Barack Obama said, “My hope is if I’m elected, that I’m immediately meeting with the heads of the Big Three automakers as well as with the United Auto Workers... And to sit down and craft a strategy that puts us on a path for an auto industry that can compete with anybody in the world.”
John McCain said he would do whatever he thinks needs to be done to save it, but said the focus should be on disbursing the $25 billion in loans already authorized by the U.S. Congress to help the auto industry.
Bottom line: If Obama doesn't win the election, the Big Three are toast. McCain is as anti-worker as Bush and the national media is falling in line behind them. The WaPo recently ran an editorial called Welfare for Detroit that argued against a bailout for many reasons. This was one of them:
[T]his bailout taxes the less well-off to protect the relatively privileged. The average individual General Motors production worker, whose job would be saved by the bailout, makes $56,650 per year, according to the Center for Automotive Research, and that doesn't count better-paid, white-collar types. Meanwhile, half of all households-- which typically include more than one earner -- make less than $50,000 per year. Where's the justice in that?Justice? In case they didn't notice, banks are using government money to make dividend payments to shareholders and pay bonuses to executives on Wall Street. In fact, the WaPo reported yesterday that more than $80 billion from the Treasury Department will be used to pay dividends over the next 3 years. G.M. had reportedly asked for $10 billion in new funding.
Besides, as Dean Baker said, "none of these autoworkers are responsible for wrecking the economy." Very true, and working class Americans aren't responsible for the financial crisis on Wall Street either, but they're being taxed to protect the relatively privileged there.
An executive at G.M. saw the WaPo editorial, came to a similar conclusion and wrote a letter to the editor defending the auto industry and workers.
It was breathtaking to see the Oct. 27 editorial "Welfare for Detroit" blithely dismiss the domestic auto industry's contribution to the U.S. economy.Welfare for Detroit? During the last eight years, President Bush's economic policies have effectively redistributed the nation's wealth from the bottom to the richest Americans. They got their welfare. When do working-class Americans get the help they need?
The nation's financial turmoil is not of the auto industry's making, yet its effects threaten the livelihoods of millions of workers, the social pact made between company and retiree, and the health of state and community revenue and services. More troubling, the economy's problems are hindering automakers' transformation into stronger companies that build new vehicles with new technologies that consumers want to buy.
Almost 4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product is auto-related, representing 10 percent of U.S. industrial production by value. One in 10 U.S. jobs is connected to our industry, and we provide health-care benefits to 2 million Americans and support nearly 800,000 retirees and spouses with pension benefits. David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., has said that if Ford or GM fails, as many as 2 million jobs could be lost.
It was also stunning to see The Post describe the workers who build automobiles as relatively "privileged" because they earn about $56,000 a year. Auto assembly plant workers' base wage is about $28 per hour. For a newspaper that serves some of the most affluent communities in America to suggest that $28 per hour is too much reflects a profound disconnect between the editorial writers and the world outside the Beltway.
(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)