Sunday, November 23, 2008

The $70 per hour lie

During the discussions leading up to September's $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry, most of the naysayers focused on the "rightness" of interfering with free market forces. Eventually for most of those naysayers though, scads of campaign contributions outweighed any ideological considerations.

The package giving hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to huge corporations was passed "for the good of the country."

However, when auto industry executives journeyed to Congress with hat in hand to try to get in on the fun (on separate corporate jets, of course), most of the naysayers, particularly the right wing ones, have focused on a report that the average auto worker receives $70 per hour in wages and benefits.

They (and unfortunately, one of my sisters, who's usually pretty even-keeled about such things) are calling for the auto manufacturers to break their contracts with the auto worker unions as part of any reorganization and bailout.

There's one major problem with that $70 figure. It's inaccurate, and the people citing it know that.

In other words, they're lying.

According to the Center for Automotive Research (as cited in this New Republic article), the actual figures are closer to $28 per hour in wages and $10 per hour in benefits for workers. The difference between the cited figure of $70 and the more realistic one of $38 came from a little statistical deception - the higher figure is inflated by benefits paid out to retirees, not just active workers.

The $70 number is being used to cravenly whip up anti-union (and anti-worker!) sentiment during a period of economic strife. That anti-worker sentiment is used to mask the fact that most federal efforts to ease the impact of the economic downturn have focused on large companies and their wealthy managers.

Edit on 11/24 to add -

Large companies like Citigroup, which is getting another $20 billion in cash as well as hundreds of billions in debt guarantees.

Something tells me that more of that money will end up in the pockets of Citigroup's executives than will be used to rehire some of the thousands of employees that Citigroup has laid off just this year.

End edit...

BTW - thanks for the heads-up on the New Republic piece to Jon Talton in this post on his blog.


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