Friday, December 12, 2008


Updated I'm not going to do a whole big thing on the collapse of the proposal for aid to the auto industry because it has been gone over in fine detail elsewhere. Or everywhere.

But I did want to note a few things:

1. The proposal died in the Senate, as I expect you know, when a cloture motion got only 52 votes instead of the required 60, after which it was withdrawn. Well, I am flaming sick to death of this "gentlemen's agreement" crap that has developed with regard to filibusters. First, know what cloture is: It forces an end to debate. If it fails, the bill doesn't die, it means debate continues so there can't be a vote - preventing a vote that way, by continuing to debate it without end, being the definition of a filibuster.

But what happens now under Harry "Mr. Dynamism" Reid is that the GOPpers announce they intend to filibuster, a cloture vote is held, it fails, and the legislation is dropped.

NO! Dammit, no! You keep debating, you keep arguing, you make them stand up there and visibly block the bill and then you hold a second cloture vote and a third and however many it takes to get enough of them to give up and break ranks.

2. Where was Obama? Yes, yes, I know he's not president yet, blah blah but he will be. And I think he damn well should have been on the phone to those reactionary creeps saying, very politely, something to the effect of "As you know, I've said we're going to be going over the federal budget line by line. And I just thought you'd like a heads-up that we have some questions about [list of federally-funded projects in that senator's state]. But we can talk about that later; I know you're busy dealing with this business of aiding the auto companies. I look forward to working with you."

Now, maybe he was doing something like that and if so, good. But if he did, it becomes incumbent on him to carry through with the implied threats, to make it clear there is a price to be paid for such a betrayal of millions of American workers.

3. Right after the deal folded, Josh Marshall reported that it failed when the Dems refused to agree to making the UAW slash wages and benefits to "parity" with foreign automakers in 2009. But then he had this:
Late Update: The AP has a different take on it - suggesting it wasn't the Democrats who wouldn't agree to the immediate move to wage parity but rather the UAW. Perhaps it's simply a difference in emphasis since I would assume the Dems and the UAW leaders were operating in close consultation in the negotiations.
Oh, no, it's not. This is not a difference in "emphasis," nor is it semantics: It's spin. Spin intended to frame the discussion in a way the puts the blame on the greedy, avaricious, short-sighted, self-serving union (ptui!). And yes, of course the reactionaries intend to frame it that way. For example, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that this was "Mitch McConnell's Finest Hour."
In the Senate's Thursday night automobile showdown, the United Auto Workers said "No thanks" to a bailout with strings attached. Most Senate Republicans took them at their word and voted to block the bill. But within hours, President Bush blinked and Treasury is now scrambling to use money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Who'd have thought Mr. Bush would want to join the long line of Detroit executives in caving to the UAW?
(Marshall regained his balance shortly after the linked post of his.)

4. Another part of the framing is to talk up the idea of bankruptcy, even to ask, as (no surprise) Fox News did, "Is Bankruptcy That Bad?" What seems to always be missing from such discussions, however, is that going Chapter 11 would allow a bankruptcy court to tear up existing labor agreements. Which, bluntly, is one of the real reasons the rightwingers are favoring it.

5. Still, much, I must admit, to my surprise, despite the attempts to put the blame on workers rather than on the GOPpers who hate the idea of American workers making a decent living followed by a decent retirement, a fair amount of coverage has pointed out the real agenda at work here. And I don't mean just from sources like Rachel Maddow (who recently had two rather good rants on this) but places like the New York Times, which in the course of one of those silly "rising star" pieces it loves so much (the risers in this case being Sen. Robert Corker and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger) managed to mention that
[s]ince [Gettelfinger] took office in 2002, the U.A.W. has given up health benefits and agreed to sweeping wage cuts, and for the bailout, it was prepared to abandon pay guarantees for workers who had lost their jobs.

Mr. Gettelfinger also appeared during Congressional hearings as more of an ally - rather than usual sparring partner - of the chief executives of Detroit’s auto companies, sitting next to them while the group endured hours of grilling.
It also described Corker as an "adversary" of the UAW.

Meanwhile, McClatchy, despite giving far too much importance to supposed constituent anger over the aid package, a concept rarely advanced or recognized by the reactionaries other than as an excuse for doing what they were going to do anyway, did list as a reason for GOPper resistance "their longstanding disdain for labor unions" and in a later piece recognized that
[t]he 239,000 jobs at General Motors Ford and Chrysler are just a fraction of what's at stake.

If there were just a 50 percent contraction in the auto industry, nearly 2.5 million jobs would be lost in the first year, resulting in $125 billion less in personal income before a partial rebound in later years, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. State and federal coffers would lose $50 billion from lost tax dollars, the center said.
Over three years, those figures rise to $275 billion in lost income and $108 billion in lost tax revenue. (A .pdf version of the Center's report is at this link.)

Even more to the point, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that
[t]he congressional drive to help U.S. automakers was generally cast in terms of protecting the reeling national economy from another body blow - the collapse of one or more of Detroit's Big Three.

But beneath the surface, what led conservative Republicans to drive a stake through the heart of a stopgap rescue plan worked out by President Bush and congressional Democrats was the chance to strike a blow against an old enemy: organized labor.

Antipathy toward unions was an undercurrent throughout the weeks of wrangling that culminated in Thursday's failed Senate vote. For Republicans - including many from right-to-work states across the South - undercutting the once-mighty United Auto Workers was seen as a way to undercut unions in general. ...

"This is the Democrats' first opportunity to pay off organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items," read an e-mail circulated among Senate Republicans on Wednesday. "Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it."

Some lawmakers argued that stopping the bailout would strike a blow at unions in general.
The article even managed to describe the bogus "$75 an hour" claim as "misleading," adding that
[t]he Big Three automakers have higher labor costs primarily because they have operated factories in the U.S. much longer than their foreign counterparts, so have many more retirees receiving pension and health-care payments, [labor relations expert Richard] Block said.

Even if UAW workers at GM took a 20% pay cut, it would only save the company about $1.1 billion annually because the company's unionized workforce in the United States has decreased dramatically in recent years to 55,000, he said.
The full text of the GOPper memo is here.

6. Has anyone actually calculated just how deep wages and benefits to workers and retirees would have to be cut to bring the total labor cost figure to "parity" with non-union plants?

7. Just as a sidebar, a search of Corker's Senate website produces zero responses related to insurance giant AIG, recipient (so far) of 10 times the aid the auto industry was seeking. But it does turn up a guest column he had in the Tennessean on September 27 titled "'Wall St. bailout' is really for Main St." and in which he said the bailout was necessary "regardless of how we got here." That latter consideration, needless to say, was not one applied to autoworkers and their employers.

Updated with the quotes from McClatchy news service and the links to additional info about the Center for Automotive Research report.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');