Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Healthcare Lies & What's Good For General Motors Is Now Good for China

For the Dirty Dozen trusted bankers and brokers who brought about your, your children's and their children's economic and personal catastrophe click here. (Have you learned yet that in another mysterious power-broker(/n) move the newly appointed CEO of GM is the old CEO of that paragon of good business moves AT&T? Wonder how much he will collect of the taxpayer dollars before the Chinese take over for good? And don't worry about the poor ex-CEO of GM - he's still on the payroll!) Robert Reich (Secretary of Labor for Clinton in the time of actual economic growth (remember that far back?)) does his best to straighten out the mess made in the minds of average Americans (those who can only follow Faux News reasoning) as he explains how "Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging healthcare bill" here. The tricks this time are not as obvious as the "Harry and Louise" fake commercials were back in Hillary's early '90s campaign.

Enter Olympia Snowe. Her move is important, not because she's Republican (the Senate needs only 51 votes to pass this) but because she's well-respected and considered nonpartisan, and therefore offers some cover to Democrats who may need it. Thursday night Snowe hosted a private meeting between members and staffers about a new proposal that Pharma and Insurance are floating, and apparently she's already gained the tentative support of several Democrats (including Ron Wyden and Thomas Carper). Under Snowe's proposal, the public option would kick in years from now, but it would be triggered only if insurance companies fail to bring down healthcare costs and expand coverage in the meantime. What's the catch? First, these conditions are likely to be achieved by other pieces of the emerging legislation; for example, computerized records will bring down costs a tad, and a mandate requiring everyone to have coverage will automatically expand coverage. If it ever comes to it, Pharma and Insurance can argue that their mere participation fulfills their part of the bargain, so no public option will need to be triggered. Second, as Pharma and Insurance well know, "years from now" in legislative terms means never. There will never be a better time than now to enact a public option. If it's not included, in a few years the public's attention will be elsewhere.

And, of course, we learn (thanks to a generous history teacher) that "What's Good For General Motors Is Now Good for China."

I remember the hullaballoo in January 1953 when GM CEO Charles Wilson, President Eisenhower's nominee for Secretary of Defense, was popularly quoted as saying that "What's good for General Motors is good for the country." GM was the world’s largest car manufacturer. The United States was the world's unchallenged industrial powerhouse. For Americans, Honda, Toyota and Suburu might as well have been exotic Oriental dishes. Today General Motors is undergoing the second-largest industrial bankruptcy in history. It's closing fourteen more assembly plants and slashing 21,000 family-supporting jobs. GM will have fewer than 40,000 workers building cars in the United States, one-tenth of its workforce of 400,000 in the 1970s. Fears that this bankruptcy will lead to cascading business failures are spreading throughout GM's vast chain of suppliers and dealers. Large plants that stamp metal parts or build engines will be shuttered, including one in Massena, New York. GM will reduce 6,000 dealerships to 3,600. Dealership closings will cut an additional 100,000 jobs. These layoffs come after a nationwide loss of 741,000 jobs in January alone - the most since 1949. GM will no longer make Saturn, Pontiac, and Saab and will shift production of its remaining lines to new facilities in foreign countries. According to Ralph Nader, shipping production to China has long been GM's strategy. Despite GM's bankruptcy, the Obama Administration government-orchestrated shrinkage has already cost taxpayers $50 billion. The Wall Street Journal estimates "the rescue of the car industry could cost taxpayers close to $100 billion." Nader asks: "Why are we using tax dollars to facilitate the export of whole plants and jobs to communist dictatorships in China and to oligarchic, authoritarian regimes in Mexico who have turned workers into serfs and denied them independent unions and other rights that workers should have in any country that we have trade dealings with?" Today what's good for General Motors is good only for Communist China and transnational corporations that benefit from cheap labor. GM's bankruptcy and Obama's shortsighted response exemply the self-destruction of our country's economy over my lifetime. Before I retired as a teacher, I warned my students about several dangerous economic trends that have accelerated over the last two decades. The United States has degenerated from a world power based on industrial production to an overextended military empire based on debt and consumption. Our citizens have gone from well-paid industrial workers with comfortable savings accounts to cash-starved consumers with staggering credit card payments. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, we Americans owe $971 billion in credit card debt. That's $3,184 per person or $8,299 per household. Consumer loans for automobile, furniture and consumer electronics total $1.617 trillion - $5,298 per person or $13,821 per household (November 2007 report). As bottom-line obsessed CEOs moved good jobs overseas, factory workers became Wal-Mart clerks selling Chinese products. For decades real wages have stagnated as prices continued to rise. Fifty years ago a man was able to support a family on a union member's wages while his wife stayed at home to care for the children. Now almost half of private sector workers subsist on the minimum age.

Both mothers and fathers have to work to feed their families - sometimes two jobs or more! According to one estimate only three out of ten children today have stay-at-home moms! Who has time to read, to think, to become an informed citizen, or to understand what's happening to us? Is there any wonder that so many of us are deeply in debt? How can we afford new cars? How do we find time to take political action for our common good? Corporations that outsource jobs and use off-shore tax havens have prospered, while working folks have watched the American dream turn into a nightmare. Our savings evaporated with the 401(k) speculators' scam and now our last nest egg - the value of our homes - is disappearing because of the mortgage fraudsters. In the last year US households' net worth has declined abruptly by $13 trillion! In just fifty years - under both Democratic and Republican administrations - the United States has gone from the world's major creditor to the greatest debtor. Tax payers spend $2 billion a day just to service the national debt. Over a trillion dollars of that amount is held by Japanese and Chinese bankers. Obama’s administration has pushed the nation’s debt to an unprecedented $6.36 trillion. Who profits from this earth-shaking debt? Financiers and the transnational corporations driven by short-sighted greed. Financial capital has squeezed out industrial capital and largely controls both the executive and legislative branches in Washington. I recall the outcry when George W. Bush raised $25 million for his 2000 presidential campaign from financiers, war makers, and big oil. In 2008 Barack Obama raised $150 million from the same contributors. He who pays the piper calls the tune. How else can we explain Obama's choice of Wall Street executives to deal with the economic crisis that they created? Why was AIG Insurance too big to fail, but General Motors allowed to collapse? Obama's Wall Street approach to the GM bailout typifies his bankers' priorities. GM's restructuring is being directed by financiers who've never seen an assembly line and are looking for a fast return rather than a long range solution to America's desperate energy and transportation crisis. If Obama really believed in the change he promised, he'd immediately initiate a national dialog on re-industrializing America. He'd ship the bankers to China and tax their ill-gotten gains to fund committees of workers, engineers and visionaries in each factory that GM plans to close. Locally and nationally, these folks can dramatically increase jobs through conversion to production of mass transit vehicles, hybrid or all-electric cars, and alternative energy devices such as windmills and solar panels. Why wait for Obama? Before it is too late GM and Chrysler's eager and skilled workforce must gear up for this nation-saving mission. Not enough time? In Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately converted the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns for the war effort. Re-industrialization is change we can believe in—but we will have to make it ourselves!

As one of the commenters to this essay says "It is inconceivable that China is financing America's military misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan but it is indeed true. Shame." Read the comments as they are especially en point here today. Suzan

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