Monday, May 09, 2005

It's the Unions!!!

Why are General Motors and Ford in such financial trouble these days? Why did they both have their bond ratings downgraded to junk status by S & P? Why did GM have its worst quarter in ten years, losing $ 1.1 billion dollars in the first three months of 2005?

The unions, of course!!!!


Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, told George Stephanopoulos on This Week that employee health care costs have sky-rocketed for the automakers, adding an extra $1,500 dollars to every car GM produces while the steel in the car only costs $800. He also said union workrules (like compensation for being layed off) so tax GM's and Ford's bottom line that they cannot compete with Japan and other foreign carmakers. Welch told Stephanopoulos the unions need to brought to heel before Ford and GM will ever be able to compete again.

Stephanopoulos asked Welch if some form of national health care for the U.S. was the answer. After all, Stephanopoulos said, Germany, Japan, and Korea all have nationalized health care which frees employers from having to carry the financial burden of employee healthcare. Welch sputtered and fumed at that, insisted union work rules were the problem, and said bankruptcy was right around the corner for both American carmakers if the unions didn't give on healthcare costs and pension funds.

Later in the program, both Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson noted that GM and Ford were the sources of their own problems, not the unions. After all, they said, hadn't GM and Ford put all of their eggs in the SUV basket? Hadn't they ignored innovation, especially energy innovation, which foreign carmakers have excelled with at a time when gasoline prices are soaring? Also, weren't CEO's still pulling in big bucks and outrageous perks (like being paid a housing allowance to live in their own houses) when profits were down and the future was bleak?

Wow. I never thought I would agree with anything Cokie Roberts said. Just goes to show you...

But back to Jack Welch. Of course Welch is going to scapegoat the unions. Jack Welch is a corporate criminal and boardroom thug who presided over a phony financial reporting scandal at GE and a pollution scandal in which GE dumped tons of PCB's into the Hudson River and refused to pay for the clean up until the EPA won a case against them in court. Welch hates unions, and won't be happy until all unions are busted, all employees are indentured servants and all CEOs are lords and masters of the Corporate Manor. Welch doesn't give a shit about either Ford or GM and he certainly doesn't give a shit about their employees or the future of this country. What Welch cares about is what most Wall Street scum care about these days - squeezing as much profit from their workforce as possible while rewarding themselves with all the perks, stock options, and bonuses they can without running afoul of the SEC. So listening to anything Welch has to say about unions is like listening to Jack the Ripper talk about prostitutes; you know there's going to be blood, righteous anger, and probably a murder or two.

Why do the media bother having corporate crooks like Welch on a decent show like This Week? Stephanopoulos, who's a smart and pretty fair member of the mainstream media, should know better. Let Welch do his unionbusting on CNBC with the rest of the Wall Street robber barons and have some decent people on This Week. Maybe then we could come to the realization that if health care costs are such a problem for businesses, corporations, and states across this nation, we might have to look at the way the healthcare system is set up. I mean, do you think the Japanese, Korean or German carmakers are subsidizing the health insurance industry to the tune of a trillions of dollars, the way American industry is?

PS: George Will noted at the end of the roundtable discussion that eventually Americans will get universal healthcare and it will be pushed by Wall Street because the current system is untenable. Will may be right, but we'll have to wait for corporate scumbags like Jack Welch and the rest of his greedy ilk to die off from heart attacks first before we get any movement on it.

Hey, Jack, you want another cheeseburger before you go schtup your mistress?

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