Another Perspective

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TPM Reader MM sent this in a couple of days ago:

For years, the complaint was that the auto companies were full of insular ‘car guys’ who failed to appreciate how business was being done in the modern era. So Ford and Chrysler went out and grabbed successful CEOs from outside the auto industry to turn things around, and these CEOs are now supposed to agree to a wage of $1 a year to atone for mistakes made before they arrived to clean things up. I can’t wait for the tsunami of business talent that will soon be pouring into America’s most important manufacturing sector.

Citi sucked up $25 billion to no discernible effect, then got a check for $20 billion more and $300 billion + in loan guarantees. AIG has received over $100 billion. Where are the demands that their CEOs turn their corporate jets into tin cans, and reduce their salaries to $1 a year? Since when do banks and investment houses get a free pass for their short-sighted decisions and overpaid employees?

I agree that the auto execs could have done a better job of public relations. But let’s remember that the CEOs of the financial companies did not have to do anything at all for their $700 billion. They were not dragged in front of Senate committees to endure Star Chamber treatment. Treasury officials fly to them, go to their offices and work the phones to find buyers and bridge financing to get them through this recession. Failing that, Treasury and the Fed open the money floodgates, and give them whatever they want. …

Here’s a dispatch from ‘flyover’ country: the millions of workers who depend on the auto companies and their suppliers, and the even more millions of workers who depend on the spin-off from them, have noticed the double standard. A couple of contracts ago, the UAW negotiated a national holiday on election day so its members could work phone banks and drive voters to the poles. The UAW and other industrial unions have donated millions of dollars and thousands of hours to Democratic causes and candidates over election cycles that go back before you or I were born.

It is easy to make fun of the car companies and their execs, especially for those whose prejudices and information about manufacturing in the US are 20 years out of date. But denying bridge loans to the auto companies would screw a social movement that has stood by Democratic candidates and causes since WW II.

This year, we won a huge victory in (large) part because the sons and daughters of Reagan Democrats became Obama Democrats. Those voters are watching, and waiting. They have a hell of a lot of skin in the game, and they will remember what the party does on this issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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