After much bickering and sensational threats, the auto industry got their bailout. Of course this bailout is limited in scope and there is still a chance the big three might fold. But for now the auto execs can go on with business as usual, while promising to pare down union pay and benefits until they match nonunion pay. And the UAW is actually going along with this. The auto workers deserve a real union.
The auto unions should be fighting hard to unionize nonunion plants in the United States and around the world. If Barrack Obama would stand behind his word to support strong unions, he would fight the Republicans in Congress to help make this happen. But he will not, and the unions will timidly accept the cuts for the greater good of keeping the auto industries open and keeping their workers employed.
This signals the death knell of the working middle class. Nor will it help to solve the problems of the auto industry or the economy in general. The auto execs will go on with business as usual, even though it was business as usual that brought them to this point. What do they care, so long as their ivory towers remain unassailable a little while longer? Meanwhile, it is the hardworking employees who will suffer, along with the rest of us.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We could have an auto bailout that would build healthy transportation companies, support the working middle class, boost the economy and help this country to prepare for the end of the oil age. The solution is really quite simple.
First, instead of cutting worker pay and benefits, we should be targeting the fat leeches at the top. The auto execs are the ones responsible for this mess, through their lack of foresight and their inability to comprehend what is going on. They are the ones who should pay for their mistakes. Get rid of the auto execs and make the big three employee owned and operated.
I am not suggesting that we allow the UAW to run the big three. Far from it, in this scenario the UAW would get the boot along with the auto execs. They are, after all, kissing cousins.
I won’t try to explain how to transform the big three in this short essay. There are many good models for worker owned and operated businesses. It would not be too difficult to ramp these up to the scale of the auto industry. And it is a good bet that with the workers in control, the industry would focus on vehicles that are economical to operate, cost less to purchase, and can be worked on by the average person with a minimum amount of tools.
But the future of the auto industry does not lie in individual automobiles. No matter how much they try to promote hybrids, electric cars, or various other alternatives, it is time to realize the car culture is doomed. Many of the problems we now face are epitomized by the auto industry and the one car per person mentality.
Our auto culture is the height of conspicuous consumption. It results in the rapid exhaustion of resources, sprawling junkyards, global climate change, pollution, environmental destruction, and it promotes social inequality and consumer debt. In the end, it will leave us totally unprepared for the approaching end of the oil age.
Because it is so desperately important for us to change direction now, we should not give these loans to the auto industry simply to allow them to go on with business as usual. As the industry is reorganized to be worker operated, it should be given the task of rebuilding the mass transit systems it helped to tear down. The bailout should be made as a payment for building a new mass transit infrastructure that will serve us well as oil production goes into decline.
Here is the plan that would take the auto industry and the United States into the future. I challenge Barrack Obama to make this initiative.
And we can take this a step further. The housing industry — indeed the entire construction industry — is on the ropes. Yet the Bush administration is focused only on bailing out the sharks who fed on this bloated carcass.
Currently, our communities are built for a car culture. They are sprawled out all over the place, making it difficult to get around unless you have a car. To make mass transportation viable, our communities need to be redesigned so that people live within walking distance of their immediate needs.
Instead of paying out $700 billion of taxpayer money (plus all the previous bailouts and Federal Reserve payoffs) to financial sharks, we should be using this money to restructure our communities. That would boost the construction industry and provide jobs.
And perhaps then our children wouldn’t have to join the military as the only option to working at a fast food joint or a Wal-mart.
If Obama wants to help this country, then he must consider a plan such as this. Otherwise, if he wants to show support for unions, then he better think about unionizing the military, because that will soon be the largest employer in the country, at the rate we are going.