Consider it a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney no longer believes he can carry Michigan in 2012 (that election may be a throwaway for Republicans anyway.) His recent op-ed on the virtues of sending Detroit automakers into bankruptcy won't help him in the state where he was born and where his dad used to govern.
Even more instructive is this poll, from our leading local right wing station, WIOD, two days ago. It was put up, and followed up, during the morning news show, hosted by longtime journalist (and loyal Republican) Jimmy Cefalo. Asked why they think the U.S. auto industry is in such bad shape, WIOD viewers had this to say:
Mismanagement - 20.00 %
Concessions to Unions - 59.17 %
Failure to change with the times - 10.42 %
American cars aren’t as good as imports - 7.08 %
Its the economy stupid - 3.33 %
Now, the webmaster was clever enough not to mention how many people voted. It could be 150 people, or 15,000, but the point is the same: three times more "conservative" talk radio listeners believe that concessions to the United Auto Workers Union, meaning high wages, health benefits, and retiree pensions, are the biggest problem for U.S. automakers, than the number who believe the problem is poor management. And six times more, in this poll, fault the workers than target the industry's inability to change its products to suit the times. That's a stunning conclusion, and bad news for the GOP.
Why? Because Republicans will never again be a national party with real viability outside of Appalachia if they continue to push, via their politicians, their talk radio hosts and Fox News, that the problem in the American manufacturing economy isn't a lack of innovation or piss-poor management -- it's American workers, who are "greedy" for wanting high wages and decent benefits for themselves and their families, and the wicked unions who force American manufacturers to offer such evil, horrible things to "lazy" unionists. The GOP has become the party, not just of big business, but more directly, of the scornful rich. Fabulously wealthy talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who lives in a lavish Palm Beach manse next door to the old Kennedy compound, and Sean Hannity, who travels only by private jet -- just like a Big Three auto executive -- feed middle and lower-middle class listeners a steady harangue of fake "Joe the Plumber" populism, anti-elitism and "don't envy people like me, worship people like me, and work hard to keep people like me rich...!" diatribes, convincing them to rail in favor of tax cuts and government handouts for people of Hannity and Limbaugh's economic class, and to disdain the strivings of people in their own class. It's one hell of a magic trick -- sort of like Marie Antoinette convincing the rabble to revolt on her behalf, against the other peasants.
The wizardry is so powerful, bling worship has infected the Christian church -- so thorough that you can have a guy like Joe Wurzelbacher look into a camera and say, with a perfectly straight face, that he doesn't want Social Security "forced on him," even though at $40,000 a year and no plumbing license, unless that's one hell of a book he's coming out with next month, or he's a damned good country singer, he'll need Social Security just to keep from having to live on dog food if and when he ever gets to retire.
The Reupblican party, and so-called "conservatives," actually believe -- or at least they have taught their followers to believe -- that the rich are better than the rest of us. They should receive the full benefit of the wealth they earn off the labor of others, and even get a tax cut, while those whose labor makes them rich should suck it up and take whatever pay "trickles down to them." Of course that pay must be as low as possible, to improve the profit margins, and since there shall be no unions involved, their betters can turn them out the door at will, and cut off their benefits -- if they bother to give them any -- whenever the stock price dips. Call it the Wal-Mart ethic, because in turn, the rich give us low, low prices, that after all, are all the idiot, low-wage working stiff can afford.
I don't begrudge Limbaugh and others the right to be damned good negotiators. I say get the most money you can. More power to you! But shouldn't regular wage earners have that right too?
Nope. In the Wal-Mart ethic of the GOP, which echoes the ethos of the 19th Century robber barons, who thought it good and proper to employ children for 12 hours a day at pennies per hour, employees should use their "right to work" wages to purchase whatever healthcare they can afford on the free market, just like the rich people do -- only we all know the rabble have no business in Cleveland Clinic -- a plain old clinic will do.
The right believes that CEOs who make 400 times the wages of their employees should get a tax cut, while the "greedy" workers should take a pay cut, for the team. The spectacle has become so maddening, that it has touched off a kind of regional "race to the bottom warfare," whereby a Republican Congressman actually bragged on "Hardball" today that auto workers in Kentucky make half the wages of auto workers in Detroit (something that isn't even true anymore,) and ordinary righties insist that the "greedy" unionized Detroit workers should bring their wages down to the level that the Japanese automakers pay people with no union strictures down South -- which, by the way, is the poorest region in America. That way, American cars will cost less, see? "My state's wages are lower than your state's wages" is a hell of a thing for an elected official to brag about, but that's where we are with today's "conservatives." (By the way, if Japanese automakers are the truth, then why is Toyota laying Americans off, too?) It might be worth asking that Congressman, and the other wingers, just how low would you like to see American working stiff's wages go? To the levels of Japanese workers? Or workers in Singapore, or Bhopal?
We're in sorry shape as a nation if we are willing to do a blind bailout, to the tune of $700 billion, for a white collar banking industry whose employment figures we don't even know, but whose malfeasance we surely do, but hard hearted when it comes to saving the jobs of 3 million Americans who toil in the Detroit-based, U.S. auto industry. The Big Three screwed up, no doubt. But it was management who decided to fight against seatbelts, airbags, better feul economy, green fuels and electric cars. It was management -- the ones for whom Jimmy Cefalo's and Rush Limbaugh's and "private jet only" Hannity's listeners are willing to fight for endless tax cuts -- that made those decisions, not the working stiffs whose union was good enough at negotiations to get them $70 an hour.
Besides, I haven't yet seen the poll that finds that any of those wingers would believe that they themselves are overpaid for the work they do, or that the radio jocks feeding them cake are, either. As Pat Buchanan, an actual, living, breathing, old fashioned conservative, separate from the neocons, kleptocrats and "boogedy-boogedy" types (kudos, Kathleen Parker, and John Cole, too...) currently torching the Republican Party, eloquently explains:
By the choices we make, we define ourselves and reveal what we truly care about. Thus, consider:
We bail out the New York and D.C. governments of Abe Beame and Marion Barry. We bail out a corrupt Mexico. We bail out public schools that have failed us for 40 years.
We bail out with International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans and foreign aid worthless Third World regimes.
We bail out Wall Street plutocrats and big banks.
But the most magnificent industry, the auto industry that was the pride of America and envy of the world, we surrender to predator-traders from Asia and Europe, lest we violate the tenets of some 19th-century ideological scribblers that the old Republicans considered the apogee of British stupidity.
Amen. And good luck every winning Ohio, Michigan or Pennsylvania in my lifetime if you keep telling working men and women that it is they, and not the fat cats flying to Washington on private jets with their hands out for taxpayer money, who are greedy. 51 percent of voting Americans have figured you out. More are finally getting the picture every day.
Cross-posted at The Reidblog.