My Kids; Your Kids
It is often said that the Republican Party is the “Daddy Party” and the Democratic Party is the “Mommy Party.” The financial meltdown is giving real definition to this concept. The problem with Mommy and Daddy is that they don’t have any children in common. They are more like a marriage between two people each with their own children from a previous marriage. And neither seems particularly inclined to help the other’s children. Now, in fairness the Democrats were far more open to the idea of helping the Republican children, banks and insurance companies, than the Republicans have been in helping the Democrat children, auto industries and workers.
While Hank Paulsen has been directing the big trucks of Wall Street banks and insurance companies to back on up to the loading docks down at the U.S. Treasury, he and his boss, George W. Bush have put up a roadblock for the Big Three automakers to send their trucks for a similar pickup. It’s as though Daddy has gotten his pink slip, albeit with a two-and-a-half-month notice, and has decided to empty out the family savings accounts and max out the credit cards before turning over control to the still-working Mommy. “Here, dear, now you take over this mess,” Daddy says. “Oh, and by the way, we’re flat broke, so I don’t want to hear about your children needing to go to the doctor or not getting adequate nutrition. We can’t afford it.”
There has been MUCH discussion among the pundits for the last several days about the idea of helping the Big Three with a “bridge loan” to get them through until things turn around. Republicans are opposed to such an idea, and Democrats feel strongly that something must be done to save over 4 million jobs tied to the auto industry. But in the noise that’s coming from pundits that like one-line sound bites expressing support for either solving or ignoring the problem, many SMALL details are getting very little discussion. While everybody, especially those “aginners” who don’t want to help the poorly managed auto industry, blames management and labor unions for the entire mess, there have been a few voices on the other side with some important points to make.
Among the voices that should be listened to is that of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). While it may be that she represents a vested interest group or two in the situation, she also brings forth some points that are being overlooked in the sound-bite discussions that are going on – you know, the blame game that always comes along with any problem. She pointed to three very real issues that I’m not hearing discussed by others.
The U.S., as the great proponent of free-market capitalism in the world, has basically set our automobile manufacturers up for failure. While the Republican Administration has been helping their Big Oil buddies by encouraging consumption of big, gas-guzzling SUVs by their constituents, it has also required the U.S. auto industry to sink or swim on its own in the supposed free market of the world. But is it really a free market? Not really.
While we have given our auto manufacturers too many passes at fuel efficiency standards, we have also refused to do anything as a government to help them be more competitive with their foreign counterparts. While Japan, North Korea and Germany subsidized research and development into greater fuel efficiency, we called on our industry to pay its own way in R & D. In addition, as the only industrial nation in the world to not provide health care to our citizens, we have forced that burden onto our car manufacturers while complaining about the high cost of it in doing business, blaming the unions for being unreasonable in their demands for health care benefits for their members. While our international competitors in the marketplace imposed trade restrictions to protect their automakers from unfair outside competition, we have eschewed such a thing as anti-capitalistic and against our free-trade principles.
As a result of all of this ignorance of the realities of the international marketplace, our automakers are on the verge of collapse. Like the glaring example of Hurricane Katrina, our government has been caught asleep at the helm yet again while a problem has gone from manageable to disastrous and self-destructive to our nation as a whole. Tavis Smiley of PBS pointed out this morning on Meet the Press that Detroit is the poorest city in the United States, suffering unemployment near the one-third level. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), while on the same morning talk show, pointed out that the U.S. auto industry is indirectly connected to 10 percent of all American jobs and accounts for 20 percent of U.S. retail sales. Those are staggering numbers that we ignore at our national peril.
On the other hand, we had Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who was opposed to any sort of help for the auto industry. One only need look at the spectacularly successful economy in Alabama to see that Senator Shelby is someone we should all listen to. Here is a man who ignores the abject poverty that has been a way of life in his home state, especially within the black minority population, over and over as he opposed every form of aid to anybody. Yeah, I really care what Senator Shelby and his fellow Southern politicians offer as a prescription to the nation’s economic woes. They have succeeded so well in helping their own that we should all sign on for some of that.
Unfortunately, we, as the step-children of one or the other of the two major political parties, are always caught in the insane middle of their petty arguments. It’s time for Mommy and Daddy to realize that the house is burning down and somebody needs to call the fire department. I hope that President-Elect Obama can truly bring some healing between Mommy and Daddy so that we step-children can find more security in our own home. It’s time for a Dr. Phil moment in our nation where we can finally have a reality check. “Hey, Mommy and Daddy, how’s that workin’ for you?” Let’s keep praying they’ll wake up.
In the meantime, KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!