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Is David Broder the Worst Historian in History?
(originally posted August 2010)
 David Broder fails again to understand the history he lived through, the history he cites every time he goes chasing his bi-partisan will-o-the-wisp out into the swamp.
Of course, Obama's definition of what would constitute wise, farsighted Republican policy may bear no resemblance to what John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, the GOP leaders in Congress, have in mind. But he's probably not expecting the kind of relationship that Lyndon Johnson enjoyed with Everett Dirksen, the Senate Republican leader who provided the votes that allowed passage of the great civil rights statutes of the 1960s.

Obama would be well pleased if he could have someone resembling Bob Dole or Howard Baker, Republican Senate leaders who mostly opposed Democratic presidents but made common cause with them on certain national and international issues.

It's just incredible to me how Broder can cite the history of Everett Dirksen and LBJ, and invoke the legacy of Bob Dole and Howard Baker, and yet completely miss the point.
The problem is not the personalities of these figures versus the personalities of Boehner and McConnell. The difference is that the beliefs and policies of modern Republicans are far to the right of where Dirkson, Dole, and Baker were.
Dirkson supported the Civil Rights Act because he believed in civil rights. Today's Republican darling, Ron Paul, says explicitly that he opposes it, and he does so on the same grounds, states rights, that Dirkson rejected. Bob Dole pushed the Americans With Disabilities Act -- something that would make Glenn Beck's head explode if President Obama proposed it today. Howard Baker was the voice of reason throughout the late Cold War, admired and respected on all sides for his constant efforts to find common ground not only between Democrats and Republicans, but the US and the Soviets.
But today's Republicans are the hyper-partisan children of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove; and are steeped in the ideology of Ayn Rand and 'John Birch.' LBJ never sat down for a drink with the Birchers, and he wouldn't have one with Boehner or McConnell today.
It's the substance, Broder, not the people. The problem is that the Birchers of yesterday are now the respectable center of the Republican Party.
Sat, July 31, 2010 | link

These Are Democrats?


Under the contracts agreed to by the UAW and the automakers during the near-collapse of the economy, new hires are paid half the wage that existing workers get.  The Times had an article on this disparity today, and this caught my eye.

During negotiations with Chrysler, the Obama administration called for "maintaining all-in hourly labor costs comparable to its U.S. competitors, including the transplants," according to an April memo describing the Treasury proposal.


The administration proposal also called for all new production employees to be paid the $14 rate, expanding a 2007 labor agreement that set up the lower rate, though only for some "non-core" jobs. In doing so, the administration went well beyond the pay cuts the automakers had envisioned, sources said.


"From the manufacturer's perspective, the line workers were always going to be getting $28 an hour," said a source familiar with the negotiations and the auto manufacturers' thinking. The person, who lacked authorization to discuss the issue, declined to be named. "Those jobs are difficult. But there are other jobs in the plant, and those are not nearly as stressful. Those were going to be the $14."


"The government didn't say $28 an hour was overpaying people," the source said. "But they saw the $14 rate as a way to lower overall labor costs to be competitive."

Think about that.  A labor contract is being negotiated.  The union has made concessions.   The bosses are willing to accept them.  A Democratic administration comes in and forces bigger concessions out of the union.


At first, I read it as that there an oversight.  The Obamas went beyond the carmakers' demands by accidentally agreeing to the half-wage for all workers.  A monumental fuck-up that didn't surprise me, but that didn't enrage me either.  These are the same people who negotiate with Republicans by giving concessions up front and then standing there, doe-eyed, waiting for the thugs to give up something in return.  


But re-reading it, I realized that they had done this deliberately.  They actually pushed the unions harder and farther than the car companies did.  What the fuck?  I thought of the GM execs in Michael Moore's Roger and Me.  Brain-dead, heartless bastards genuinely baffled and even offended that anyone would fail to see that, of course those jobs in Detroit had to move elsewhere.  Costs lower.  Workers cheaper.  Nothing about the history or community or identity or people of Detroit seemed to have passed, even momentarily, through their heads.  And the Obama people are more brain-dead than those creeps?


Of course in both cases it had to be done, right?  Have to compete with companies with lower labor costs.  If a foreign car company has lower costs and ships its products here, then costs have to be lowered here in order to compete, right?


No.  It's bullshit.  We have a trade deficit with China because of the way it manipulates its currency.  Their goods are artificially cheap here.  Not only don't we do that, in the name of "free trade," we don't even push the Chinese to stop it. 


And there's no reason we can't put up other barriers to goods made in other countries with lower labor costs.  That will retard their development.  So what?  Why should we destroy Detroit --  city that has gone from a million and a half people to half a million people -- so that China and India can grow?   Go to Detroit and walk through the parts of it -- most of it -- that looks like Berlin after the war and tell me that was the right thing to do.   


Will trade barriers hurt us?  Well, there won't be as much cheap shit to buy and Wal-Mart.  But more cheap shit at Wal-Mart is not a better life.  If I have to pay $50 for a camping tent instead of $30, but I live in a stable community with good schools, decent roads and parks, and parents who can spend time with their kids and still pay their bills -- I'll take that deal.


It's a chase down the spiral, as it is.  The fucking tent costs $30 instead of $50, but if I work at a shitty service job instead of a well paying manufacturing job, $30 looks just like $50 to me.  I have to dig into the budget to find it.  Somehow we were all convinced that people would have the manufacturing  job wage to buy the cheap shit at Wal-Mart with. 


Who benefits from "free trade?"  Only the people who benefit from cheap labor.  That would be Wal-Mart. 


And Chrysler, GM, and Ford.


These are not the values of the Democratic Party I grew up with.  My party built and maintained the middle class, primarily through its support of unions. 

"The idea of the UAW and the steelworkers negotiating so that workers could make it into the middle class, of allowing them to make it as manufacturing workers -- that is all gone," Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University. "And it's difficult to see how they will be able to find their way back."


The two-tier agreement "effectively ends many of the principles established 70 years ago in the UAW's birth," Bill Parker, a negotiating committee leader, wrote in an unusual dissent. "For years, the UAW embodied industrial unionism and the gains of the New Deal. So goes the UAW, so goes the American middle class."

Here's the graph that sums it all up.



Every day, Americans go to work and produce real value that  shows up in the top line -- the total productivity of the US that goes up year after year as that wealth is invested, as we produce technical advances, and the labor force expands.  It's our fucking money.  But the bottom line has been flat for over a generation.  In a richer and richer country, the average person gets no more than their parents did for their labor.


The line flattens out around 1980 -- the Reagan era begins. 


And now the Obamas are doing their best to keep it flat.  Never making the case against "free trade" and stepping in on the side of management because there's just nothing they can do about wages' being undercut by cheap foreign goods.


More change I just can't believe.


Sun, July 25, 2010 | link

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