Blame the blue collar guy

Have you noticed the concerted effort, on talk radio, in the Wall Street Journal, and on the political right, to blame the Big Three auto makers’ woes, not on the management whose bloated salaries and bad decisions helped get their industry into the fix their in, but rather on “greedy,” unionized workers, who over the years demanded too much pay, and too many health and retirement benefits, all via their evil union, the United Auto Workers? A sample:

Sen. Jim DeMint: “Some auto manufacturers are struggling because of a bad business structure with high unionized labor costs and burdensome federal regulations. Taxpayers did not create these problems and they should not be forced to pay for them.”

Sen. Jon Kyl: “For years they’ve been sick. They have a bad business model. They have contracts negotiated with the United Auto Workers that impose huge costs.The average hourly cost per worker in this country is about $28.48. For these auto makers, it’s $73. And for the Japanese auto companies working here in the United States, it’s $48.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “You know, if you pay the auto workers or the benefits and all of those things, are maybe too high. … We have, like, in America, you sell a car, and you have $2,000 of each car just goes to benefits. So I think that there’s a way of reducing all of that, make them more fiscally responsible.”

And this from right wing CNS News, whose Dan Gainor says a proposed bailout:

… has little to do with saving Detroit and a lot to do with helping out the Democratic Party’s political machine. The chief recipient of this deal isn’t the companies, it’s the union. A bailout of Detroit would secure that the Big Three continue to fail and pay exorbitant sums to thousands of union workers.

The Los Angeles Times says unions funded the Democratic victory to the tune of more than $80 million just this election. The San Francisco Chronicle puts the number a bit higher – $450 million. Either way, they want their payback. They already have two things in mind – eliminating secret ballots in union elections and saving their 139,000 brothers and sisters in the United Auto Workers.

So let me get this straight: it’s a bad thing for the American blue collar worker to reach for the highest wages and best benefits he can get, but fine for the CEO of his company to make 400 times his salary? And by the way, these are the same types who advocate ever increasing tax cuts for CEOs, who deserves the break, apparently, while the working screw deserves a pay cut. That’s one of the tenets of right wing economic theory: that CEOs should be able to amass huge, tax-free fortunes, and be trusted to “trickle down” the benefits to the slobs who work for them. I suppose Kyl and Gainor and friends would rather see American workers paid more like the workers in “more efficient” countries, like India? As Pat Buchanan put it recently, it used to be a badge of honor in this country that our workers were the best paid, hardest working people in the world. Meanwhile, as ThinkProgress points out:

Financial firms AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns did not have unionized workers but still suffered economic collapses. Frozen credit markets and a spiraling recession were major contributors to Detroit’s current state.

And the financial services firms pay a hell of a lot more than Detroit. The ethos of the Republican right — that the wealthy should have unlimited earning potential, but average Americans are “greedy” if they want the same thing, and that tax cuts should be weighted always toward the wealthy, who shouldn’t be punished, while workers should, at all costs, be prevented from unionizing, and thereby gaining wages and benefits that rightly belong to their betters. No wonder Republicans have lost everyone in this country who isn’t dumb enough to cheer for his or her own demise.

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