In a campaign pep rally/sermon billed as a "policy speech," Obama nearly broke his arm patting himself on the back for placing his "bets" (read: our money) on the $85 billion federal auto industry rescue. "Three years later," he crowed, "that bet is paying off for America." Big Labor brass cheered Obama's citation of GM's "highest profits in its 100-year history" as the room filled with militant UAW chants of "union made."
"Union made" -- but who paid? Scoffing at the criticism that his bailout was a massive union payoff, Obama countered that all workers sacrificed to save the auto industry. "Retirees saw a reduction in the health care benefits they had earned," Obama told the congregation, er, crowd. "Many of you saw hours reduced," he sympathized, "or pay and wages scaled back."
Let's clear the fumes (again), shall we? The bailout pain was not distributed equally. It was redistributed politically.
Bondholders standing up for their property and contractual rights got shortchanged and demonized personally by the president. Dealers and suppliers faced closures based on political connections and lobbying clout, rather than neutral efficiency evaluations. And as I first reported in September 2010, in the rush to nationalize the auto industry and avoid contested court termination proceedings, the White House auto team schemed with Big Labor bosses to preserve UAW members' costly pension funds by shafting their nonunion counterparts.
These forgotten nonunion pensioners (who worked for the Delphi/GM auto parts company) lost all of their health and life insurance benefits. Hailing from the economically devastated Rust Belt -- northeast Ohio, Michigan and neighboring states -- the Delphi workers had devoted decades of their lives as secretaries, technicians, engineers and sales employees. Some have watched up to 70 percent of their pensions vanish. They've banded together to seek justice in court and on Capitol Hill under the banner of the Delphi Salaried Retiree Association.
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