“It’s Herbert Hoover time”
That was the message Vice President Dick Cheney brought to a closed-door Senate GOP lunch Wednesday, December 10th, reportedly warning it would be “Herbert Hoover” time if aid to the struggling U.S. auto industry was rejected.
On Thursday night, Senate Republicans killed the auto bailout bill that had been supported by Democrats and the White House, with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky blaming the evil boogeyman, organized labor. Sen. McConnell, who coincidentally hails from a state that has a significant presence of foreign auto manufacturers who would no doubt benefit if the domestic auto industry collapsed – blamed the United Auto Workers for failing to give greater concessions regarding workers’ pay and benefits. However, what Sen. McConnell conveniently failed to mention is that workers in many of the non-union foreign auto plants in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas often earn as much or more than their unionized counterparts working for the domestic auto manufacturers. The issue for Republicans like Sen. McConnell really isn’t workers’ pay – he and his ilk see this as an opportunity to weaken organized labor, a segment of the population that has not traditionally supported the Republican Party.
Despite last night’s setback by Senate Republicans, the White House isn’t giving up on an auto bailout, signaling that it might attempt to use Treasury financial market rescue funds to prop up the auto industry until a new Congress convenes in January:
“Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms,” the administration said in a statement. “However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary – including use of the TARP program — to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers.”
Hopefully there will be some movement on this issue, because the last thing our economy needs right now is a failed auto industry, which would no doubt result in a chain effect of business closings and layoffs of not just autoworkers, but workers in all those businesses that produce components such as seats, dashboards, etc. A collapse of our nation’s domestic auto industry could very well be the tipping point that moves our economy from a recession to a depression, and that’s the last thing any of us need right now.
Oh, and one more thing…while Sen. McConnell and his Republican colleagues in Washington are blaming the UAW for not making deep enough concessions in workers’ wages and benefits, I’d love to hear Sen. McConnell say he’s willing to take a cut in his pay and benefits until the economy picks up, lest he run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite for demanding hardworking folks take cuts in their pay and benefits while he gets a six figure salary and the Cadillac of health insurance plans.