Tuesday, January 13, 2009
UAW President Gettelfinger pisses on Steven Rattner's possible selection as "Car Czar." Has the union been rummaging around in NEXIS ? ... P.S.: But then he'll have to go back to writing for Portfolio and losing money on Maxim . After all those contributions!. ... He still has my full support . ... P.P.S.: You'd expect to see this revealing controversy fully covered in the pages of the New York Times , right? Even though Rattner is the NYT publisher's friend, right? ... Hello? ... Correction: The NYT 's oddly formal, bland, unbylined Tuesday story (which I missed) is here . If it wasn't written under special Pravda -esque constraints, it does a good job of seeming that way. ... Update: The NYT story was actually printed (at the bottom of page B3) in Wednesday 's paper, which means there was plenty of time to have included the Gettelfinger comments, which seem kind of relevant. ... It's asking too much to expect Pinch's paper to mention, in its potted bio of Rattner, his recent business setbacks. According to the Wall Street Journal , Rattner's firm, Qadrangle, "has struggled as of late. Quadrangle closed down a poorly performing hedge fund late last year ...." ... Update: The Big Money goes where the NYT fears to tread. 11:10 P.M.
Uh-oh: General Motors' talks with the UAW over bankruptcy-avoiding wage and work rule concessions have barely begun and already GM CEO Rick Wagoner is talking about asking for more bailout money from Congress, even after the alleged March "deadline." Getting billions more from the taxpayers is something the union and management can agree on! If Obama actually wants them to come up with a cost-cutting deal ... well, it's never too early for a second veto threat. ... P.S.: He'll need to control his own party, yet again:
A Democratic bill circulated last week included provisions that could alter the terms of the loan and ease the requirements on the union to lower labor costs. ( WSJ )
None dare call it triangulation. ... 10:57 P.M.
Sen. Voinovich won't seek reelection . So how are labor unions going to scare him into supporting "card check" with the threat of campaigning against him? Just asking! ... 10:46 P.M.
Early Veto is Like Yeast: "I don't think that's the way you start out a presidency," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, speaking of the possibility that newly-sworn President Obama would veto a Congressional resolution disapproving the second $350 billion bailout. Why not? A veto seems like a terrific way for Obama to start out his presidency , by showing Congressional Democrats that he won't be pushed around. Legislators will always claim that vetoes are negative "optics"--conflict!--because vetoes are what constrain them. They'd rather have their bloated budgets and other deals sail into law on a wave of backslapping Washington comity. George W. Bush didn't veto anything in his first five years in office--is his success at controlling his own party's Congressional majority's excess something Obama wants to emulate? ... The only veto Obama should be worried about is a veto that would be overridden, but that is said to be highly unlikely in this case. ... 10:40 P.M.
Kevin Drum argues a tight labor market isn't an alternative to "greater unionization" when it comes to increasing wages at the bottom of the distribution, saying I've
never explained just how we're going to get to this paradise of perpetual high economic growth and tight labor markets — even though there's a Nobel prize waiting for him if he does. The dotcom bubble managed to accomplish it for three or four years out of the last 30, but that's about it. So until I hear the plan, I'll stick with my support for unions, flawed though they may be.
And Drum has a plan for "low-end wage growth" that doesn't involve restoring the economy? Good luck with that. There's a double Nobel waiting for him, I guess. A triple Nobel if he can boost wages at the bottom while simultaneously letting in millions of unskilled low-wage immigrants. ... P.S.: Drum seems to be explicitly embracing "pie-slicing"--redistributing shares of a non-growing economy--as an alternative to "pie enlargement." Nothing, at first glance, so terribly wrong with that. But can Drum point to a period in modern American history when low-end wages grew without an expanding economy? At least I've got the '90s (and the 60s). ... My crude default view: If we have robust economic growth, we don't need greater unionization to boost low-end wages. If we don't have economic growth, then greater unionization isn't going to do much to boost low-end wages by itself. And greater unionization will actually make economic growth less likely.**
**-- Why? Because the litigious, adversarial, cumbersome everything-must-be-negotiated culture and structure of American unionism is incompatible with the flexible, rapidly changing workplace required to be globally competitive in the twenty-first century! (E.g., compare Toyota's production system with Detroit's model .) That's one reason why. ... Also, greater union power (at least until you get to near-universal unionization) promotes the wage-price spiral, requiring depressive Fed action to tame inflation. That's another reason. ... 10:04 P.M.