As the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler sat before Congress, there was a growing tendency in American public opinion to shift blame to the UAW and the labor unions for the financial failure in the U.S. auto industry. Nonsense! Yes, auto workers in these corporations are well paid, but they NEGOTIATED their wage and benefit packages. These same CEOs were a part of the agreed labor contracts, and the corporate executives meanwhile enhanced their individual income packages EACH by many millions of dollars. If GM, Ford, and Chrysler had continued their sales growth, as Toyota and Honda did, there would not be this mess in the auto industry. No labor union ordered the U.S. auto makers to build huge SUVs, Hummers, etc. That decision was made by the heads of the industry.
It should also be pointed out that while auto workers in some other auto producing nations do not seem to have the benefits of U.S. workers, these other nations have paid national health care programs that are NOT a part of any "benefit" package that auto workers have to negotiate. All citizens in those nations have tax-paid health care. And there are more benefits that other nations' workers receive as a part of the general population's paid benefits. American costs for health care are going up and up at a rapid rate. And performence in U.S. health care is far below the industrialized nations of Europe. American health and life expectancy is far below that of other industrialized nations, yet it costs us far more. American health care is a scam. Auto workers in the U.S. are faced with these figures. But I cannot emphasize enough that the same CEO greedy dolts who sat before Congress were OK when the labor contracts were negotiated as long as the execs got their immense pay-off. So it is important to keep this all in mind, and not single out labor union workers.
The general public in the U.S. is going to have to come to grips with some major changes in the way they consume. And one of those changes is to stop buying the gas guzzlers as a status symbol. If people who drove huge Hummers and other gas eaters were looked upon as tobacco smokers are, society's pressure would break this habit and status. We have been encouraged in the U.S. to buy beyond our means to afford. The chickens have come home to roost. We cannot continue on this path in gas consumption or in our buying habits. We have to learn to live within our means. Blaming labor for our greed and over-indulgence is not the way. Acting as grown-ups and living in moderation would be a start. Good gas mileage autos and much smaller homes would be a start. Blaming workers is not.
Finally, I salute President Bush in his attempt to give loans to the auto industry rather than simply allow the behemoths to implode. That would have a horrific effect on the U.S. and world economy. While George W. Bush is now engaged in trying to polish over his terrible legacy, nevertheless he is doing the right thing in supporting these loans. Now if the Southern Republican U.S. Senators would simply see the entire nation's benefit instead of their local auto workers, we might start moving in the direction of a national consciousness, now sadly lacking in all ways.
In the recent historical backdrop to the auto industry's financial disaster, there was always a desire among some to break the back of the United Auto Workers and other labor unions. We are finally starting to see the gross and hidden agenda in this regard. The selfish Republicans had no problem immediately jumping in to give immense bailout help to banks, brokerage houses, and other tycoons who had greedily cheated and milked the American public for their own benefit. But now hourly workers are denied anything approaching that handout. This is not a Democrat-Republican argument, it is about being fair, just, wise, and balanced in national concerns.