Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
July 10, 2007

Why the NYT Changed Its Mind
The New York Times
is considered by many to be the paper of record in the USA. It is certainly the most sophisticated mouthpiece of the old school of what Ferdinand Lundberg documented as the Rich and Super Rich.

This ruling elite got snookered by the neocon architects of the Bush Doctrine and gave their assent to the Iraq war. The Times gave invaluable cover to the lies and hubris that launched this war even as it was exposed and condemned by similar national, “quality” papers in Europe.

Neither the Times nor their masters had any problem overlooking the injustice of the war, the horrible destruction inflicted on Iraq. Such matters still don’t concern them. But they do recognize–just as the same institutions ultimately concluded during the Vietnam war–that this war is now lost for their side, that nothing good comes from prolonging it.

Late last year they promoted the conclusions of the blue ribbon, bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission laying out what they perceived as sensible ways of cutting losses and winding down. Neither a lame duck President, nor skittish politicians seeking to replace him, could summon the will to take decisive steps along those lines. Nixon’s former security adviser/Secretary of State of the Vietnam/Cambodia era, Henry Kissinger, emerged from lurking in the shadows today to urge Bush to stay the course.

This has forced the rulers, through the Times, to make the message more blunt–“It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.”

With the Establishment in such disarray it is time for the antiwar movement to throw all efforts in to a final push to stop this war now. Unfortunately, the movement is still not united. But at least worthwhile actions are in the works. ANSWER is calling for a March On Washington, around the simple demand, End the War Now!, on September 15. The other major coalition, UFPJ, is calling for a day of regional, mass antiwar demonstrations in 6 to 8 cities around the country on October 27. Both of these initiatives deserve support.

Legacy Going For 71 Cents On the Dollar–Do I Hear 50?
A few months ago, after a bitter strike, the Steelworkers at Goodyear agreed to a company buy out of retiree health care. A new union administered fund was established with a one-time final payment by Goodyear that was valued at 83 percent of their estimated retiree obligation. Last week, the USW was joined by the UAW in a similar deal for bankrupt auto parts maker Dana--only this time the company only coughed up 71 cents on the dollar.

Dana is now the property of the private equity, Centerbridge Capital Partners LP. Centerbridge sees gold in the old auto rust belt and has employed former GM executive Steve Girsky to hunt out new profit opportunities among the jetsam and flotsam left behind by Detroit. They had also made a bid to Daimler for Chrysler but lost out to a similar outfit, Cerberus.

Formerly, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger accurately described the goals of such companies as “strip and flip.” Not any more. Yesterday, on a Detroit radio station, Gettelfinger explained the key to dealing with private equity was–“ finding the ones you can work with.” And he left no doubt he’s found the right ones. “I'm convinced Centerbridge is going to do the right thing,” declared the UAW chief. He also had kind words for the new Chrysler bosses. “When I go back and look at Cerberus and (Chrysler), there is no question in my mind that of everything that was out on the table; this is going to be the best thing for everybody involved.” A conversion as sudden and thorough as Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Private equity need not fear further persecution by St Ron.

GM and Ford are also demanding to buy out their “legacy burden.” Word is they are looking at 50 cents on the dollar. You can bet that a good part of the negotiations for the Big Three contracts expiring in September will be over the final sale price of what auto industry workers were promised in exchange for a life time of hard work. Hardly the kind of battles about which stories are told and songs are sung.

Missouri Goes E10
Governor Blunt has signed the Missouri Renewable Fuels Standard Act which requires all gasoline sold in the state to have ten percent ethanol content by the beginning of next year. (Premium fuels will be exempt from this mandate.)

The Missouri Corn Growers Association is ecstatic. With ethanol production in the Show Me state expected to hit 350 million gallons next year agribusiness is poised to sell 55 million bushels of corn to the industry. They reckon the price per bushel will rise as much as fifteen percent.

While some misguided environmentalists hail this expansion of “biofuel,” officials in the Kansas City area are not pleased. KC is on the cusp of being declared in violation of the Clean Air Act because of ozone. Ethanol is considerably worse for this pollution problem than straight gasoline.

Turning From Art To Struggle
MoveOn.org, in their typical parasitic style, sent out three million e-mails promoting Michael Moore’s SiCKO. But the candidates they are hustling don’t seem to have gotten the film’s powerful message about the urgent need for single-payer health care. Today’s Washington Post sums up the approach of the front runners to replace Bush, “For Democrats, Pragmatism On Universal Health Care.” In this case, pragmatism is a synonym for phony opportunism.

“To move toward universal coverage, Edwards, Clinton and Obama have approaches that borrow from the Massachusetts model. That plan, regarded as one of the nation's most innovative, took key elements of the 1993 Clinton plan and made them practical politically -- so practical that the plan was enacted in 2006 by a Democratic legislature with support from a Republican governor, 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”

The Massachusetts plan is, of course, universal only in the sense that it provides legal compulsion and tax payer subsidies to drive everyone into the kind of commodity health care vividly exposed in SiCKO. To get something like our Canadian cousins enjoy is going to require more than going to the movies. It will take a mass movement.

There are some hopeful signs. The Single Payer Action Network of Ohio for example are attracting newly energized members. SPAN Ohio is a project, initiated by the Ohio State Labor Party, now a coalition embracing a number of unions and community organizations around the state, working on a specific single-payer plan for the Buckeye state. Their Cleveland chapter held a meeting last night that was one of their biggest yet with a majority brand new folks, undoubtedly stirred by SiCKO.

There are many more who encountered the presence of nurses–mobilized at SiCKO showings across the country by the California Nurses Association--who are prepared to fight for genuine universal health care as well.

The success of single-payer would, of course, provide benefits even beyond improving our health care. It would get collective bargaining back to wages, hours and working conditions instead of who will pay for health care and legacy costs.

That’s all for this week.

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