More rope to extend the federal lifeline -- now at $17.4 billion for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, and $5 billion for auto suppliers -- will come with conditions, the president says. He wants more sacrifice from unions and executives, bondholders and suppliers.
Sacrifice? What, exactly, has this town and its investors been experiencing the past three-plus years? Spring break? This notion, aired during the congressional inquisitions late last year, picked up by Team Obama and wielded by whoever's trying to score points, that Detroit Auto hasn't yet "sacrificed" in a (losing?) effort to fix itself is absurd.
The union has helped usher many thousands into retirement, bargained down its wage and benefit scale for new hires and agreed to sharp reductions in company health-care obligations. Brands have been sold, dealers lost, bonuses eliminated, salaries cut, tens of thousands of jobs eliminated in wave after wave after wave of reductions.
Plants are going or gone in communities across the country. Local and state tax revenue started plunging long before home values in Manhattan and the Bay Area did. Michigan's per-capita income, long among the nation's highest, has been dropping like a stone this decade and soon will be lower than Republican Sen. Richard Shelby's Alabama.
Sacrifice? We've seen a few, even if it doesn't look to be "enough" from the condescending heights of New York, Washington and San Francisco. And you know what? It isn't enough, not now anyway, not when technically insolvent companies are petitioning the Treasury Department for aid because their credit ratings are destroyed and car and truck sales are trending at terrifyingly low levels.
I, too, have argued Detroit's business model is hopelessly broken, that its costs were indefensibly high, its brand image tarnished, its culture mired in denial, its management and union leadership too often willing to accept short-term expedience at the expense of long-term success.
But sneering about sacrifice, as if there's been none, is a towering insult to the tens of thousands of families, white-collar and blue-collar, who took buyouts and walked out into a collapsing economy; to the dealers whose businesses have collapsed; to the 7,631 UAW members -- 53 percent of them in Michigan -- who this week accepted comparatively meager packages to walk away from GM.
Sacrifice? If there are two things this state and its bellwether industry understand, it's sacrifice and recession -- and the knowledge that there's more of both to come.
Gotta love how contracts are sacrosanct for the millionaire bankers at AIG, but when it comes to working people Obama is happy to use them for toilet paper. Obama's been busy this last week patting the poor persecuted bankers on the back and letting them know they are special after a few of them got their feelings hurt last week. The bankers, no doubt, are busy scraping the McCain bumoer stickers off of the back of the Beemer. The Union workers who helped put Obama in office may be allowed to eat the crumbs that fall from the bankers bacchanalian feast if they are suitably penitent and supine to receive what they've got coming.