This is meant as a compliment, really. There is a reason I keep turning to John Nichols. It is my macabre fascination with the occult. John is the double-jointed man in the carnival sideshow, capable of assuming the most bizarre positions. Truly, a guilty pleasure.
Awhile back I goaded The Capital Times to say whether they support corporate welfare at long last. Did they support the bailout of the Big Three auto makers, particularly General Motors?
Nichols one-upped me. He wants the federal government to bail out its first labor union! He wants taxpayers to rescue the United Auto Workers. [Should we bail out the UAW? Absolutely]
And why? Because the UAW is, by Comrade John's special dispensation, a Progressive organization. They backed Barack Obama. Now, this is truly interesting. This "Progessive" advocates that public policy should return to the spoils system. If you voted right, you get billions in federal taxpayer assistance.
Obama and his aides, taking counsel from Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, had picked the right room in the house of labor in which to make their move.
As usual, Nichols skates right by inconvenient facts. He refers to the "draconian concessions" made by the UAW "to keep the auto giants competitive." Those concessions, however, apply only to new hires and GM ain't hiring new hires these days.
Now, let me ask you this: if you get laid off by your company, do you still get 95 percent of your salary forever? Did not think so. But that is what a laid-off UAW worker got for something it calls the "Job Bank." This was Detroit's penalty for modernizing their plants. The Big Three bore the cost of upgrading their factories while still pulling along the dead weight of unneeded workers. Only last year was the duration of the Job Bank's largesse reduced to two years. Still beats unemployment compensation six ways from Sunday.
Of course, the term "Job Bank" never found its way into the contortionist's editorial in The Capital Times. Nor the inflexible union rules that prevented workers from being reassigned to other lines to meet changing market conditions. Nor the ability to retire at age 50.
No, but anyone who opposes this gravy, says Nichols, is an "economic royalist."
What is an economic royalist? FDR made the reference in his 1936 acceptance speech to the Philadelphia Democrat(ic) Convention. He defined the term as one "who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed." Roosevelt said, "privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction," thereby condemning ordinary people to "economic slavery."
Two inconvenient facts, Mr. Nichols:
1. In the case of the Detroit bailout, the President and the elected Congress would have to agree.
2. Giving up a 95% guaranteed salary for idleness is hardly "economic slavery."
Money for nothing
Ninety-five percent for two years is far more generous than The Capital Times gave its own furloughed employees. The fact is, that kind of generosity is simply unsustainable. It does not work economically - any more than Progressive Dane's attempt to upend the laws of economics by legislatively mandating "affordable housing."
Instead, the unions played a front and center role in bringing down their employers.
Job protectionism protects failure and prevents the creation of something new to replace it. And, in the final analysis, the UAW's Job Bank didn't protect anyone. It helped kill the company that allowed it and the union that demanded it - along with rigid work rules that prevented workers from being reassigned as needed to match changing market conditions.
The Job Bank is a major cause of what is weighing GM down with costs of $71 per employee hour compared to $47 for Toyota-America.
CNN's website Wednesday had an on-line poll that asked whether Detroit could make automobiles America wanted to buy. The answer is: they already are. No one sells more vehicles than GM. Toyota is a close second, but only second.
And the quality is returning.
"Its new Chevy Malibu is reputed to be every bit as good as its closest competitor, the Honda Accord," reports ReasonOnline.
The problem is that GM cannot sell those vehicles profitably.
BTW, I note that even Sweden says "no thanks" to purchasing either Saab or Volvo, which could be spun off by GM and Ford, respectively. Socialist Sweden.
Slate, the online magazine, gets it right. Reporting that UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said Wednesday "that the union will suspend the jobs bank, in which laid-off workers are paid up to 95 percent of their salaries while not working, but he did not give specifics or a timetable of when the program will end." Slate asks:
"Um, how about yesterday? It's one thing for a union to ask management to pay for no-work jobs. It's quite another for a union to ask taxpayers to pay for them.' - The Detroit Delusion.
Maybe Slate never heard of John Nichols, truly one of the wonders of the midway.