Imagine a bloated, tradition-bound organization limping along in thrall to bad management and intransigent unions as red ink threatens to engulf it.

General Motors was just such an organization. New York's dysfunctional state government is another. But on Wednesday GM reported a $2-billion quarterly profit en route to its upcoming sale of stock to the public - a step on the road to letting taxpayers dispose of their 61 percent stake, acquired when Uncle Sam rescued the teetering automaker.

GM was saved by the vision, daring and teamwork of some new leaders, most of them in or recruited by government. The overhaul was painful, costing many people their jobs and many investors their savings. But there was no alternative.

Like GM before its reorganization, New York's government is too big, badly run and held in ill-repute by the public. And like GM before the crisis, unions exercise too much sway over the enterprise that pays their salary. In Albany, as in Detroit, the unions must be part of a larger effort to right a badly listing ship. The question is whether the state's dire fiscal situation - a $9-billion deficit looms - is sufficient to finally spark the kind of serious reforms that saved GM.

States can always raise taxes, making sudden fiscal collapse unlikely. But GM didn't collapse all of a sudden, either; its bankruptcy culminated years of manifest decline. In that, too, the parallel to New York is clear. hN

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