It is hemorrhaging fast and no end to
the blood-letting seems to be in sight. No question, something has
to be done about the auto industry. But what? As usual, the preferred
answer depends upon your vantage point. As usual, when courses of
action are proposed on matters like this, the people being adversely
affected are passed off as mere numbers. Bankruptcy on the part
of any of the Big Three automakers would cost the U.S.
economy $175 billion the first year after it went into effect and
tens of thousands of workers would be laid off. The
cost of a General Motors takeover of Chrysler could be as much as
$10 billion and mean dismissing over 30,000 workers. Behind these
sterile statistics are real live individuals and families.
may be that Chrysler and GM are “too big to fall.” (Although letting
them go down is what some pundits are - with clinical calmness -
advising) But what about the workers?
the past four decades or so, the deindustrialization of vast areas
of the country has left once relatively prosperous communities in
dire straits, and vast numbers of young people on the street with
little hope for a future of gainful employment. It has hit very
hard in cities that are home to stable working class African American
populations, often referred to as a “black middle class.”
potential devastation of bankruptcies in any part of the auto industry
is being understated. There are a couple of million retired autoworkers
whose pensions and health care coverage are at stake. Many of them
have yet to reach the age for receiving Social Security and yet
would be severely disadvantaged in today’s labor market. Then there
are the millions employed in auxiliary services dependent on auto
hard to think about the additional pain that will befall cities
like Detroit in the face of the current crisis in the
auto industry and the prescriptions being offered up to address
it. The area, once the world center of auto manufacturing, is now
being told that whatever happens over the coming months, it’s going
to have to absorb a another heavy blow.
what is to be done about the ailing auto industry? Here’s one answer:
get your alimentary system in an uproar; it’s been done before.
could simply takeover the industry with the understanding that thousands
of engineers and technicians would be mobilized to design and make
functional and efficient “green” cars. And, tens of thousands of
auto workers could be put to work building them. Of course, this
would not employ all of those about to be laid off. They could be
retrained to work in other new green industries, building wind turbines,
solar panels, mass transit lines and recycling factories. It would
provide jobs for hundreds of thousands and provide new hope for
young people entering the workforce in Michigan, Kentucky and elsewhere.
will require a lot of central planning and that’s the last thing
the people now running the economy want to hear. Horrors. But let’s
face it; radical innovation and planning is the only thing that
can get us out of the current mess and lay the base for a healthy
economic future. An endless series of bailouts and stimulus packages
is unlikely to do the trick. There is a lot of talk from the experts
these days about what a “recovery” would look like. Estimates of
when one is likely to take place range from the end of 2010 to never.
Economists are now talking about a “jobless recovery.” That
is, Wall Street will get back up to speed and corporate profits
will begin to rise again, while high joblessness continues and the
legions of the poor grow even larger.
government organized effort to consolidate, refurbish, and refinance
the auto industry will surely be denounced as “socialist” but, actually
it wouldn’t be anything a traditional socialist would recognize
as such. It could be a public-private collaborative project. Yet,
its central prerequisite would be a political decision - reached
democratically - to pursue a policy of guaranteed employment to
those who want to work and an economic strategy premised on full
employment, innovation rooted largely in green technology and a
commitment to preserve our communities’ health and that of planet.
employment statistics for September are in - the official ones that
are always understated. The country’s unemployment rate is 6.5 percent.
That’s up from 4.8 percent a year ago. It is expected to climb above
8 percent. For teenagers it’s 20.6 percent; that’s up from 4.3 percent
in September 2007. Latino unemployment stands at 8.8 percent; it
was 5.6 percent this time last year. African American joblessness
has risen steadily this year to 11.1 percent from 8.5 percent a
year ago. Claims for unemployment insurance broke a new record last
economists say it’s only going to get worse as we move toward the
incoming Obama Administration is being offered all kinds of advice
these days on what to prioritize. Way up there on the list has got
to be a program to save jobs and create new ones. Save GM? Yes,
but not because of the corporate heads and financiers whose greed
and errant business judgment got us into this fix, but for the workers
and their communities.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy
and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click
to contact Mr. Bloice.