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Keller @ Large: Who's To Blame For Layoffs At GM?

BOSTON (CBS) - On Tuesday, President Trump threatened to cut all subsidies for General Motors after the auto company announced plans to close several plants and lay off thousands of workers, an embarrassment to a president who claimed in his campaign that would never happen on his watch.

(CNN reports that "it's not clear what subsidies Trump was referring to. A person familiar with the matter told CNN Business that GM is unaware of any significant federal subsidies the company is receiving beyond a $7,500 plug-in tax credit, which goes to the consumer, not the company.")

But as you can see, the blame game is in full swing. Let's put some of the finger-pointing to the truth test:

1) "It's all about greed," was one auto worker's union official's reaction to the cuts. "It's all about putting more in their pockets."

The anger at GM is understandable, but is that corporate greed charge the whole truth? Some management experts say GM CEO Mary Barra is making a tough but smart move to ditch smaller cars consumers don't want and focus on profitable SUVs and trucks for now, and electric and self-driving vehicles down the road.

Donald Trump Mary Barra
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and other auto industry executives on March 15, 2017. (Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

2) "They say the Chevy Cruze is not selling well," said the president yesterday, as he recounted how he got "tough" on Barra in a phone call. "I say get a car that is selling well and put it back in."

But experts predict fewer workers will be needed to make the cars of the future. And any new life in these closing plants will depend on manufacturing costs which grew by a billion dollars this year for GM, they say, thanks to the Trump administration's tariff wars.

3) "This president talks a good game, but never delivers on his promises," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

That's not true across the board of course - appointment of conservative judges, repeal of federal regulations and the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem come to mind as Trump promises kept - , but when it comes to the auto industry, Mr. Schumer has a point.

Here was Candidate Trump in October 2016, speaking in Warren, Michigan, home of one of the doomed GM plants: "Your car industry is being sucked away from Michigan, it's been happening. If I'm elected you won't lose one plant, you'll have plants coming into this country, you'll have jobs coming back, you won't lose one plant, I promise you that."

On second thought, never mind.

4) Sen. Schumer again: "Corporate America, the wealthy? They're doing great. Working people, average Americans, people who sweat? Nothing. They're losing jobs."

That's a gross generalization, of course, contradicted by recent economic data. But the contrast Mr. Schumer is drawing is one you'll be hearing a lot of as the 2020 campaign gears up.

In 2012, President Obama won re-election after the auto industry bailout touting the slogan: "Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive."

Two years from now, expect GM to be part of the debate once again.

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