Friday, November 14, 2008

GOP to slay auto industry in bid to kill labor unions

Chances dwindle on bailout plan for automakers. So shrieks today's New York Times. Obstructionist Republican forces in Congress, even in this lame duck session, plan to sacrifice heavy manufacturing in the United States to make a point. Think of it as Republican tough love -- destroy manufacturing (and the village it sustains) to save it.

Those big, bad auto companies have only themselves to blame for their predicament, claims Senator Richard Shelby. If they hadn't bent to the demands of unions and the appetites of consumers things would be better for the industry. Shelby wraps it up neat and tidy in a statement, “The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem.” That is to say, you're on your own, suckers.

It may not be a national problem yet, but if one or all of them go down, it will most certainly become a national problem. Millions of jobs will be lost, devastating entire communities and hurting millions of families and children.

Even if you agree that bowing to consumer-driven SUVmania of the last ten years combined with decades of overly generous compensation for union members weakened automakers' current financial position, it is still lunacy to advocate letting the Big Three go down in flames. These aren't just companies who can't make it, companies with bad business models that deserve to take the consequences of bad decisions. These companies form the core of American manufacturing. The Big Three are in fact thousands of small companies (parts suppliers and related businesses) located across the country employing millions of people.

This manufacturing infrastructure -- the Big Three and the thousands of small companies that supply them located in nearly every state -- can become the foundation of a national green energy economy. And government incentives could move development forward. This could actually be a win-win situation -- a chance for redemption rather than eternal damnation. A critically-ill Big Three could be ready to trade planned obsolescense for sustainability, to see the error of their ways and move ahead into a green future.

But if you are stuck in a punitive paternalism, like the GOP's minions, the only option is total destruction. Sure, that'll teach 'em.