Dems and Kossacks, we can't let the GOP define the debate on loans to automakers. If we believe in making a good wage, and changing the way health care is structured in this country... if we believe that Main Street is at least as worthy of help as Wall Street... if we truly believe that this is the moment to solidify the nation's leftward move in this century... we cannot let stand without argument the bias against the worker that I'm hearing in the traditional media and in the blogosphere.
Detroit is angry... and we're listening. More and more are seeing the Republicans (like Mitt Romney) for the lying turncoats they are. We're looking to progressives to help us fight back. Below, excerpts from the local press and some resources for fighting back.
Last night I watched the first skit of Saturday Night Live, unfunnier than usual, lampooning the auto execs as clueless buffoons, begging those honest, selfess politicians to lie to their constituents while slipping them unconditional bail-outs with no expectation of return.
This morning, I watched Meet the Press as once again pundits talked about how the UAW needs to pay their workers less like those wonderful non-union foreign automakers whose workers down south live on moonbeams and rainbows alone.
But Detroit is listening, and while the rest of the country debates whether we should be plunged ever deeper into the state-wide recession we've already been in for years, we want our voices heard. The Detroit Free Press quoted a "lifelong Republican" dealer who watched the recent Congressional hearings saying "the questions were uninformed and the tone was rude." He said he had never been more upset with his party.
"I was at the Firestone-Explorer hearings, and those weren't half as contentious as this," the Ford dealer said. "I think they're spoilsports over losing the election. There's a bias against Detroit."
The lazy, overpaid autoworker stereotype is outdated and tiresome. Just like any other industry, we have our share of slackers, but the overwhelming majority of our workforce "bring it" every day.
You say the UAW needs to accept concessions to help solve this crisis. Apparently you haven't been paying attention for the last 20 years or so. The companies have been asking for and receiving concessions for the last several contracts. The most recent contract allows for a nearly 50% lower wage for the next generation of workers, while also removing health care costs from the company books.
Apparently that's not enough. You want to see us all out of work.
The bottom line is that while the UAW and management have played a part in the past mistakes, both have been working to ensure a solid future for the industry for years.
Over that same time the government has done nothing to help regarding affordable health care, balanced trade and tax incentives that reward companies for keeping jobs here instead of outsourcing. The middle class (led by the unions) tried to sound the alarm years ago. Unfortunately, nobody listened because of their anti-union prejudices.
It's clear that Republicans want to use this issue to kill off the unions once and for all, instead of solving the problem of affording health care, creating green jobs and revitalizing our industrial base. The facts are, the autoworkers and the rust belt are being asked to take the brunt once more as our economy continues to struggle to compete on a global scale. Don't fall into the frame of "unions bad" or "domestic cars are lemons" or spread the myth of the $70 autoworker.
As for the issue of quality, Ford's reliability "is now on par with good Japanese automakers," according to Consumer Reports magazine, and has the most 5-star government crash safety ratings of any automaker. It's certainly true that domestic brands have been uneven in their quality and appeal, and the auto companies have raged against the inevitable for decades, but can anyone say their track record has been any worse than those sterling minds on Wall Street? Let's face it, short-term, bottom-line greed has been the nemesis of the US economy, enabled in large part by Republican trickle-down ideology.
I'm not Mitch Albom's biggest fan, but here's an excerpt from his excellent column, If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks.
Sen. Shelby. Yes. You. From Alabama. You've been awfully vocal. You called the Detroit Three's leaders "failures." You said loans to them would be "wasted money." You said they should go bankrupt and "let the market work."
Why weren't you equally vocal when your state handed out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda and others to open plants there? Why not "let the market work"? Or is it better for Alabama if the Detroit Three fold so that the foreign companies -- in your state -- can produce more?
Way to think of the nation first, senator.
And you, Sen. Kyl of Arizona. You told reporters: "There's no reason to throw money at a problem that's not going to get solved."
That's funny, coming from such an avid supporter of the Iraq war. You've been gung ho on that for years. So how could you just sit there when, according to the New York Times, an Iraqi former chief investigator told Congress that $13 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds "had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste" by the Iraqi government?
That's 13 billion, senator. More than half of what the auto industry is asking for. Thirteen billion? Gone? Wasted?
Where was your "throwing money at a problem that's not going to get solved" speech then?