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Saving the automakers with single payer

Bruce Dixon:

Universal free health care is the secret competitive weapon of the Japanese, Canadian and European auto industries. Unless and until this competitive advantage is equalized, manufacturing automobiles and practically everything else will be far more expensive inside the US than outside it. No amount of money thrown at the auto industry can solve that, and without medical and retirement expenses, foreign automakers are guaranteed to have the extra cash to match and beat anything US automakers invest in innovative green technologies.

Most US politicians omit this vital contextual information because they or their parties take big money from the private insurers. The private health insurance industry eats one third of every health care dollar to finance its executive salaries, its bad investments, its marketing campaigns, and the bureaucratic machinery with which it denies needed care even to the insured. Since they are integral to the our nation's permanent ruling elite, corporate media shamelessly speak for them and exercise remarkable discipline in keeping nearly all discussion of single-payer medical care away from the eyes and ears of the American public. But thanks in part to the internet, the mainstream media's conspiracy of silence against single-payer health care is not working as well as it used to.

So, look, if Leader Nance's plea for a "plan" from the automakers is some sort of Rovian triple bank shot to get GM to ask for single payer and shove the Overton Window left so the Democratic, er, leadership doesn't have to, I'll be the first to applaud. Heck, Wagoner might even do it. And now let's quote Dixon's lead:

No presidential administration keeps its promises without relentless pressure from below. It's never happened before, and there's no reason to expect any different.

So, if the dream scenario comes true, and GM -- of all corporations -- is cornered into taking point on health care, the trick is going to be making sure that GM's position is the floor, and not the ceiling.

NOTE Via Zuzu.

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

they've been doing for years?

letting lobbyists and the industry write legislation? (or at least ensuring that it benefits them first and foremost no matter what?)

I've been trying to remember what they did with Chrysler and Iacocca years ago? Was it bailout or loan or what?

I'm surprised that the automakers haven't chosen bankruptcy--it would let them dump all pensions and retiree healthcare altogether, no?

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

which was completely repaid to the American taxpayers.

I think the automakers don't want bankruptcy because it would wipe out their many, many suppliers who would then have to take a number in bankruptcy court to try to get even a pittance of what they are owed. The suppliers would severely cutback or go out of business. And there is a concern that consumers will not buy durable goods, like a car with a warranty, from a company that is in bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy would just kill the US auto industry. The ripples of destruction (a tsunami, actually) would hit all 50 states. This would do much more than wipe out retiree benefits and unions.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

then we should do loans again, no?

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

It's a bridge loan. It seems to be an effort to give the automakers some breathing room to get past this current credit crisis and to get to a new administration. The country is in such a dead zone right now, waiting for Bush to finally be gone. Thank goodness back in the '30s we moved the inauguration from March to January. Imagine if Bush had 5 more months instead of 2.

The auto industry needs a complete overhaul. They have to figure out how to cut brands, eliminate dealerships, retool for energy efficient vehicles. They do have some money coming in the form of grants from the Dept.of Energy that are to be used for R & D for the next generation of vehicles.

And there are all the issues of health care and pension costs that have to be dealt with, but dealt with in a way that unburdens the automakers without screwing retirees and employees.

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

It is certainly a commentary on something that Paulson and Bernancke and Bush and everyone else were so hot to save white collar finance jobs, but suddenly are so concerned about wasting taxpayer $$$ when it comes to salvaging blue collar jobs.

I am not all that happy with Barney Frank right now, but he made this point the other night on Charlie Rose. I was glad to finally hear someone put that out there. I have been screaming about this odd dichotomy to anyone who would listen for the last week.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

they don't care about jobs--most of them voted for all the "free trade" agreements that helped manufacturing jobs go overseas, after all--they've actively paid companies to move jobs away.

it's the union component of this, and card-check and stuff, i think too, that makes auto companies different in their eyes as well--i betcha they're gonna force things that weaken unions even more in exchange for any help. (the GOP will definitely make that a condition)

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

-- http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/c...

"... The economic crisis, particularly the Big 3 meltdown, is offering the right what they see as a new opportunity to break unions and destroy any advances workers might have expected under a progressive government. They may be temporarily in disarray politically, but the right never forgets their primary mission --- protecting the wealthy. And they are very good at advancing that agenda whether in the majority or the minority. Under the Shock Doctrine, they have a perfect opportunity to end the union movement in America..."

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

and under Iacocca, Chrysler paid off the loans early.

I'd hope the automakers are smart enough to realize that if they go into bankruptcy, the automotive infrastructure - the thousands of small and some very large suppliers who make all the parts for cars - will be demolished and won't be rebuilt. None of them will survive even 6 to 12 months without payment (assuming the expedited Chapter 11 some are floating as a solution), much less the 3 to 5 years a normal bankruptcy would take.

I doubt that Pelosi and friends are smart enough to realize that.

It seems to me that if GM and/or Chrysler go under, Ford won't be far behind and you can kiss economic recovery goodbye. It's great to ask the auto companies to come up with a plan, but where's the legislation Pelosi could have passed mandating zero CO2 emitting vehicles or even higher CAFE standards? Where's the UHC to take that burden off the auto companies' bottom line?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

don't they still own Chrysler? Shouldn't they be funding them?

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

to the private equity fund Cerberus. Daimler retained a very small stake in Chrysler which Daimler recently valued at $0. Daimler has already given up on Chrysler.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

(i obviously missed that news)

Maybe there's some foreigners who want stakes in one of them now?

Citibank just got tons of Saudi bucks (and is still gonna get our money as well)

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

If we'd made Pelosi Queen and Absolute Ruler she'd have done so. We didn't and so here things are, exactly as the voters who elected Nixon twice, Reagan twice, and the Bush Bunch three times apparently intended.

If you have evidence or even a persuasive argument that Pelosi - herself - could have done those things, UHC, mandated zero-emission vehicles or higher CAFE standards, please post it up; I'd be fascinated. Otherwise, please seek treatment for your PDS.

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

it's kinda cute, the way you stick up for disappointing Democrats.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that Nancy, all by her lonesome, could have effected all those changes. However, she, and all the Democratic leadership, did squander the advantage they gained in the 2006 midterms. Continuing to knuckle-under to Bush and the Republicans was wrong and a bit cowardly. There are many things Nancy and Harry could have forced votes on. If they did not pass or if Bush vetoed, so what? The Dems didn't even try.

It is that complete lack of effort that has me cheesed off.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

In point of fact, only just enough advantage to chose committee chairs and not much else.

What you call knuckling-under they viewed as strategic positioning. Given the size of the new majorities and winning the White House, they seem to have done well by the Party and, looking at it coldly, well by the country. Empty gestures would have been just that, empty or in some cases counterproductive; you may have wanted all that, the floor fights and the grandstanding and turmoil and vetoes, but the country would have then blamed the Democrats equally with the Republicans for the upset; that was the judgment of Reid and Pelosi and I don't disagree with them.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

She's the leader of the Democratic Party in the House, which, in case you missed it, has a majority. She further has the responsibility to use that immense power and leadership role for the common good - and common good in this case includes doing things to and for the auto industry, both giving them the assistance they need and making them do the things they should do.

Your argument (beyond some childish namecalling) appears to be that if people in leadership positions not only fail to accomplish the things they should accomplish, but in fact make no visible effort to accomplish those things, well, too bad. Just look the other way and talk about how cool it is we have a Democratic President and Democratic majorities in Congress.

Are you suggesting it's OK if Pelosi and the Democrats fail to provide assistance to salvage the US auto industry and everything that depends on it economically? You'd vote for them again if they failed?

I guess you would.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I started the childish name calling. It was meant in good fun, but wasn't accepted that way, and I apologized.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

That was ages ago, already forgotten. Had my say and that's an end to it; unlike some others, I seldom stay bent for long.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

None, in fact.

The Democratic "majority" in the House is fragile, with the BlueDog/Republican axis holding all the power needed to stop anything they see as too aggressive. In the new Congress that power will have shifted, but we still have the 110th for the rest of this session. Further, the Senate has been the holdup for any Progressive legislation, not the House so there's that detail where Pelosi has no power that you fail to address. Then there's Bush, quite happy to veto whatever he doesn't want. That too will change with a Democrat in the White House and yes, I do think it will be a substantive change on many issues.

Are you suggesting that Pelosi and the Democrats have the power in this session to "provide assistance" (don't be so coy, tell us specifically what you mean) to the automakers without agreement from Bush and the congressional Republicans? If so, please explain and provide a headcount for the Senate vote on your proposal.

When Pelosi speaks in her role as Speaker, she is speaking for the House as a whole and not exclusively for the Democratic caucus. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this custom after all the partisan declaiming of the Republican Speakers but until Gingrich this was the norm. Pelosi speaks, and administers her office, in the manner of Sam Rayburn and not Tom DeLay.

When she says that this is what the automakers will need to do to ensure passage, she is speaking factually as she understands the situation to be in the House; you may not like the news, but it is the truth as she sees it. I understand that some people are frustrated by hearing the truth, when they'd like to hear empty threats and conflict and raging anger and promises of revenge, but that just isn't Nancy Pelosi.

As to childish name-calling, I'll give up on PDS when people stop accusing me of CDS; only seems fair.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and bring it to the floor for a vote--and also make sure the country knew that millions of jobs were depending on it--and then present it to the President, or if it failed, tell the country why.

or they could attach it to the recent unemployment extension, or some other bill coming up.

there are tons of things they could do--but instead, they're talking about private jets as why they won't do anything, and telling the big 3 to write a bill themselves--and going home.

jeqal's picture
Submitted by jeqal on

Isn't bailing out all these companies and keeping your hand in as government consultant called Fascism?

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

when you allow the US economy to become the equivalent of the Weimar Republic by letting the auto companies fail.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/iss... --

"... # Manufacturing directly employs 14 million America and supports 8 million more.
# Each manufacturing job supports as many as four other jobs, providing a boost to local economies. For example, every 100 steel or every 100 auto jobs create between 400 and 500 new jobs in the rest of the economy. This contrasts with the retail sector, where every 100 jobs generate 94 new jobs elsewhere, and the personal and service sectors, where 100 jobs create 147 new jobs. This multiplier effect reflects how manufacturing’s linkages run deep into the overall economy and means improvements in manufacturing productivity translate broadly into the economy as a whole. ..."

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

but I could believe they want us to think it is all part of some grand strategy. I just can't seem to make myself forget that Nancy and friends campaigned during the 2006 midterms on promises to rein in Bush and end the war. And while, yeah, they did appoint those committee chairs you mentioned, that was it. So, yes, BIO, they squandered and they knuckled-under.

I don't buy your argument that had the Dems pushed harder the people would have blamed them for failure. Voters wanted to see real movement on ending the war. Nancy and Harry did nothing but keep the $$$ flowing.. They did not even try. Not one single attempt to stop the war funding. Not even a threat from the Dems.

You have been beating the drum for electing Obama. Your remarks, here and on other posts, lead me to believe that you think Obama and a bigger Dem majority will finally stand up and go the right thing. Maybe they will; maybe they won't. I won't be holding my breath.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Electing Obama and bigger Dem majorities was just kicking down the door. Now we need to kick them in the ass and make them move in the direction we - and the country - need them to move.

There's a ton of work to get done, and a huge pile of resistance in front of us. I've said here repeatedly that Obama is center-right and will if left to his own devices want to compromise and nibble. He needs to be pushed, pulled, whatever to make bigger steps sooner. So does the Congress, who after 40 years of being brutalized by the voters and battered by the Republicans are more than a little skittish about leading; think of it as Battered Wife Syndrome.

This election is just a chance at a beginning, a chance that would not have existed under another Republican regime. Still, the bulk of the hard work is ahead.

ageless's picture
Submitted by ageless on

The problem with the Automakers can be stated in three words.
“Resistance to change”.
They have the knowledge to make EVs, but refuse to do so
because of the Oil Industry. An electric car really can be self charging.
There is enough technology to make self powered generators that will
Keep these cars charged, even for very long trips. They keep talking
batteries are a problem. The real problem is they don’t want to go
against the Oil Industry because a self charging electric car would
free America from their grip. I have seen things change during my life
that has brought great things to this world. When the Auto makers realize
that “we the people” matter more than the Oil Industry, they should do
the right thing. The EV 2 with a self powered generator system.
Think about it!