Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let them eat cake...

Pat Buchanan can't understand what the hell the Senate Republicans are doing:

Is the Republican Party so fanatic in its ideology that, rather than sin against a commandment of Milton Friedman, it is willing to see America written forever out of this fantastic market, let millions of jobs vanish and write off the industrial Midwest?

So it would seem. “Companies fail every day, and others take their place,” said Sen. Richard Shelby on “Face the Nation.”

Presumably, the companies that will “take their place,” when GM, Ford and Chrysler die, are German, Japanese or Korean, like the ones lured into Shelby’s state of Alabama, with the bait of subsidies free-market Republicans are supposed to abhor.

Buchanan's arguments in this piece are compelling. Of course, these days I'm so adrift in the arguments and counter-arguments to the bailout of US Auto, it really has become a bit difficult to wrap my brain around.

Buchanan points out a number of fallacies in the GOP argument. First, the foreign auto makers that are here are heavily subsidized both by our government and theirs. Then, too, in the world of globalization not all free trade is really all that free. Other countries protect their industry against us, and we should not feel so beholden to leave our own out there without any sort of...here's that word...protection.

The way I see it, though, is without a little protectionism (what's the government for after all?) we can't keep good American jobs here in America. They'll all be shipped away. And the crappy service jobs that do remain will all be taken by illegals since the government also doesn't see fit to enforce immigration laws. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a foreign work force in good times. Hell, if there were good blue-collar jobs here, letting illegals work the crappy service jobs wouldn't be a big deal, would it?

But both?

That just strikes me as a remedy to get the rich richer and the middle class poorer. I'm all for globalization, but let's do it right. Let's do it slowly. Let's be bloody conservative about this process, and yell "stop" every now and then, instead of just watching our wealth and national pride slip through the drain and float overseas, bit by bit by bit...

Buchanan goes on:

When an icon of American industry, Harley-Davidson, was being run out of business by cutthroat Japanese dumping of big bikes to kill the “Harley Hog,” Reagan slapped 50 percent tariffs on their motorcycles and imposed quotas on imported Japanese cars. Message to Tokyo. If you folks want to keep selling cars here, start building them here.

Fear of Reaganism brought those foreign automakers, lickety-split, to America’s shores, not any love of Southern cooking.

Do the Republicans not yet understand how they lost the New Majority coalition that gave them three landslides and five victories in six presidential races from 1968 to 1988? Do they not know why the Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are going home?

The Republican Party gave their jobs away!

How? By telling U.S. manufacturers they could shut plants here, get rid of their U.S. workers, build factories in Mexico, Asia or China, and ship their products back, free of charge.

Republican globalists gave U.S. manufacturers every incentive to go abroad and take their jobs with them, the jobs of Middle America.

Sorry to quote so much of Buchanan's essay (Tokyo Republicans) but I really do think it's worth reading. Jobs are not an abstract concept, though they may be to the upper echelons of the investment class (that class that so easily obtains its bailouts, no?).

Then again, I'm not in favor of this bailout without a few strings attached here and there. First of all, the unions may not have wage issues (the $70/hr figure includes benefits and other factors) but they do have unrealistic pension/benefits packages, and need to realize that in order to really qualify for this bailout, they should fall in line with most of American workers and accept 401ks and the like.

And the executives (not just the CEO's) of these companies need to make some serious concessions as well. Lose the perks for a while. Tighten your belts like everybody else. Sacrifice for the good of the company, the country, yourselves. People aren't going to buy many cars right now in this climate of tight-credit, so it's going to be a rough ride even with a bailout.

What keeps me leaning toward bailing out the industry (and it's a bitter pill, I admit) is just the notion of that many Americans losing their livelihoods and entering the already brutal job market.

I'll leave you with more of Buchanan's scathing words:
In today’s world, America faces nationalistic trade rivals who manipulate currencies, employ nontariff barriers, subsidize their manufacturers, rebate value-added taxes on exports to us and impose value-added taxes on imports from us, all to capture our markets and kill our great companies. And we have a Republican Party blissfully ignorant that we live in a world of us or them. It doesn’t even know who “us” is.
Trade is good, people, but every country needs a manufacturing base. We'll be in some seriously troubled waters if we choose to ignore that.

Now, somebody talk about inflation and get me all depressed again...