More than a year ago, we noted with some trepidation a significant milestone that had been reached in the early 21st century that mirrored events in the 1920s. The U.S. government had reported that income concentration among the top one percent of earners had reached a point unseen since 1929. That news gave us a bit of a chill, as we said then. Another unsettling augury of what seems to be an inexorably unfolding future was seen yesterday when the market capitalization of General Motors Corporation dropped to its 1929 level. GM stock yesterday fell below $5 for the first time since the 1950s.
Once the largest corporation in the world, GM is more explicit today for its shrinking shadow than it is for its once dazzling self. It is just one of many previously reliable talismans of stability and confidence that today seem to be crumbling in front of our eyes, calling us back to the indelible memory of economic turmoil whose reality we are at present struggling to avoid.
GM’s stock lost close to one-third of its value yesterday. Today, the stock is up slightly to $4.98. The company remains optimistic about its survival. The ghost of Alfred P. Sloan may be less sanguine.