Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Let's Punish the Auto Workers and Ourselves


More news from the "Let's Punish the Auto Workers and Ourselves" front.

The Street
U.S. Stocks Tumble as Job Losses Accelerate
Mike Taylor
12/05/08 - 09:41 AM EST
GO HERE

Before the new session's trading commenced, the government reported that the unemployment rate reached a 15-year high of 6.7% in November, up from 6.5% in October but slightly below the 6.8% analysts had expected. Nonfarm payrolls showed a loss of 533,000 jobs, a much greater decline than the drop of 335,000 forecast by economists.

The September and October job-loss figures were also worse than previously thought. The September number was revised to 403,000 from 284,000, and October job losses were up to 320,000, up from an initial reading of 240,000.

The average workweek declined slightly to 33.5 hours, and hourly earnings were up 0.4%, compared with a 0.3% increase in October.

"This is almost indescribably terrible," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, in an email. He said that total job losses in the past six months have now reached 1.55 million, a figure that matches the entire recession of 2001.

And now the rabid ideologues and union breakers are blindly panting to close down or bankrupt (which adds up to the same thing) the American auto industry. It’s goodbye to three million or so jobs dependent on that industry. Many of which made it possible for working class families to live and dream at a middle-class level for the first time in this nation’s history.

The UAW took out a full page ad in today’s New York Times. I wish it was in every paper in the United States. It’s a checkerboard of faces of people that look like you and me. And they are like you and me. Across their pictures is a banner headline reading: “WE ARE NOT BANKERS.”

And meanwhile, we get the usual pokes (all deserved) at the blind, inept and avaricious CEOs testifying before Congressional committees. It may be satisfying to see and hear the high and the mighty grovel, but a little of this goes a long way when the lives of millions of workers depend on intelligent solutions more than symbolic trips to the woodshed.

This account gets at two key points. The snowballing urgency of the problem and, far less recognized, conservatives short-sighted desire to destroy the union movement.

Salon, 12/5.2008
Detroit revs up its bailout begging
By Mike Madden
GO HERE

Actually, the CEOs were less alarmist than some of the other witnesses. Moodys.com chief economist Mark Zandi told the panel that the costs of not bailing out the car companies -- and letting them go bankrupt -- would be far, far more than $34 billion. "It's not even in the same universe," he said. United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger said there wasn't much time to dither: "I believe that we could lose General Motors at the end of this month." And if Detroit goes under, the witnesses agreed, the rest of the country won't be in such good shape itself -- suppliers could also fail, whole local economies could fall apart, the government could find itself handling warranty claims on all the Jeep Cherokees out there. . . .

. . . People in Tennessee "have a tough time thinking about us loaning money to companies that are paying way, way above industry standards to workers," said Sen. Bob Corker. Of course, the UAW already announced that it would let automakers suspend payments into a healthcare fund for retirees, killed a program that paid laid-off workers most of their salary, and agreed to let management reopen negotiations on a contract signed just last year. Still, with Congress already girding for a fight over "card check" legislation that would let workers organize without a secret vote, expect to see Republicans try to lay down some markers about labor during the bailout debate.

Unions aside, it was pretty easy to see what the popular move for GOP lawmakers will be. "The strength of the American economic system is that it allows us to take risks, to create, to innovate, to grow, to succeed and sometimes to fail," said Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama (which happens to be the home of Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes plants, making Shelby a little less worried about the Big Three's viability). . . .
Yeah, Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction” is all the rage today among the Republican ideologues who helped bring this totally unplanned economic destruction down on our heads. Conservatives set fire to the economy with deregulation and regressive taxes and now they pat themselves on the back as visionaries who are predicting a new and improved America rising out of the ashes of their failed policies. As we kick through the ashes of this destruction, you’ll see the bones of the union movement. And unions have always been one of the few buffers between working people and the total power of the profits-at-any-price few at the top.

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