American taxpayers instinctively knew that giving bankers three-quarters of a trillion bucks was a bad idea because it would go to Wall Street cronies of Hank Paulson with no oversight, a huge transfer of wealth from taxpayers to failing industries.
Now it’s becoming plain that the auto bailout is more of the same. The United Auto Workers intend to renege on their promise to make concessions in exchange for bailout money.
Just days before Christmas, the UAW let it be known it’ll fight any concessions on wages and benefits. “An undue tax on the workers” is how union boss Ron Gettelfinger described it as the UAW reneged on the deal almost before the ink was dry.
This will go down as one of the most cynical acts of political manipulation ever. The UAW agreed to one thing with President Bush, knowing full well President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats were big recipients of union largesse and would let them slide. They read the situation correctly.
Democratic Rep. Barney Frank this week called union concessions an “unfair assault on working men and women” — a not-accidental echo of Gettelfinger’s comments.
But the only real assault on “working men and women” here is the enormous cost this bailout will entail — a cost that all working taxpayers will have to bear and which some analysts think will ultimately total $75 billion to $125 billion.
And the UAW hopes you’ll pony it up and give them a free ride.
U.S. automakers are in trouble for two reasons. One, they have massive legacy costs on their books to take care of retired workers, and two, their labor costs are much higher than their competition.
Recent estimates put average UAW worker compensation at $55 an hour to $73 an hour, vs. $45 for the transplant automakers. So at a minimum, UAW workers are $10 an hour more expensive to hire than the 114,000 workers who toil at transplant auto plants situated mostly in the non-union South.
Dammit. Can we get our money back?