Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Hell must have frozen over.

My world has turned upside down. I read a column by William Kristol in the NY Times and found myself agreeing with him. How has this come to be? What next, agreeing with Charles Krauthammer? If that happens, please drag me out behind the barn and shoot me.

In his latest column, which is the source of my great discomfort, Kristol says the Right and Left are dumping on the  auto companies. (my emphasis)

Today, G.M., Ford and Chrysler get no respect. Maybe they don’t deserve much. Detroit has many sins to answer for, and it’s been doing plenty of answering. But – and I say this as someone who grew up in non-car-driving family in New York and who is the furthest thing from an auto aficionado – there is a kind of undeserved disdain, even casual contempt, that seems to characterize the attitude of the political and media elites toward the American auto industry.

Kristol goes on to quote Warren Brown of the Washington Post.

“There is a feeling in this country – apparent in the often condescending, dismissive way Detroit’s automobile companies have been treated on Capitol Hill – that people who work with their hands and the companies that employ them are inferior to those who work with their minds and plow profit from information. How else to explain the clearly disparate treatment given to companies such as Citigroup and General Motors?”

While Kristol doesn’t pass up a chance to take a dig at “limousine liberals”, he also takes a dig at the Senate Republicans.

Meanwhile, on the right, free-market analysts have explained that our regulatory scheme of fuel-efficiency standards is counterproductive. But despite the fact that the government is partly responsible for the Big Three’s problems, the right hasn’t really been stirred to enthusiastically promote a deregulatory agenda to help the auto companies. What excites it is mobilizing to oppose bailouts for unionized workers.

This sentence in the column caught my eye. It echoes the title of my earlier diary about the bailout for the Big 3.

And Senate Republicans now run the risk of being portrayed as Marie Antoinettes with Southern accents.

Unlike most Kristol columns, this one ends with a sensible suggestion for both parties.

Whichever party can liberate itself from its well-worn rut to propose policies that help both American businesses and workers has a great opportunity. That party’s leaders could begin by offering management and labor at the Big Three a little more sympathy, and heaping upon them a little less calumny.

What a strange world we live in. Could Ann Coulter be working on a column that I would agree with? Nah, never happen. If it does, I will voluntarily enter therapy or submit myself for reeducation.


  1. GrassrootsOrganizer

    I heard an interesting perspective on all this the other day.  Those of us more familiar with the American auto industry after decades living in the belly of the beast understand something — the inability of the Big Three to adapt and quickly evolve is hardly the fault of the blue collar line worker.  They make what they are trained and expected to make with the tools and materials put in front of them.  The UAW has accepted concessions and embraced retraining.  The men and women on the line are NOT the problem, although the rhetoric from both polls would have the rest of us believe cars are created when a couple dozen Detroit executives order thousands of cavemen to pound out cars on a different shaped rock.  

    The white collar bureaucracy between the executives and blue collars of the Big Three is where innovative ideas traditionally went to die.   The designers, engineers, marketing experts, cost analysts — they had independent thought beat out of them before they even had the position from which to voice it. Most folks don’t realize there ARE major changes already in the works for American cars — what they really don’t get is the damn near impossible task it’s been turning a institutional brontosaurus like GM around.

    I know plenty of limited thinkers making over double what a guy on the line makes while remaining steadfast to what they first learned in 1976, and yet I don’t see anyone screaming for pay concessions from the average Detroit white collar.  Maybe that’s because they don’t belong to a union during this time when union bashing has become a Republican crisis.  Maybe the assumption is the upper middle class will soon enough return to the GOP fold, but only if they aren’t too insulted in the meantime.  

    I for one would like the see the breakdown published — how the wages and benefits costs breakdown between white and blue collars and comparative legacy costs.  It’s not like every fricking employee of GM is a UAW member — far from it.  

    So where are the calls for pay and benefit cuts across the board?  Can we look at what an GM accountant makes when compared to his or her peer at Toyota?

  2. The $73 per hour number includes the cost of retiree pensions and health care. The actual difference between UAW workers and non-union workers at the foreign plants is around $10 per hour. Another number you don’t hear is even more significant. The total cost of labor is approx. 10% of the cost of a car. That would add $600 to the cost of a $30,000 car. Does anyone really think that $600 is what keeps holding the Big 3 back when it comes to competing with the foreign car makers?

  3. spacemanspiff

    Could Ann Coulter be working on a column that I would agree with? Nah, never happen. If it does, I will voluntarily enter therapy or submit myself for reeducation.

  4. Michelle

    This whole cycle has opened my mind more to listen to other people, particularly the ones I disagree with….I guess because in the end, many of us just want to be heard, to know that our opinions matter, even if they are not followed.

    Kristol is a weird guy.  I enjoyed his interview on Jon Stewart a few weeks back.  I think that he sees the perversion of the Republican party to some degree with this past administration.  It’s a tough spot to be in…he’s cast out from the left for sure, and if he pisses off the right too much, he will essentially be politically homeless and obsolete.

  5. creamer

      He sounds….rational.

    Nobody told citi-group they had to take a pay cut, and their labor is 50-60 percent of operating expenses.

    I live in Michigan. I don’t work for an auto company or supplier but very aware that the health of my employer and my state in general depends on the auto makers surviving. I’m neither an apologist for the union or managment, theyv’e both screwed up. But my state will become a welfare state if the big three are allowed to fail.

    So forgive me, but if Bill Kristol, George Bush or even Shooter are for saving the auto industry I’ll be their fan.

    At least until Detroit cashes the check.

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