“Did anybody help me out? No.”

Actor Craig T. Nelson, appearing on the Glenn Beck show a few months back, said he is going to stop paying taxes until the government stops bailing out failed corporations.  “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare,” he said.  “Did anybody help me out? No.”

I had to smile at Nelson’s idea of what government help is and isn’t.  But when I viewed the whole segment and listened to his full comments, I found that I sort-of halfway agreed with him.

It doesn’t make sense to continue with bailouts, subsidies and special tax breaks for big corporations, and at the same time cut back on education, fire protection and other basic services, on taking care of our veterans and, yes, on food stamps and unemployment compensation for people temporarily down on their luck as Craig T. Nelson once was.

I don’t see eye to eye with Nelson in every respect.  I think he probably gets too much of his information from Fox News. I think the Glenn Beck wing of the Republican Party is part of the problem rather than part of the answer.

But I think Nelson’s moral outrage at our current national priorities is thoroughly justified, and I even agree with Glenn Beck on recommending people read the Declaration of Independence and Tom Paine’s Common Sense.

[Added 7/3/11]  Here’s where I disagree with Craig T.  Nelson.

I don’t think tax refusal is realistic, unless you are prepared to go to jail like Henry David Thoreau, and I doubt Nelson is.

I don’t believe that Nelson, or any other American, pays 50 percent of his income in taxes.  He may arrive at that figure by adding together his marginal California and federal tax rates – the rate he pays on income above a certain threshold amount – and his property taxes and other taxes.  Even then he would be highly unusual, in my opinion.  But I don’t believe he pays an effective tax rate of 50 percent.

I don’t think the auto industry rescue was the same thing as the bank bailout.  Loss of a viable auto industry would be devastating to the American manufacturing economy.  We can’t survive economically as a nation on exporting Hollywood movies alone.  Now, Ford Motor Co. was profitable, and did not need a rescue.  You could argue that the rescue of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. was unfair to Ford.  But Ford executives themselves argued for the bailout, saying that if GM and Chrysler went out of business, so would the suppliers upon which Ford, GM and Chrysler alike depend.

If you are going to try to keep an important industry from going under, you should do it the way the Obama administration did with GM and Chrysler.  The failed management of the two companies were replaced.  Bondholders were bought out for less than they would have got if the companies failed.  Unprofitable parts of the business were liquidated.  Many auto workers were laid off and those still employed made concessions on wages and benefits.  It is not like the big banks, where the government pumped money into failed institutions and freed the existing managers to start a new cycle of reckless speculation.

Those are my caveats.  But I will say that, for a Glenn Beck guest, Craig T. Nelson makes a lot of sense.

Click on After bankruptcy, GM, Chrysler turn the corner for an article by Steven Rattner, the Obama administration’s chief auto industry adviser, about the auto industry rescue.

Click on Book Review: Overhaul for a critical review of Steven Rattner’s book.

Click on We Succeeded Working With, Not Against, Unions for remarks by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on how labor-management cooperation helped GM and Chrysler to survive.

Click on Auto Industry Bailout News for a continuing roundup of New York Times articles.

In business, of course, there is no such thing as success for all time.  The fact that GM and Chrysler were enabled to survive the economic crash does not guarantee anything for the future.

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