I was directed to a video, via Ninglun’s Google Reader, to watch concerning the US car maker’s bailout package that has pretty much died in the US senate (terms and conditions couldn’t be agreed on before the break, so voting has been put off for months – a move that can potentially bankrupt Chrysler and General Motors, while Ford might be able to last the wait out) through the week. It was this video, and it’s a segment from Countdown with Keith Olbermann (a favourite of mine, though Olbermann isn’t hosting the show, it seems, over the Christmas break) with a guest on the topic. For the bandwidth-impaired, the video has a left-wing radio commentator on talking about how Republicans want to destroy unions because they overwhelmingly support Democrats, among other topics. The talk takes a turn as Republican policies are blamed for the decline US automakers, but of course returns to Republicans trying to kill unions. That’s about it – this guy states that the Republicans sees that the industry is weak and now is the time to ‘continue what Ronald Reagan began’ in getting rid of unions.
Far be it from me to defend Republicans, but I have a bit of an issue with this arguement. It is far too broad and general, and when the interview began with the guest saying ‘it’s not about North versus South or region versus region’ I knew that it was wrong. Let me outline, to you, why the automaker’s bailout was rejected with a more realistic argument, and not one of Republicans trying to ‘destroy’ a Democratic constituency.
It is about unions – partly. But it is also about a North/South divide. As evil as the Republican party might be now, they are not trying to abolish unions for votes. They are, for once, looking out for state interests. Look at a map of the US and find Detriot. That’s where the Big 3 automakers are based, in Michigan. All along those bordering northern states are automaking plants and assembly factories of the Big 3. Ford, Chrysler, and General Motor are big employers in these states that Democrats have a hold on, but Republicans also have a presence in. Indiana, Ohio (Senator George Voinovich publicly supported the bailout), Pennsylvania, and Minnesota all have one Republican senator, and all have state-based ties tot he Big 3. Republicans in the House have a much bigger presence across these states, and have more accountability to workers in these plants. These two groups of Republicans were indicating that they would vote for the bailout. So when the guest on Countdown said there’s no North/South divide, he was wrong – Republicans in the North were supporting the Big 3 bailout.
Of course, Democrats from the North are 100% for it.
On the other side, we have the South’s Republicans. In their states, it’s not the Big 3 that employ the masses but foreign car companies. These foreign investors employ their constituents at a lesser wages (not as much as was being made out, but less all the same), en masse, and increase the state’s wealth. But the key point here is that while the automakers in the North are US-owned and highly unionized, companies in the South are foreign-owned not unionized. Another sticking point is that benefits are better in the North. Southern senators, Republicans and Democrats alike, aren’t against government intervention in the US economy, as shown by the original bailout package for the banks, but they want to break the unions (i.e. Northern workers) and force union members to take pay and benefits cuts so that they are brought down to the working conditions in the South.
What follows on from this is the problem that I have with what was being said on Countdown. The unions aren’t being broken because they are heavily Democratic, rather they are being broken so that the Southern planst don’t get unionised, workers don’t join unions, all of which will please the foreign auto companies and keep them firmly attached to the South. Revenue and jobs stay in the South instead of heading to a different region, or country, and the states stand a chance of prospering again once the recession is over. The Southern Republicans (and even some moderate right-leaning Democrats – and you have to be a right-leaning Democrat to get elected in the South) are looking out for their states’ interests – doing exactly the same as Northern Republicans and Democrats.
My final point is probably this: Continue to think critically about the broad and general things said about politics in the media. Even with the circus packing up and leaving now that the election is over, it doesn’t mean that the media is going to go and report on things without bias now. Fox was always right-wing, and they will continue to be. MSNBC was always left-wing and will continue to be. See anything on these stations and proceed with caution. Check out the news for yourself from a variety of sources and you’ll see that things aren’t so divided on the left/right scale at the moment.