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The Car Czar's plan to gut America's autoworkers

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Let's Be...Frank

Picture this.  A man who owns a Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan, a private plane and a horse farm, a man who profited from investments in Chrysler and GMAC, a private equity manager worth over $600 million, who had a million dollars in shares of both Chrysler and GMAC...  That man is telling US auto workers - no, he's demanding - that they take a permanent, and huge, reduction in their living standard, which includes the immediate elimination of dental and optical care for hundreds of thousands of retirees and their dependents.  That care was in their contract, and contracts are so, dontcha know, sacrosanct that CEOs of "underwater" financial institutions could not be asked politely to take smaller, multimillion dollar bonuses - because those bonuses were part of their contracts.  And these were very same CEOs who had overseen the "drowning" of those financial institutions, but, no, they got to keep their obscene bonuses while retired auto workers must give up their teeth and their eyes.  How's that for a classless society?  Yep.  In America we have ------- no class.  You betcha.

Auto workers fought for decades for a living wage, health care, pensions, and college for their kids.  But this is seen by their "betters", America's financial aristocracy, the plutocracy, as a mere speed bump on their fast track to profit.  The ability of American auto workers, of American workers in general to live comfortably, to do more than just subsist, is an annoying inconvenience to The Rich, the shareholders, the CEOs, who'd prefer to pocket all the money they're "forced" to pay to have products and services - wealth - produced for them. 

If they could just get some robots - Yeah. That's the ticket. Some robots. - to do this work for them.  Because they could never do all the work by themselves, dontcha know, and they certainly wouldn't. Oh, no. Tish posh.  They might break a nail!  But barring these never-need-fixing, never-depreciating robots, they could make do with us coming to work for them, doing their work, and then crawling away without any pay at the end of the day to seek our subsistence elsewhere on our way "home" to our tent cities, our communities under the freeways and in the subways, or to sleep in our cars in parking lots or in large drainage pipes - you know, wherever "our type" likes to spend its non-working, leisure hours.

That would be their preference - slavery without the room and board. That's also exactly what wage-slavery is all about.  They pay you to pay them back for life's necessities.  But you see, even wage-slavery has gotten to be too much.  It's just "destroying" The Rich to have to pay us to work for them.
And the interest-yielding debt (credit) they've "given" us to make up for the part of our paychecks they've withheld just isn't doing it for them any more.  And, oh yes, they withheld part of the money they owed us.  No more of that "fair day's pay for a fair day's work" bullshit.

Government statistics track both the productivity index (the amount of work a worker produces per hour) and the average hourly-wage of non-supervisory production workers.  From World War II until the 1970s the average wage increased as workers increased their ability to turn out more work per hour.  And even with the help of new machines and methods, it was those workers turning out more goods and services that lead to increasing profits.

But in the mid-70s it all began to come apart.  No longer did more productive work lead to a rise in wages.  The increased productivity that led to rising wages that created prosperity for America was derailed.  And make no mistake, that era, World War II through the mid-70s, was America's most prosperous era overall.  This was the major reason American capitalism was perceived as a "good thing" by the rest of the world's people.  It was seen as a way of producing the most comfortable living standard for workers anywhere in the world.

But worker productivity and workers' wages were severed, and after inflation, even as workers' productivity rose, wages stagnated and began to go down.  And profit is where these productivity gains went.  At first the wealth gap this created between workers and owners/CEOs/shareholders/capitalists/The Rich was hundreds of billions of dollars.  Now it's trillions.  With the biggest share going to those on the top rung of the economic ladder, the point-oh-one percenters.  And this was further exacerbated by the deregulation of the financial casino industry, the creation of fraudulent financial "instruments" and the fact that the regulation of the most notorious of these tools, Credit Default Swaps, was actually made illegal.

Now let's go back to debt as part of our "compensation."  Rather than pay us a proportionate share of the wealth we produce as productivity rises, which in turn raises profit, they just kept it for themselves, the owners, the CEOs, the shareholders and gave us...debt (credit) to make up for what they'd appropriated, which is a fancy word for stolen.  So in addition to receiving debt (credit) as part of our pay, we also have to pay interest on the money our employers are refusing to pay us!  Now that is a nice scam!  Whatta country!

Wal-Mart actually produced a booklet that explained, to its associates, how to apply for public - taxpayer - assistance, because Wal-Mart won't pay its associates enough to, you know, actually live and go to the doctor at the same time.  In this way, the Wal-Mart Way, WE subsidize corporations. We pay them, so they can pay substandard wages by making up the portion of the money they refuse to pay for the work done for them.   

Now the man who's doing the demanding, who's asking for the retired auto workers' pound of teeth and eyes, is Steven Rattner.  He's the $600 million dollar pointman, the "car czar" for the Obama Adminstraion's assault on American auto workers, which is the greenlight for the attack on the jobs and living standards of every working class American in order that the US might "recover" on their backs through austerity for the poor and grotesquely increased profits for the already wealthy. This is exactly what Obama's idol, Ronald Reagan, did with his starter's pistol in the race to the bottom 30 years ago with the destruction of PATCO, which accelerated the financial warfare against the working class in America.  "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich, that's making war, and we're winning." - Warren Buffet, New York Times, 11/26/06

In his "The Audacity of Hope," President Obama spoke of empathy this way.  "It is at the heart of my moral code and it is how I understand the Golden Rule - not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes."  To me, what he's doing, or having done in his name, seems more like a call to stand on their necks and keep them down - where they belong. 

Do you think Steven Rattner, Obama's $600 million dollar man, is seeing through the eyes of US auto workers?  Rattner has a net worth of more than half a billion.  A person who makes $50,000 a year would have to work  10,000 years to make half a billion dollars, which is still $100 million dollars less than Rattner's $600 million.  How can this Minister of Mammon demand that US auto workers give up their teeth, their eyes, a living wage, their retirement and a college education for their children?

"I'm a capitalist, and that means I'm for inequality."

"No one expects equality, equality is not a good thing, you can't have an economy that works if everything's equal."

- Representative Barney Frank (D - Massachusetts), first, chairing a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee and second, talking to an audience of Boston business leaders.

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Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).

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