Fortunately, there are already some laws to protect those pensions, but we're talking about "solving the problem" with (like Denny likes to say) your money.
It's also good that we have a Labor Secretary who has sex with the Senate Majority Whip (well, at least on paper). This quote from Chao's bio is remarkable:
- Since assuming office, Secretary Chao has moved swiftly to implement President George W. Bush's agenda to empower workers. Under her leadership, the Labor Department set new worker protection records through targeted enforcement efforts.
Take a look at Chao's speeches. They're pure pap. While she talks about providing a hands-off government that allows businesses to expand and create jobs (not an original thought, mind you), she has absolutely nothing on the record for the safety and security of the jobs of US workers (except, safeguarding our manufacturing sector jobs, and the fact that workers, on the whole, are living and working in 2005 with less buying power than we had in 1989.
And there is not even hand-wringing on the DOL's site today over the disastrous situation at GM. Not a word.
At some point, this will be fodder for Republicans who seek to demonize Union workers, who have organized for the right the negotiate better pay, benefits, and conditions for themselves and their fellow workers. But at this point the problems are so deep, so many, and so complex due to the neglect of our government, it's hard to believe Republicans will be able to gain much ground as they did in the '80s under Reagan the Union buster.
Republicans, most of whom have no idea how any of these moving parts work together, are more than happy to simply blame workers for their problems. God-Damned Unions. Sold their people out. Asked for too damned much.
Here's a news flash. The problems at GM and Ford have little to do with the workers. Let's talk about the process. 8 million fucking things happen, all of which come together at the hands of workers like clockwork, to bring an automobile from an off-site design firm's drawing table to the showroom. Why not push more of that out into the auto dealer's arena. Without too much trouble, you could order a car from Detroit and save thousands of dollars in the process, but the manufacturers aren't willing to do that to the dealers.
Look at what our current process has done for us. After more than 100 years of automobile manufacturing improvements, during which GM came and went as the world's largest corporate entity (Google's market capital now dwarfs GM's), Detroit gives you very little in the way of the real choices that matter. Cloth or leather, chrome or color-keyed are not the big deals you think they are.
What if you want a turbo Diesel (or a bio-Diesel kit) under the hood. Forget it. Even if you could find Ethanol (I know exactly one station that sells pure ethanol) you can't easily get a product that runs on it. Like me, you may be waiting in line for one of a handful of hybrid designs. Because of poor production and product/marketing planning, Executive/White Collar Detroit is the reason you're waiting in line. It's not an assembly line worker's fault that a bunch of guys who don't even look particularly good in suits don't know how to shift production of SUVs to hybrids
All the while 30,000 people are looking ahead to the day they're eating raccoon down by the river because they've lost everything, and have spent a lifetime of hard work and study in a trade that has been forsaken by corporate geniuses who don't know shit from apple butter. Bet those geniuses get some kind of big government welfare plan from Fristy-Hastert in the coming weeks. What do you think?
It's great to talk about renewable energy, and how we should proceed, but who's going to sell it, and how with the manufacturing and distribution channels be set up? Do you really want BP and Mobil to own all of that, too?
It's horrible to think that GM and Delphi are going through such an upheaval, and haven't even begun to talk about radically changing the way cars and trucks are built and sold which is the underlying problem, not the workers.
It's incredible to think that when I was in college, there was a new curriculum being developed for energy studies, and now there's none at my alma mater. Did someone think this issue was under control, that it would just go away? Wasn't it "popular" to study energy issues any longer?
Too bad we don't have Cabinet officials who look at these broad issues with an eye on the future. And too bad today's Republican Party is unwrapping an anti-education agenda for the next round of elections. Too bad a former educator, such as Denny Hastert, who's married to a pensioned, retired educator, doesn't stand up for education and attempt to get goverment involved in promoting initiatives and studies that will have a far-reaching impact on our society.
It appears today's Labor and Energy Secretaries are asleep at the switch. Numbed into complacency like so many other unqualified lackeys who have been thrust into these powerful positions with no qualifications. Who am I to think that government's mission is to stimulate the marketplace and foster an attitude that improves the markets and paves the way for technological advances of the 21st century?
While Congress again takes a nice, long holiday break, they should be out in public discussing these issues. And for once the discussion should not turn on how one party gains political advantage. It should be done with an eye on the future.
Unlike the GM announcement today that is for today's market and next year's stockholder's meeting, these things need the guiding hand of a community of professionals and academics who are constantly focused on the fuzzy light on the horizon.
Tomorrow depends on it.