The very essence of business decision-making is prioritization and trade-offs. The same is true in the government, its just that the objective function is reversed:
GM is warming up the propaganda engine for the next run at Congress. "Look, the first thing we had to cut was our electric car program!".
And here I thought that because GM has still, after 30 years, failed to realize their business model needs to change that maybe management there were slow learners. But they seem to be very, very adept at learning the government game.
When I was in the corporate world, if I wanted extra funds for my projects, I would have to go in and say "Here are all my projects. I have ranked them from 1-30 from the most to least valuable. Right now I have enough money for the first 12. I would like funding for number 13. Here is my case."
But the government works differently. When your local government is out of money, and wants a tax increase, what do they threaten to cut? In Seattle, it was always emergency services. "Sorry, we are out of money, we have to shut down the fire department and ambulances." I kid you not -- the city probably has a thirty person massage therapist licensing organization and they cut ambulances first. In California it is the parks. "Sorry, we are out of money. To meet our budget, we are going to have to close down our 10 most popular parks that get the most visitation." The essence of government budgeting brinkmanship is not to cut project 13 when you only have money for 12 projects, but to cut project #1.
I can just see me going to Chuck Knight at Emerson Electric and saying "Chuck, I don't have enough money. If you don't give me more, we are going to have to cut the funds for the government-mandated frequency modification on our transmitters, which means we won't have any product to sell next month." I would be out on my ass in five minutes. It just floors me that this seems to keep working in the government. Part of it is that the media is just so credulous when it comes to this kind of thing, in part because scare stories of cut services fit so well into their business model.
So of course, with billions of dollars of waste, absurdly high labor costs, stupid-large executive compensation, etc., GM chooses to cut funding the project that is most important to Congressional Democrats and the new Obama administration.