By Jack Hoffman
It’s hard these days for me to say Happy Chanukah or Merry Christmas – especially when there is not much to be happy about. This year I just can’t get merry. Oh, I know: we got Obama. But that joy has faded with all the negative news that’s been flowing faster than maple syrup over apple pancakes. Now I don’t want to sound like some scrooge or anaysayer, but when you hear all the negative news about jobs lost, houses lost, stock market plunges, depression is only a few percentage points away and more, does anyone see any sign of hope? Does all this negative news sound like something we should be happy and merry about? Some even say the worst is yet to come. If the Big 3 auto companies go down, there could possibly be another 6 million jobs lost – and the countless small business that are on the hook for money owed could go down too.
That all brings me to the big three auto loans that seems to have taken a back seat to the entire mischievous goings on in the political world. So what else is new? As if the actions of some sleazy scoundrels will affect our lives during these precarious times.
Just before the House was to vote on the bailout three repugnant senators sent out a memo to all their fellow repugs. The memo clearly spells out why they, the repugs, “should and need to vote down the bill” to rescue the US auto industry. In so many words -I’m paraphrasing, they said: Now is the time for us to get even with the unions for their recent support in the last presidential election and their support throughout the years for Democrats. Make no mistake: this bailout is not just a monetary issue but also a war on the blue-collar workers of America -especially the unions.
Let’s look at some of the repug’s arguments that are nothing but disingenuous and sometimes outright lies.
When Southern states began losing the textile mills, unemployment became a serious problem. Since these states had right to work laws with no minimum state labor wages, it became attractive for foreign assemblers of cars. These unfair labor laws made it hard for the unions to organize
Take Alabama that has four foreign assemblers and had a shot at Mercedes so they contracted this pro-quid agreement, like many others, that went like this: you set up in the boonies and we will give you a gift of $250 million for starters, free taxes for an entire year, reduced taxes for a certain period afterwards, free electricity for a year. AND we will even give you the land to build on. All together, the package was worth over $500 million. Since 1972, when the first foreign motor company came, the government (both state and federal) has dished out over $4 billion in subsidies, not counting all the other freebies. Try competing against that!
We know the Big 3 can certainly build a better green car like the most popular car in Brazil, a GM that runs entirely on bio-fuel (sugar cane). So any bailout agreement has to include the dumping of management, who have destroyed the American auto industry.
Wages – the unions did in fact agree to the repugs call for reduced wages to be in line with the foreign manufacturers. What they did say is they would do this now if there were an agreement to void their present contracts in line with a reduction in dividends and interest on the bondholders. GM claims the average net is $29.78 per hour. The breakdown on an average basis paid to GM workers is $14 per hour for newly hired, $26 for assemblers, $33 for skilled. The total cost to GM with the perks is $69 per hour. This includes the legacy paid to the 432,000 retirees. Foreign assemblers virtually have none. The e because of the unions the workers at the three have a much better, or healthier policy, and retirement perk than the southern comforters. If GM was and is so critical of the healthcare costs where were they with all their lobbying power when healthcare was debated.
Two important factors in this argument: In some cases, 90% of all foreign cars assembled here are imported. The profits generated by the sales of their cars leave the U.S.
All these arguments have fallen on deaf ears to the repugs that only have one goal in mind. And you need sixty votes in the senate to get anything passed.
There is an old Russian joke that goes like this: The farmers were having a bad year, so Andre the farmer goes to the local party headquarters to get help. The bosses offer up a cow. Grateful, Andre returns to his farm. The next day, his neighbor jealously runs over to the committee and says: I want help, too. What do you want? Boris a cow, too?
No! I want you to kill Andre’s cow.
Cheney, in one of his most poignant comments of the year, made after the bill was killed, said, “Welcome to the era of Herbert Hoover.” Meaning that from the 1930s on, not only did the US pay a heavy price, but the repugs paid dearly, too.