Friday, December 12, 2008

Cars and competition

“The effects of the Industrial Revolution prove that free competition may produce wealth without producing well-being. We all know the horrors that ensued in England before it was restrained by legislation and combination.” ― Arnold Toynbee, †1883.

“The stronger side will dictate its own terms; and as a matter of fact, in the early days of competition the capitalists used all their power to oppress the labourers, and drove down wages to starvation point.” ― Arnold Toynbee, †1883.
We may be in an early phase of georgebushjunior’s depression. Now, the Senate has not allowed a vote on the car company loan. Sixty percent is needed, 52 to 35 does not meet the threshold. The House voted passage.

Now, four Republican senators: Bob Corker of Tennessee, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Jim DeMint of South Carolina have publicly announced their displeasure for the bill.* What do they share in common? Southern Republicans with heavily, subsidised, foreign, car, plants in their states, who all despise labor unions and the rights of laboring men.
“... unions, but they appear to be an antiquated concept in today's economy, and if a company cannot be competitive with the union structure that they have, then we have to recognize that. The taxpayers should not be obligated to prop up these union bosses who have put the American car companies against a wall, with these contracts and the threat of strikes over the last several decades, that have essentially put them out of business. And they want the taxpayers to pay for that ... barnacles of unionism wrapped around their necks.” ― DeMint, All Things Considered, 10 December
This financial and economic depression has been with us a year, and it has been denied, by the executive branch and their party, for most of that year. Henry Merritt Paulson, Junior has been Treasury Secretary since the middle of 2006. Before that, he was with Goldman Sachs, since 1974. His compensation for his last full year was, in the neighborhood of, $37 millions. Before that, he was assistant to John Ehrlichman, during Watergate. Now, his public announcements swiveled on a dime. First, all was fine, then $700 billions were needed RIGHT NOW, NO QUESTIONS. He had to expand on that, a first House vote failed, and then the bill was larded up to pass.

The credit and money situation has not freed up. The american car companies are in trouble. The United Auto Workers are being defamed and slandered. At the negotiating table, by management, and then, the shills of capitalism, the Wall Street Journal editorial staff, and zealous, delusional and dishonest Republicans. Sometimes this nonsense is called out:
“We’ve heard this garbage about 73 bucks an hour. It’s a total lie. I think some people have perpetrated that deliberately, in a calculated way, to mislead the American people about what we’re doing here.” ― Senator Bob Casey
This is how that figure is calculated: pay + insurance + pension + retirees’ benefits (legacy cost of a century doing business, are there any american retirees at all from the foreign companies’ scab labor?) Adding all that together, it is about 10% of a car’s cost.

Well, the highest car management (it was reported, that one of the three had a $21 million a year pay) flew in on private aeroplanes to ask for money, pretty much without oversight. They were surprised to be rebuffed, by the House. They regrouped and tried a second time, with some humility. bushjr did not want to use a portion of the Wall Street bail-out, but rather money already allocated for development of new fueled cars. Now, bushjr may have to use the big bank bail-out.

*We certainly know, that, it is not laissez-faire liberalism of pure capitalism. Eighteen Republican senators (Corker and
McConnell, chief among them), and two Democratic, voted for the money socialising the banks and the failures of Wall Street, while voting Detroit to get lost.
noto bene: add to the roll call of despicables:
Bob Corker
Richard Shelby
Mitch McConnell
Jim DeMint

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