Look for the Union Label

It's stamped on the Democratic party.

For the first time in many decades, the (not so very) Big Three American automakers have been presented with a national strike by the UAW.

Last month, GM was struck for two days, and then a contract agreement was reached.  This month, it was Chrysler's turn, and the result was amusingly similar - a strike lasting a punishing six hours.  It's enough to make one long for the days of the months-long picket lines, the daily broadsides, the National Guard being called in... no, actually it's not.  We should all be thankful that things are so relatively civil.

It's not news that American automobile manufacturing has been slowly dying for a long, long time, and union membership with it.  To catalog the blunders of the Big Three - both management, and labor - would be the subject of a thick series of books, not an article; and there is no shortage of blame to go around.

The bottom line is that the companies simply can no longer afford the high wages and lavish benefits, when their competitors elsewhere across American and the world need not pay anywhere near as much.

But the most intractable problems relate to retirees.  It's one thing to cut wages for workers; they can either accept the lower pay, or quit and seek work elsewhere.  Retirees, however, have no such ability. They were promised a certain level of pension and benefits; worked their whole lives under those expectations; and certainly now cannot do much to improve their financial situation on their own.

Chopping what the retirees receive is rightly seen as nasty.  Somehow, though, the companies had to offload these tremendous and ever-growing liabilities, particularly health care.

And, in these recent deals, that seems to have been accomplished.  In exchange for no longer bearing the responsibility for the retirees' health-care plans, GM and Chrysler have handed over to the UAW a huge pile of cash - $29.9 billion and $19 billion, respectively.

Now this is an almost unimaginably large sum of money.  What can you do with $50 billion?  Considering what health care for old folks cost, it actually doesn't go that far.  Benefit cuts of some kind may be coming, but it won't be the car companies doing it - it'll be the union doing it, which is a different matter entirely.

There's one intriguing possibility that hasn't been explored, though, and that is - what if the liabilities disappeared entirely?

We all know that Hillary has wanted national health care for decades.  So have the unions.  Republicans have traditionally opposed it, but not very competently.  Unless there's a tremendous change in the next year, we can expect a President Hillary and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in 2009, and without doubt, national health care will be Job One.

So suddenly the UAW retirees now have their health care covered by your tax dollars, along with everyone else.  Now how much is $50 billion, when its purpose has vanished?

Well, we can be confident that the union leadership will spend a good portion of it for Learjets, Rolls-Royces, and the usual trappings of ill-gotten gains.  But a billion dollars is quite a lot of money, and one can only sit in one Rolls-Royce at a time.  Even the Arab sheiks probably don't have much over a billion dollars' worth of toys.

No, there's something else the unions will surely use this tremendous pile of cash for; something far more harmful than a few extra fancy cars and mansions.

In the 2000 election, labor unions donated $90 million to political campaigns, 94% of which went to Democrats.

So, let's follow the money train here.

  1. Elect President Hillary and a filibuster-proof Democratic Congress - looking pretty good so far.
  2. Pass universal health care - certainly a major goal for the Democratic party, from rank-and-file to leaders.
  3. This frees up at least $50 billion to unions, most likely more as Ford has not yet joined the health-care pot but probably will.
  4. And never worry about raising campaign funds ever again.  The interest alone on this money is more than 100 times the amount that labor unions have previously donated in a campaign cycle.

Why is it that Republicans are too stupid to see this mountain-sized anvil about to crash down on their heads?  The time to fix it was last year when there was a Republican majority, by banning union contributions to political campaigns.  But now it's too late.

Democrats have been bought and paid for by unions for many years.  In recent years, however, the "netroots," led by MoveOn.org, claims of the Democratic party that "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."  There may be a bidding war heating up.  Whether the Dems are owned by the unions or by MoveOn, however, it will be the American citizens who pay the price.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments

Sadly this shows again that the Republican Party has gone brain dead. We are inundated with politicians and can't find a statesman in the bunch.

October 19, 2007 9:29 AM
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