Political Economy

Cui Bono With the Bailouts?

December 16, 2008

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For the first time in my life (and I trust it will be the last), I find myself siding with the otherwise abhorrent neocons against a young, courageous giant of the Right, Tom Piatak. Equally surprising, I differ from Tom on the kind of issue that I would usually agree with him about. Now I’m not on principle against protecting established communities against the disintegrating effects of economic disruption; and if I were in Congress representing Southern districts that depend on textile production, I would not be against endorsing tariffs, both for the present good of my constituents and for the future of my congressional career. The idea that I would be helping my constituents by driving them into the ground financially in the short run so that they could resettle somewhere else in the global economy, strikes me as an abstract love, one worthy of the Wall Street Journal and its rootless yuppie fans. I’ve also never associated free trade, or what now passes for it, with the political Right. In the nineteenth century conservatives and generally liberals (outside of England, which was the industrial pacesetter) rejected free trade as harmful to national and communal interests. Although I myself lean in the direction of free trade everything being equal, I’ve never felt any moral obligation to defend that position. Indeed I may be the world’s most wishy-washy representative of the opinion in question

Having indicated where I stand on free trade, let me also declare my repugnance for the autoworkers’ union in Michigan. In an informative column, Ilana Mercer offers further evidence for what Richard Spencer has written on this website about the bloated wages and productive inefficiency plaguing the Big Three automakers and their generously paid work force. It seems these autoworkers are paid twice as much as those who produce Toyotas in red states, and although these workers often earn in excess of $130,000 a year; they wish to have their pay pushed even higher. Right now the bailout talks have stalled because the union will not accept any pay cut, and in fact it insists on higher wages for its members. The “Toyota Republicans” are correct to point out that autoworkers in their states produce cars at lower cost, and consequently their companies are not on the verge of bankruptcy. Why can’t the Big Three follow this example, instead of becoming a government ward?

Another problem with these unionized workers whom Tom and likeminded advocates of the bailout present as good, wholesome family types (and I’m sure some of them are) is that their beloved union reeks of PC leftist politics. For those who oppose partial-birth abortion, special gay rights, feminist legislation, federally enforced affirmative action, and turning a blind eye to the matter of illegal aliens, membership in the AUW should be causing a visceral problem. The UAW and its parent organization, the AFL-CIO, back all kinds of noxious cultural positions and payroll politicians who promote them.

I suppose one could justify the fact that deeply religious blue-collar families belong to such a union if they were going hungry and had no roofs over their heads. But that is not the case. What we’re talking about are families that are looking for enhanced incomes and which therefore put aside their social and moral beliefs to join a fixture of the social Left. Misrepresenting these union members reminds me of the silly practice of describing as “social conservative” those urban Catholics and rural Protestants who voted for Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama. I thought some on the right had taken leave of their senses when they engaged in these hyperbolic descriptions of Hillary’s voters during the Democratic primaries. It beats me how someone voting for a white female social leftist against a black male leftist, and one with a less abrasive personality, qualifies as a “conservative.” Once that term is given such extraordinary elasticity, then it is foolish to go on complaining about neocons as the faux Right.

As for the GOP losing the votes of union-workers if they fail to subsidize Detroit with public dollars, I’d like to ask why one would think that these workers would switch their party affiliations if Republican Congressmen decided to play Santa Claus. What reason do we have to believe that union members would cease voting for Carl Levin and other liberal Democrats and would turn toward socially conservative Republicans? I see no reason to believe this would happen, no matter how the GOP votes on the auto bailout. All over the northeastern part of the US, working-class Catholics vote for leftwing Democrats against Republicans who are almost as far to the left. This voting bloc has been critical to the careers of Biden, Kennedy, Dodd, Hillary Clinton and other pols of their stripe. Why would this situation be different in Michigan or Ohio if the Reps do join the Dems in cozying up to the UAW? Yes I know that our Congress just voted to bail out the banks. But two wrongs do not make a right; and besides the Republicans who supported the first bailout were shoring up their support among GOP bankers. With this bailout, they’d be simply shooting themselves in the foot. 

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