Friday, December 12, 2008

Playing Chicken

Because the Senate cannot reach a compromise, Congress adjourns and the auto industry is facing bankruptcy. The Republicans would not approve a loan to GM and Chrysler unless the UAW agreed to reduce their wages and benefits to the same level as the Japanese automakers who have been unfairly competing with Detroit for years by locating their plants in low wage, right-to-work states. The Democrats do not feel the need to compromise because they feel that the White House will use TARP funds to bail out the auto industry, or they will wait until January when they have more votes. As Robert Reich points out, a lot of what is going on is old fashioned regional interest politics, with Southern Senators, whose states have laid out plenty of taxpayer money to subsidize Toyota and Nissan and other foreign automakers, now reluctant to support subsidizing their American competitors.

Isn't this the kind of politics that has to stop? Isn't this why we elected Barack Obama? Not so much to get more Democrats in Congress, although having more Democrats in Congress will allow more Democratically-favored legislation to pass, but to reduce the kind of partisanship by members of both parties in Congress that prevents needed legislation from getting passed. Only a few members of Congress seriously believe that bankruptcy for General Motors is a better alternative than loaning General Motors a few billion dollars, when all alternative sources of credit appear to be unavailable. The rest are just taking a political position, and playing chicken with bankruptcy, hoping that the President or the next Congress will bail them out.

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