by Max Brantley
An auto industry bailout bill failed in the Senate last night, with U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln joining the Republican minority that used filibuster to cudgel their case that the legislation is an opportunity to punish union workers of the U.S. manufacturers. She's in an election bid in 2010 and apparently has heard the loud cries of anti-union businessman in Arkansas. (A state with a nearly negligible union population and a Right to Work law. As if unions are a threat here.)
So, by all means, punish union workers. Parity with the richly subsidized Japanese and German automakers would mean two things for them: 1) stripping retirees of their benefits or 2) requiring a working wage so low for existing workers that they'd be on a par with fastfoood workers. Because, see, the grossly overstated per hour cost of current autoworkers that you see in print is arrived at by a doubling of actual wages to account for the legacy benefits.
But chew on this Sen. Lincoln. Take a drive up to Paragould or Trumann or Heber Springs, to name three Arkansas cities that are homes to a factory where workforces making very modest wages depend entirely and completely for their survival on making parts for U.S. automakers. Your pandering to right-wing Republican hypocrites -- whose states are homes to plants supported, not by loans, but by hundreds of millions in direct subsidies to foreign companies -- means those good Arkies can kiss their economic asses goodbye. Merry Christmas.
PS -- I hear tell that car dealers provide a few jobs around the state, too.
Read here about the domino effect.
Finally, this issue now goes well beyond the fate of the American automakers. Senate Republicans are following this course for three key reasons -- first is payback against a major industrial union; second is payback against states like Michigan and Ohio who have been moving away from the GOP; third is the desire to advantage Japanese auto manufacturers who disproportionately do business in their southern states.
What even the White House can see at this point is that having one or more of these companies go under right now will rapidly accelerate the economic crisis, and in unpredictable ways.
Worsening national crisis vs. punishing unions? Easy call for some people.
Administration officials have been warning for weeks that failure to pass the bill could lead to an even deeper recession.
That was the message Vice President Dick Cheney brought to a closed-door Senate GOP lunch Wednesday, reportedly warning that it’ll be “Herbert Hoover” time if aid to the industry was rejected, according to a senator familiar with the remarks.
UPDATE II: Lincoln's defense is that automakers don't have a plan. I don't think much of these guys either. But funny about how no plan worked just fine when it came to throwing money at investment tycoons, some of them in no trouble but happy to take a government handout to grow their business.