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Are Republicans Waging a Cold Civil War Against Detroit?

I have a pet theory that at least part of the reason why Senate Republicans thwarted a deal, supported by Democrats and President Bush, that would have provided a $15 billion loan to General Motors and Chrysler is because, as a party that increasingly identifies with white rural voters, they saw an opportunity to levy an attack of sorts on northern urban (read: minority) centers by southern states and other states with relatively low minority populations. Think of it as a sort of cold civil war.

Many analysts of the Republicans' rejection of the loans (bear in mind that we're talking about loans, not give-aways of tax dollars) to American car manufacturers point to an ideologically-based desire to destroy unions such as the United Automobile Workers (UAW). Republican disdain for people who work for a living (as opposed to simply inheriting their wealth like real Americans) is nothing new. See Ronald Reagan's treatment of PATCO employees. The Republicans can always be counted on to oppose any proposals to increase the minimum wage and indeed many would do away with a federally mandated minimum wage altogether if given the chance. And don't get them started on the idea of mandating living wages – that's practically communism to Republicans.

Think Progress did an analysis of Republican union-busting efforts and they put together this video of various talking heads and politicians laying the blame for the plight of the Big Three squarely on the UAW:


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Consider that a number of Republicans who had no problem voting for the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization and Recovery Act that was aimed at bailing out financial institutions suddenly had big problems loaning a relatively paltry $14 billion to the auto industry. Clearly, the Republicans don't have a problem bailing out private institutions in general, it is only the American auto manufacturers they deem unworthy of assisting.

Many foreign auto manufacturers have built assembly plants in the United States in recent years. Many of these manufacturers chose to build those plants in southern states. Korean car maker Kia recently built a plant in West Point, Georgia. Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Republican whose district includes West Point, recently said, "There's a Kia plant opening in my district in west Georgia and thousands are applying for the 2,500 jobs that will come there. Why should U.S. taxpayers who work in plants of foreign-based automakers pay to bail out Detroit, their competition? The Big Three's workers cost their companies, on average, $20 to $30 an hour more than workers of foreign-based automakers." I'm not sure where Westmoreland got those dollar figures, but that additional $20 to $30 an hour that union workers receive is probably in the form of retirement or other benefits as opposed to an hourly rate. This is something many Republicans conveniently fail to mention when they talk about the disparity in wages earned by union and non-union labor. The Big Three pay pensions to thousands of retired employees (known as "legacy costs") whereas the foreign manufacturers 1) haven't been operating in America long enough to have had people retire from their employ, and/or 2) don't offer retirement benefits at all.

Foreign manufacturers have favored building in southern states to avoid the higher labor costs associated with unionized workers in the North. But many southern state and/or local governments have been very kind to foreign manufacturers by means of offering generous incentives on their taxpayers' tabs. Good Jobs First (GJF) reported recently that southern states and local governments have given foreign car manufacturers upwards of $3.6 billion in subsidies. Greg LeRoy, GJF's executive director, told Breitbart.com, "While proposed federal aid to the Big Three would take the form of a loan, the vast majority of subsidies to foreign auto plants were taxpayer gifts such as property and sales tax exemptions, income tax credits, infrastructure aid, land discounts, and training grants." I haven't found any mention by Westmoreland of the $410 million in free land and infrastructure, subsidies for the creation of new jobs, financial support for training workers, and tax breaks provided by the State of Georgia, as reported by the Taipei Times. My point here is that, clearly, Republicans don't mind putting taxpayers on the hook to subsidize car manufacturers. Oddly, however, it is the flag-worshipping more-patriotic-than-thou Republicans who would sooner give a subsidy to a foreign manufacturer than lend assistance to an American manufacturer. (The key word here, again, is LEND.)

Of course, if America's Big Three auto manufacturers go belly up, it won't only be the supposedly overpaid union workers who would lose their jobs. Countless suppliers to the Big Three would have to shed jobs too, some union, some not. On average, each auto worker supports about five other jobs in their communities, from retail workers to teachers to food service workers to civil servants to auto mechanics.

So, to answer Rep. Westmoreland's question as to why his constituents should bail out their northern counterparts, perhaps he should ask himself if anybody whose job depends in some fashion upon the continued employment of Big Three auto workers might themselves in the market for a new car at some point. And might those individuals consider the purchase of a shiny new Kia? Some experts believe that as many as three million jobs might be at stake.

Or, are the Republicans really becoming a regional (southern) party interested only in whatever they find beneficial to themselves in the short term? And have the Republicans been infected by the mentality that they have an inherently superior values system to the point that they believe it is in America's best interests to use taxpayers' dollars to subsidize foreign corporate ventures that pit American workers against one another by creating a class of relatively low-paid undercutters who, wittingly or not, will gut what remains of the middle class?

Comments

real smart of the party that doesn't want to get marginalized to kick 3 million working stiffs right in the teeth

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