be that all airlines around the world pay a tax to ICAO for carbon emissions, regardless of where they are based.

The ETS is nothing but a way to generate revenue for a cash-strapped European Union.  For what will they do with the money they raise from their ETS?  Pretty much anything they want.  And one of the things they most desperately want is to close their budget deficits.  And the EU thought they had a real winner in the ETS.  Collect money from EU members.  And collect money from non-EU members.  Effectively transferring some EU costs onto nations outside of the EU.  It was perfect.  Except for one thing.  It required other countries to voluntarily pick up the tab for some EU spending.  And some are choosing not to no matter how worthy the cause.

A global carbon tax payable to the ICAO?  The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization?  And what, pray tell, will the UN do with that money?  Spend it on grants to green manufacturers to see if they can make jet fuel out of sea weed?  The aircraft manufacturers are doing everything they can to reduce jet fuel consumption because a plane that burns less fuel is a plane that sells better.  They don’t need a grant to do that.  Planes are carrying and burning less fuel per passenger mile than they ever have.  And they still have an incentive to reduce that even more.  Without any grants from the UN to improve fuel efficiency.

As countries around the world are suffering through economic problems the last thing they need is a new tax.  If anything they need a tax cut.  So the ETS should be the last thing we should be doing.  The earth will get by just fine without it.  In fact, it might even do better.  For the rise in global temperatures interestingly correspond to the time we began to fight global warming.  Back in the days when industry, trains and home furnaces belched coal smoke, soot and ash into the air we didn’t have a global warming problem.  Our cities were covered with coal smoke, soot and ash but the temperatures were just fine.  Perhaps a little more of the same would reverse this warming trend.  Say, encouraging our airplanes to burn a dirtier fuel so they put more emissions into the atmosphere that can block those warming rays from reaching the earth’s surface.  It works with volcanoes.  Perhaps it’ll work with manmade emissions, too.

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After the Fed says they will Print More Money (QE3) Egan-Jones downgrades U.S. Sovereign Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Back when the Congress and the White House were battling it out to raise the debt limit the final compromise to raise the limit caused Standard and Poor’s to lower the U.S. sovereign debt rating for the first time in history.  The Left blamed the Republicans for refusing to raise taxes.  As if the excessive spending had nothing to do with it.  Well, another credit agency is downgrading the U.S. sovereign debt rating.  And this happened after the Fed announced QE3.  And nothing else (see Egan-Jones downgrades U.S. rating on QE3 move by Wallace Witkowski posted 9/14/2012 on Market Watch).

Egan-Jones Ratings Co. said Friday it downgraded its U.S. sovereign rating to AA- from AA on concerns that the Fed’s new round of quantitative easing, or QE3, will hurt the U.S. economy. The ratings agency said the Fed’s plan of buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities a month and keeping interest rates near zero does little to raise GDP, reduces the value of the dollar, and raises the price of commodities.

QE3 is Keynesian stimulus.  Printing money.  Which according to Egan-Jones won’t help the economy.  Apparently the people at Egan-Jones aren’t Keynesians.  Like in the Obama administration.  And at the Fed.  QE3 will devalue the dollar and raise prices.  While it may cause some short-term stimulus it will only make things worse in the long run.  Because of that inflation.  And it doesn’t address the real drag on the economy.  The anti-business policies of the Obama administration.  The biggest one being Obamacare.  With Taxmageddon right up there with it.  It’s the high taxes and costly regulatory policies that are holding back economic growth.  And devaluing the dollar doesn’t help these problems.  It only compounds them.  By raising prices.

QE3 will take a bad economy and make it worse.  Making the recession longer.  And the eventual recovery more painful.  Just like every recovery after a long period of inflation.  Just like after the Seventies.  Just like after the Nineties after the dot-com bubble burst.  Just like now after the subprime mortgage crisis.  There is a pattern here.  Easy money leads to irrational exuberance.  (Reckless spending encouraged by cheap money.)  And very unpleasant recoveries.  We got out of the early Eighties recession by cutting taxes.  Not with inflationary monetary policies.  We got out of the early 2000s recession by cutting taxes.  Along with some inflationary monetary policy.  The recovery wasn’t as long lasting as it was following the Eighties.  Now they are only proposing inflationary monetary policy without any tax cuts.  Which is why the Great Recession lingers still.  Proving tax cuts stimulate.  Not inflationary monetary policy.

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The Fed believes the Third Time’s the Charm when it comes to Printing Money so here comes QE3

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

The Keynesians will print more money.  QE3 is on its way.  The third round of quantitative easing.  Because QE3 will pull this economy out of recession.  Just as they said QE2 would.  Just as they said QE1 would before that.  And just because they failed the last two times they tried this doesn’t mean it will fail this time, too (see Fed Pulls Trigger, to Buy Mortgages in Effort to Lower Rates by Jeff Cox, CNBC, posted 9/13/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

The Fed said it will buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities per month in an attempt to foster a nascent recovery in the real estate market. The purchases will be open-ended, meaning that they will continue until the Fed is satisfied that economic conditions, primarily in unemployment, improve…

Enacting the third leg of quantitative easing will take the Fed’s money creation past the $3 trillion level since it began the process in 2008.

According to the Wall Street Journal the Fed balance sheet stood at just below $1 trillion prior to the Great Recession.  That is, pre QE1.  Since then the Fed has increased that to $2.8 trillion prior to QE3.  An increase of 180%.  QE3 will take that above $3 trillion.  And increase from the level before the Great Recession of over 200%.    Meaning the monetary base after QE3 will be more than three times the monetary base prior to QE1.  And all during the Obama presidency.  In less than four years.  And just like QE1 and QE2 this latest quantitative easing won’t work either.  For like so many are saying if quantitative easing worked there would not have been a need for QE2 let alone QE3.  So it won’t help the economy.  But it will have an effect.

In addition, he addressed concerns that savers are being penalized from low interest rates, saying that the policy has allowed for growth in other areas.

“While low interest rates impose some costs, Americans will ultimately benefit most from the healthy and growing economy that low interest rates promote,” he said.

Small business owners have no idea of the full impact of Obamacare on their businesses.  So they are not hiring anyone anytime soon.  And then there’s Taxmageddon.  The largest tax increase in history to occur 1/1/2013.  Environmental policy.  And so on.  These are the things preventing people from hiring new employees.  And no amount of cheap money will change that.  Some people understand this.  Keynesians don’t.  In fact, the only thing they understand is spending money.  The key to economic activity is putting as much money into the hands of spenders as possible.  So they spend it.  And the people that get this money spend it, too.  And the people that get this money spend it after they get it.  And so on.  According to the Keynesian multiplier.  Where spending begets more spending.  Spending is good.  But savings is not.  According to Keynesians.  They see saving as lost economic activity.  Leakage from the economy.  So they want people to save as little as possible.  So they like low interest rates.  Because it provides no incentive for people to save.  So Keynesian policies penalize savers.  They understand this.  And they approve of this.

Of course with all the money the Fed is printing there will be inflation.  It’s just a matter of time.  We’d have double digit inflation right now based on the growth of the monetary base if there weren’t worse economies than the U.S. economy.  Some Eurozone countries are so bad no one wants to invest in their economies.  So they’re parking their money in the U.S.  Even at these low interest rates.  Even paying banks (i.e., negative interest rates) to hold their money.  Because it is the safest alternative.  But how long can this last?

The stock market, which had been slightly positive prior to the decision, shortly after 12:30 p.m., surged while bond yields, particularly farther out on the curve, jumped higher. Gold and other metals gained at least 1 percent across the board while the dollar slid against most global currencies…

Washington conservatives have been critical of the central bank’s money creation, which has caused its balance sheet to swell to $2.8 trillion. They worry that the growing money supply will lead to inflation, which has reared its head in food and energy prices but has remained tame through the broader economy.

Bill Gross, who runs bond giant Pimco, said the new round of easing would take the Fed’s balance sheet up to nearly $3.5 trillion if the purchases continue for a year.

“That potentially is reflationary,” he told CNBC. “We’re just to have to see if it works.”

Bonds issued when interest rates were higher have increased in value.  Because you can’t buy bonds today at such a high interest rate.  So older bonds (with higher interest rates) are worth more than newer bonds (at lower interest rates).

Gold increases in value when the value of the dollar drops.  Because the price of gold is in dollars.  So when you put more dollars into the monetary base you depreciate the dollar.  And raise prices.  Because it takes more weaker-dollars to buy the same things the once stronger-dollars bought.

So far inflation has been confined to food and energy.  Where it is harder to hide.  Especially oil.  Because it’s sold by the barrel for dollars.  So when you make the dollar weaker you send up the price of oil.  And everything you make from oil.  Like gasoline.  Which is why gasoline prices are approaching record highs.  Not because of a booming economy.  But because of inflation.

There is inflation in food, too.  But you can hide this a little.  You can keep prices steady while reducing portion sizes.  So the price per unit portion sold is higher.  But people don’t notice this as much as they do the price at the pump.  Where they cannot reduce the portion size.  Because gas is sold by the gallon.  Which means the full effect of Keynesian inflation monetary policy is reflected in the gas price.  Which is why high gas prices anger us more than just about everything else.

So inflation is here.  And at the rate they’re printing money it’s going to explode sooner or later.  For they’re printing it at a far greater rate than they did during the stagflation of the Seventies.  Giving Jimmy Carter that high misery index (unemployment rate plus the inflation rate).  A policy that did not help Carter’s economy.  Nor will it help the current economy.  In fact, it will only take a bad economy and make it worse.

If printing money worked the Seventies would have been a decade of unprecedented growth.  But they weren’t.  In fact all nations that printed money suffered from high inflation.  And poor economic growth.  Yet they pursue the same policy today.  Why?  Because if they don’t it’s an admission that their policies have been failures.  At the same time admitting that the Republican policies are better policies.  And they would rather throw the country into another depression before admitting that.

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The Left Hate Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan because they Restored their Countries to Greatness

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

The British Left hates Margaret Thatcher.  So much that they are already selling t-shirts celebrating her death.  Though she is still alive.  For she is the Ronald Reagan of Great Britain.  A singularly remarkable person who came along just in time to save a nation in decline.  And restore it to greatness (see The Left hates Margaret Thatcher because she reminds them they are wrong about everything by Daniel Hannan posted 9/12/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Now and again, we are reminded of the sheer nastiness of a certain kind of Leftie. Not, let me stress, all Lefties: I have Labour friends who are motivated by a more or less uncomplicated desire to help the disadvantaged.

But they march alongside some committed haters who define their politics not by what they like, but by what they loathe. They also define opponents not as human beings with whom they disagree, but as legitimate targets.

A lack of empathy, bordering almost on sociopathy sits behind their talk of caring and sharing.

Not much different from the American Left.  Who hate their political opponents.  And attack them personally.  With no understanding of the underlying policy in question.  For they never say they prefer tax, borrow and print (money) Keynesian economics over a more Austrian approach of sound money and low taxation.  The kind of policies that have made great economies great.  Instead they say their opponents hate women, hate poor people, hate children, hate seniors, etc.  And yet they are the tolerant people.  Who tolerate everyone that agrees with them.  And hates all those who disagree with them.  Making these tolerant some of the most intolerant of people.  Which is why they hate Ronald Reagan in America.  And they hate Margaret Thatcher in Britain.  Even though they both returned their countries to prosperity after a decade of decline and despair.

I am just old enough to remember the end of the Seventies: power cuts, three-day weeks, constant strikes, price and income controls, inflation.

Worst of all, I remember the sense of despair, the conviction that Britain was finished.

I don’t believe you can grasp Margaret Thatcher’s achievement without the context of what she displaced.

Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, this country had been outperformed by every European economy. ‘Britain is a tragedy — it has sunk to borrowing, begging, stealing until North Sea oil comes in,’ said Henry Kissinger.

The Wall Street Journal in 1975 was blunter: ‘Goodbye, Great Britain: it was nice knowing you.’

Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979 was like a thaw after the cruellest of winters. Inflation fell, strikes stopped, the latent enterprise of a free people was awakened.

Having lagged behind for a generation, we outgrew every European country in the Eighties except Spain (which was bouncing back from an even lower place). As revenues flowed in, taxes were cut and debt was repaid, while public spending — contrary to almost universal belief — rose.

In America we were mired in stagflation and a record high misery index of the Carter Seventies.  Much of which he inherited from LBJ’s Great Society and Richard Milhous Nixon’s abandoning of the quasi gold standard.  The Nixon Shock.  Because he refused to cut Great Society spending.  As did Gerald Ford.  As did Jimmy Carter.  No one wanted to cut back spending and continued to print money to pay for the Great Society spending causing the record high inflation during the Seventies.  Which added to the high unemployment that gave Jimmy Carter that horrible misery index.  And malaise.  Like Daniel Hannan I’m just old enough to remember how bad it was in the Seventies.  And how great Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America was.  We were better off after 4 years of Ronald Reagan than we were after 4 years of Jimmy Carter.  And the numbers proved it.  Lower tax rates increased tax revenue.  Allowing even greater government spending.  Which was the source of the Reagan deficits.  Not the tax cuts.

In the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher showed the world that a great country doesn’t retreat forever.

And by ending the wretched policy of one-sided detente that had allowed the Soviets to march into Europe, Korea and Afghanistan, she set in train the events that would free hundreds of millions of people from what, in crude mathematical terms, must be reckoned the most murderous ideology humanity has known.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan stood together against communism.  While Jimmy Carter eroded America’s military power so much that the Soviets actually put together a nuclear first-strike doctrine.  For unlike the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) of previous administrations the Soviets believed they could launch and win a nuclear war against Jimmy Carter.  Reagan and Thatcher rebuilt and deployed nuclear and regular military forces to reduce the threat of a Soviet first-strike.  And made the enemies of Great Britain and the United States fear and respect our military might.  It was peace through strength.  For all free and democratic countries.  Not the detente of Jimmy Carter that encouraged the Soviets to add a nuclear first-strike doctrine.  The beginning of the end of the Cold War began under Thatcher’s and Reagan’s watch.

Why, then, do Lefties loathe her so much..?

No, what Lefties (with honourable exceptions) find hard to forgive is the lady’s very success: the fact that she rescued a country that they had dishonoured and impoverished; that she inherited a Britain that was sclerotic, indebted and declining and left it proud, wealthy and free; that she never lost an election to them.

Their rage, in truth, can never be assuaged, for she reminds them of their own failure.

The same reasons the American Left hates Ronald Reagan.  Because he, too, returned his country to greatness.

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The Amount of Loss per Chevy Volt Sold is in Dispute but what is Not Disputed is that Each Volt Sold Loses Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Some number crunching shows the Chevy Volt to be a disaster.  A Reuters’ article (see below) puts the loss per Volt sold as high as $49,000.  Which GM disputes.  Even former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz wrote an article in Forbes disputing this.  Criticizing the authors of the article for dividing the total Chevy Volt investment by the number of Volts sold to date.  And not the projected sales over the 5 year life of the vehicle.  But if you crunch the numbers over this 5 year period they still aren’t good.  And show a loss that may never be recovered (see Insight: GM’s Volt: The ugly math of low sales, high costs by Bernie Woodall and Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman posted 9/10/2012 on Reuters).

Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts. GM on Monday issued a statement disputing the estimates…

GM’s basic problem is that “the Volt is over-engineered and over-priced,” said Dennis Virag, president of the Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group…

GM’s quandary is how to increase sales volume so that it can spread its estimated $1.2-billion investment in the Volt over more vehicles while reducing manufacturing and component costs – which will be difficult to bring down until sales increase…

The lack of interest in the car has prevented GM from coming close to its early, optimistic sales projections. Discounted leases as low as $199 a month helped propel Volt sales in August to 2,831, pushing year-to-date sales to 13,500, well below the 40,000 cars that GM originally had hoped to sell in 2012.

Out in the trenches, even the cheap leases haven’t always been effective…

It currently costs GM “at least” $75,000 to build the Volt, including development costs, Munro said. That’s nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part of President Barack Obama’s green energy policy…

The car entered production in the fall of 2010 as the first U.S. gasoline-electric hybrid that could be recharged by plugging the car into any electrical outlet. The Obama administration, which engineered a $50-billion taxpayer rescue of GM from bankruptcy in 2009 and has provided more than $5 billion in subsidies for green-car development, praised the Volt as an example of the country’s commitment to building more fuel-efficient cars…

Before GM resorted to discounting Volt leases, sales were averaging just over 1,500 cars a month. A huge part of that reason was consumer push back over the price, according to Virag of Automotive Consulting.

GM forecasted selling 40,000 cars per year over 5 years.  Before the discounting leases they were selling only 1,500 per month.  At that pace that comes to 18,000 cars per year over 5 years.  If you divide the $1.2 billion by 200,000 (40,000 X 5) cars sold that comes to a projected investment recovery of $6,000 per car sold.  If you divide the $1.2 billion by 90,000 (18,000 X 5) cars sold that comes to a projected investment recovery of $13,333 per car sold.  So the projected loss on their investment based on the current pace of sales over 5 years is $7,333 per Volt sold.  Or a profit margin of NEGATIVE 18.3%.  And that’s without adding any production losses.  The longer it takes to meet sales projections the greater the losses climb.  And the less likely they will ever make money on the Volt.  Even with all the subsidies and tax credits.

The big question is what do the taxpayers get for this massive investment into a car that can’t sell?  It’ll help GM advance technology for the next generation of hybrid car?  But isn’t that something car companies are supposed to be doing anyway?  And should a company that is coming out of bankruptcy protection be experimenting in exotic new technology instead of focusing on selling what people are buying to return to profitability?  So they can raise their stock price so the government can sell their shares of GM stock without a loss to repay the American taxpayer?  GM, and the American taxpayer, would be better off if GM focused on selling their more profitable trucks and SUVs until they repay their taxpayer debt.  Then once they were on more steady financial ground they could explore the exotic technologies.

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