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Hang On, Sloopy

19 November 2008

big_3_bailoutWhen that song came on the car radio as I was on my way to and from football games in high school, I thought it was just silly.  I still do, but the title serves today’s topic: one more crack at the issue of the Big Three automakers.







As Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinsky battled back and forth on the relative impact of government bail-out vs. bankruptcy on the U.S. auto industry, each being bolstered by proponents on both sides:  Mike Barnicle (pro-bail-out), Mitt Romney and Carly



Fiorina (pro-bankruptcy), I couldn’t help but continue to worry about the people involved.  Mika Brzezinsky, who still feels that Sarah Palin could be an acceptable future president for our nation, continued her strong punitive push against the Big Three.  I find this particularly strange from a mother who expresses great concern for her children and people as a whole.  She totally discounts the human suffering she is calling for in her position.  The whole thing made me think about the “real people” I wouldn’t want to be right now.

christmas-shoppingNumber one, I wouldn’t want to be the owner of a small retail business in Michigan going into the Christmas shopping season this year.  While the Republicans like to throw around their deep-felt support for small business, they don’t seem particularly concerned for small retailers in this huge mess.  Everybody knows that most retailers make as much as 50 percent of their sales during the Christmas shopping season.  I can’t help but think about all those small retailers — mom and pop stores — in Michigan and other Midwestern States that depend on the auto industry, already strapped by a bad economy, already hanging by a thread, who are watching any hope for survival into next year melt before their very eyes.  How many people who are now employed in the auto industry are planning a big Christmas this year?  I would guess practically no one.  They are forced to hold onto their money because they don’t know if they will have jobs next year.

corporate_donor_imageWe’re not talking about big corporate executives here.  We are talking about real people with real bottom lines to meet in their small businesses.  Where are the Republicans?  They are taking a pass on the situation, taking their lead from the economic wizards over at the White House.  Why?  I always find it useful to follow the money.  Do Republicans really favor small business?  Maybe, but maybe not.  But there is someone they always favor: big, corporate donors.  Let’s see, who is the biggest corporate donor with the most to gain by the failure of thousands of small retailers across the nation?  Could it be Wal-Mart?  Of course, it could.  On their way out the door, the Bush Administration is throwing a big Christmas party for its supporters:  big banks, big insurance companies, big oil (new rules to put off pollution controls), and Wal-Mart.

walmart_exterior Wal-Mart is a big contributor in both money and moral support to the Republican cause.  And, boy, is this a windfall for them.  Going into this horrible holiday season, they are the retailer who is showing the greatest signs of success.  When the dust settles, they could have driven those pesky mom and pop stores out of business, not to mention those high-falutin’ department stores over at the mall.  And just like that, the “company store” [See “A Wal-mart Christmas”] can really solidify its march to even greater market dominance while helping the Chinese economy in the process.  For free-trading Republicans this amounts to a win-win situation!

Joe Scarborough

Joe Scarborough

Second, and even more sadly, I would hate to be one of those people who make up what Republicans like to call “legacy costs.”  That would be people who worked for most, if not all, of their adult lives for the auto industry and whose contracts were bought out in years of downsizing with a promise of continued medical coverage – something they probably greatly needed as they moved through their 50s and into their early 60s when Medicare would kick in.  While I heard Joe Scarborough spout off about “these people who take early retirement,” the other day, I realized the young whippersnapper doesn’t know what he’s talking about and probably never will.  I know all about it.  We have found out the hard way in our household the value of a 50-something or 60-something “laid-off” worker.  Literally sending out hundreds of resumes and answering hundreds of ads, I got one (1) interview and no telephone calls, and Mrs. Jack didn’t even get an interview along with no telephone calls.

walmart_greeterNo matter what they say, American employers are not looking for older workers in their companies.  We are too expensive.  We drive up the cost of their health-care plans, and they don’t want to train us for what they consider to be short-term employment.  And if you think places like Wal-Mart are interested in hiring people who made good wages in a past employment, think again.  They are not!  That’s a myth perpetrated by the appearance of a senior at the front door to greet you.



Of course, there is that third person that the Palin-supporting Mika Brzezinsky doesn’t want to think about, I guess — the heads of households of all those families who not only depend on the salary that their auto-worker member brings home, but the health insurance that might mean the difference between survival or not of a sick family member or worse yet a sick child.  Perhaps she is too young to have seen the pathetic sights my eyes saw in the pre-Clinton ’90s when whole families with unwashed children were living under bridges along Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas, in the shadows of the famous skyline and fabulous million-dollar condos.  It was shameful.  The rich of Dallas drove by day after day, ignoring the poverty in their midst and then voted another four years for George H. W. Bush.  Thank God, the rest of the country overruled them.

While the sins of the Big Three automakers are huge, let us not forget the human dimensions of the story.  There are real people with real lives, real homes, real children, whose lives hang in the balance of our decision as a nation at this time.

Sadly, all we can do is wait until the feckless George W. Bush leaves Washington taking his heartless government with him.  Good riddance!  But for those whose very lives are hanging in the balance, all we can offer is an old song lyric: “Hang on, Sloopy; Sloopy, hang on!”



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