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Amy Traub

Auto Bailout Drives off a Cliff (And Takes What’s Left of the Economy with It?)

The right-wing spin machine is working overtime telling fairy tales about the cause of nation’s economic crisis. Blame for the home mortgage crisis lays on the doorstep of poor people who had the audacity to want to buy their own homes – and lacked the expertise to see through the complex new financial products being dreamed up on Wall Street. The collapse of the nation’s auto companies, meanwhile, was caused by auto workers with the nerve to get paid middle-class wages and benefits. And by the way, local zoning ordinances created the housing bubble.

Despite the spectacular failure of the ideology that sells deregulation, privatization, balanced budgets, tax cuts, “free” trade, tight monetary policy – and, oh yes, union-busting – as the solutions to all economic ills, this right-wing world view still holds sway over our public policy at crucial moments. Witness the filibuster that killed the auto industry bailout.

The failure of American auto companies could cost the U.S. economy 3.3 million jobs – many of them stable, middle-class positions – at a time when unemployment is already at crisis levels. But Senators clinging to failed right-wing ideology insisted, in effect, that unless middle-class autoworkers agreed to pay for the poor decision-making of their bosses, the bill would die. Now we’re relying on George W. Bush to save the auto industry.

As explains:

There is no doubt that change is needed in the American auto industry. This change should not be borne, however, on the backs of middle-class workers. Nor can the necessity of such change be blamed on them. Disingenuous conservatives would have unions and high labor costs be the cause of Detroit’s misfortune. But while American autoworkers are paid more than their counterparts employed by foreign manufacturers, the difference is not as large as often cited and costs associated with labor are in fact dwarfed by other production costs. Poor management decisions, not autoworkers’ ability to earn a middle-class standard of living, are to blame for the predicament of the auto industry…

Support for this bill does not mean support for a culture – and an economy – overly reliant on dirty automobiles. The nation’s future economic success depends on efforts to build more fuel efficient cars, but also to use cars less. Support for alternative transportation – high speed rail, light rail, subways – will be critical to a clean and economically viable future.

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Posted at 8:23 AM, Dec 16, 2008 in Economy | Employment | Labor |
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