Friday, December 12, 2008

Auto Industry, The Republicans, And a Slap in the Face

As if I couldn't get any angrier at the Bush Administration and the Republicans, they just made me fuming mad. And I'm not even in the auto industry, other than Michigan being the home state of my dad's family. I don't know anyone, that I can think of in the auto industry, although there is a plant in nearby Fenton.

Yesterday the Senate failed to pass a bailout for the Big Three. Now, don't get me wrong, I was just as mad as anyone by the CEOs of Ford, Chrysler, and GM flying separate corporate jets to Washington DC to ask for this help. That was just a very dumb PR move. They needed me on their staff then to tell them to get their behinds in a fuel-efficient mini van with all three of them taking turns driving, stack all their luggage in the back, and get a double room in the Hilton. They could flip coins to see who would get the let out sofa, the other two would each get a bed. That is how you show your business is in trouble and you need help. And they probably should've worn off-the-rack Jos.A. Bank suits and loafers from JCPenney or something. So I get being mad about how disconnected CEOs are from their companies and even that they have responsibility for it. The $1-per-year paycheck for them sounds right. What I don't get is the plain mean-spiritedness of the United States Senate.

This country, big business, Republicans have always had a problem with unionized workers. Why else is Wal*Mart able to provide near slave-wages to their workers with impunity? The book, The Grapes of Wrath, was in part about the big corporate farms coming against the poor farm workers who wanted to unionize. Take it further back to before we were a country, racism was codified into law to keep the Africans and the poor white indentured servants from joining together against the greedy landowners. There is something powerful that happens when people come together and none of it necessarily benefits the bank accounts of the rich and powerful. That is the problem with the Republicans.

And these Republicans that are yelling the loudest against the excesses of the big three? They are actually in bed with foreign auto manufacturers who located their plants in the south. The plants that are foreign owned and subsidized by their Japanese governments. The plants that do not have unions. The plants that do not provide the same benefits. They are all in the south and 18 more are reported to be opening down there, so these Republican senators have their own interests at heart.

They want to hang the entire bailout on the hardworking auto workers. Never mind that these are American companies. Aren't Republicans the same ones, at least the "white, working class" Republicans, singing the tunes of buying American? Then why cut the living wages of the UAW? Just because they are a union? And the UAW according to the compilation of morning papers over at Slate, reportedly are willing to accept the demands for lower wages in 2011 when the current contract expires. Not good enough for these Grinches-who-stole-wages. They want them to take a paycut now.

Where was their same anger at the Merrill Lynchs, Bear Stears, AIGs? They got a blank check bailout and their corporate executives used the bailout money to give bonuses. No big argument from these same Republicans. That is because most of these Wall Street companies are Republican.

The Democratic majority won't be in session until January. The CEOs report their companies won't make it until then. They could probably stop production for the holidays. The CEOs can infuse the company with their own money. The President could do something that would let him go out on a high note for the average Joe-the-autoworker. He could make Henry Paulson carve out a little nugget of the $350B bailout he received, it's not all gone yet.

I think what is happening is that the Republican Senators are bitter and angry that their party lost two major elections, that the country is moving on from their brand of politics. They have become irrelevant and instead of playing nice on the playground, they want to take their balls and go home.

The problem is that some Americans won't have a home to go to. Michigan is already in a recession, this failure could sink them even lower to a depression.

Yes, the automakers need to learn from their Japanese counterparts and come up with a more fuel-efficient car. They need to do a lot of things, but right now, they and the Senate need to honor an American industry and keep it alive. The future depends on it, I hope they catch the holiday spirit and give the gift that is needed. We'll see.

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