Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The auto bailout and the working people

Jim Hightower, in the latest issue of his newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, issues a biting critique of congressional wingnuttery as regards the auto bailout.

"Republican lawmakers, backed by a raucous chorus of right-wing pundits and corporate lobbyists, have turned Motor City's economic woes into an excuse for launching a mendacious and pernicious assault on America's hard-working, highly-skilled, unionized working families--and on the middle class ideals that they embody."

Hightower notes that the "purple-robed princes of Citigroup, AIG, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and other bailees from The Street" were gifted a huge financial bonus by Secretary Paulson, who "unilaterally, secretly, and illegally nullified a federal law because it was in the way of his unauthorized plan to help big banks take over smaller ones. Hank's autocratic decree allows banks to use off-shore tax dodges that Congress banned 23 years ago. This executive maneuver provides an under-the-table tax subsidy for predatory banks wanting public financing to absorb their rivals--a subsidy that will cost our national treasury upwards of $140 billion even as it reduces bank competition."

And all this was done without hardly a murmur from those we elect to protect us from these greedy and degenerate nasties!

Isn't unfettered capitalism wunnerful?

But, when it came to Detroit, out elected poohbahs sang a different tune!

"Right-wing senators from the South and West were suddenly baring claws and hissing furiously that to get aid these supplicants had to restructure their businesses in accordance with government dictates. These congressional one-time free-market holy rollers made a demand that was specific and blunt: Whack your unions."

Hightower is referring to Bob Corker, a multimillionaire from Tennessee, Jim DeMint, an unredeemed clown from South Carolina, and John Kyl, McCain's buddy from Arizona. In fact, Kyl grabbed onto the myth perpetrated by the right that Detroit was going down the tubes because of those terrible unions. Why, union workers in the auto plants make $73 a hour, said the man from Arizona who suffers from sand on the brain.

Not so. As Hightower notes, "the $73 figure is a hoax. The right-wing contrived it by lumping in all of the health-care and pension costs of retirees, plus ... training costs and ... payroll taxes that the companies owe."

The truth is much different: "...the base wage of a veteran UAW member in a Big Three auto company is about $29 per hour, compared to $26 per hour for a non-union worker in Toyota's Kentucky factory."

Hightower has more. "In fact, it's not wages that burden the auto companies--it's the skyrocketing cost of health care in America. Japanese, Korean, European, and other carmakers don't pay this cost because their countries have national health care for all, financed by taxpayers."

And isn't it strange, asks Jim, that none of these self-righteous right-wingers support universal health care in our country, "which would drastically improve the global competitiveness of all of our industries"?

One more thing. These "union-busting senators don't mention" that "the share of a made-in-Detroit car's price tag that goes to cover all labor costs" is 10%! Labor, as Hightower notes, is not a burden so much as it is an asset, for "unionized workers bring award-winning productivity to the industry."

It isn't the fault of the workers that Detroit cars don't sell. The blame rests solely on the heads of those who fly corporate jets when they're not drinking coffee and complaining about the "bad" times in their corporate boardrooms: Rick Wagoner of GM; Alan Mulally of Ford, and Bob Nardelli of Chrysler.

Furthermore, as Hightower explicates, "90% of what we consumers pay for cars goes to bankers, bondholders, investors, executives, suppliers, dealers, and a myriad of others who are part and parcel of every vehicle we drive.

"The senators could force UAW members to work for free, but that would not begin to solve the industry's financial problems."

Once again, when it comes to our right-wing congress people, ideology and power trump common sense and true concern for the nation every time!

Hightower has much more to say and you can read it all here.

1 comment:

Bob Poris said...

I have never belonged to a union. My son was an executive at Ford. The unions helped take workers into the middle class, which expanded the economy.
Their children went to college and Detroit was essentially a home owner city when it was still a major American city. Unions, like owners, exist to get the most for their members. Most wage earners have little bargaining power unless there is a union. Were there abuses? Of course. Did management abuse workers? Of course. Unions have lost membership and power over the years and many of the thieves were sent to prison. There is a place for unions in most fields. Those that become too powerful or harm the industries should go but outsourcing lost the industries that used to pay well. To blame only the unions for our current economic mess is silly. We lost our manufacturing base and workers lost real wages as we began to push paper around to get rich instead of producing things. We became a service oriented nation with the financial markets producing little for the consumer.

We will not rebuild our middle class until there are well paying jobs, so that our people can become consumers again and we can produce goods wanted all over the world.

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