- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

What American needs the most right now is a responsible Congress whose members put aside their own well-being and those of their narrow constituencies for the collective good. But, hey, don’t hold your breath, especially if you’re Barack Obama and you have big plans to create 3 million new jobs and spend nearly a trillion dollars doing so.

The president-elect in whom so much hope is placed will find out quickly enough if he doesn’t already know that even with his own party in control of both the House and Senate, the institution is a failed one that can’t be counted on to do the right thing at the right time. If the inability to meet the challenge of saving the auto industry tells us anything, it is that.

And now that the outgoing, much-disparaged George W. Bush has acted to provide some oxygen to the U. S. car builders with more than 2 million jobs at stake, already the union members who must agree to do their part to keep the industry afloat are claiming their burden is too much and are looking for their apologists in the national legislature to help. They are likely to get it, too - from liberal Democrats who owe their continuing political careers to big labor.

For instance, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who has been a responsible bailout champion and leader, has suddenly joined the forces of those autoworkers that claim their hard-fought benefits now have been surrendered to an unbearable degree. What stuff and nonsense. That’s refusing to take any of the responsibility (not all of it certainly but a good hunk of it) for helping the once-dominant Detroit Three become noncompetitive, which in the long run spelled major trouble for workers.

It is ignoring the huge disparity between wages paid to nonunion Americans to produce foreign brands and those paid union workers to build U.S. cars. It is ignoring the pension and health-care benefits won by the UAW by merely mentioning the word “strike” 50 years ago to management and shareholders addicted to huge profits. They used to call the awarding of bloated benefits “buying labor peace.”

Now, of course, it is time for everyone in this nightmare to pay up, to realize a job is certainly better than no job and that the industry is not just labor or management but one monolithic entity dependent on all parts of the whole. Everyone owns a stake in the action, including those who buy the product.

The $17 billion injection of fuel for Chrysler and General Motors is several billion more than was anticipated by Congress as a stopgap and Mr. Obama is expected to boost the package much higher. But if Republicans - even with diminished numbers in both houses - balk and Democrats, who owe so much to organized labor, do the same for different reasons, the gridlock of partisan silliness and incivility will continue after Inauguration Day.

The atmosphere on Capitol Hill has been poisonous far too long and the solution for the new president might be to turn to the Internet, as he did throughout the campaign, to rally the support for the public works program he needs to meet his jobs plan. Pressure from folks who finally have had enough is the one thing Congress understands.

The conditions set down by the administration in the car crisis make serious demands and sacrifices on both sides toward finding a long-term solution. Those outlined in the failed congressional bill might have been even stricter, but labor flinched. However, everyone in the negotiating room, including the weak-kneed leadership in the Senate, also was irresponsible.

Where this goes from here no one knows, but the risk is enormous. Lawmakers who think only in the narrowest sense, and that seems to be a great majority, will either put aside their overriding instincts for self-preservation and for once do what is right for us all or let the country slide into an ever-deepening depression economically and psychologically.

Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide