Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; photo courtesy of AP
U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to push for federal help with the costly burden of retiree health care if the struggling U.S. auto industry accepts tougher fuel economy standards.
"I know we have to do more to support the American auto industry and to support the American auto worker," she said.
Hmmm. Sounds nice, but given the fact that she was speaking to an audience filled with UAW employees and their families, it is clear she was playing to the crowd.
One would think that American automakers would notice, oh, THE PRICES AT THE PUMP and recognize that it is time to start cranking out smaller cars with better fuel efficiency. Sure, there are still consumers for whom $3.00 per gallon gasoline is no deterrent to purchasing a Hummer, but for most of us the idea of a 50-MPG vehicle sounds pretty appealing right about now.
And with the Chinese and Indian economies growing at double-digit rates, the global demand for oil will likely keep upward pressure on gasoline prices.
Clinton's feel-good speech is in sharp contrast with the pointed comments of presidential competitor Barack Obama, who criticized U.S. automakers for falling behind foreign competitors on the production of fuel-efficient vehicles.
Barack Obama was right, but this is an election year. Politicians are not supposed to tell the truth in an election year, Senator Obama. They are expected to commit the beleaguered federal treasury to thousands of expensive projects that are aimed at specific voter demographics.
Sheesh. Someone needs to tell Obama how the game is played.
The larger issue, of course, is that American maunfacturing facilities continue to become less competitive with competitors in places like China and Malaysia. Globalization is driving down the standard of living for many Americans and western Europeans, and we are in a race to the bottom with workers in developing nations. By 2050 most of the world's population will likely be making the equivalent of today's $6.00 per hour job, with few benefits and little in the way of a social safety net.
And me? If I happen by some miracle to make it to see the year 2050, I will probably be destitute and living on the generosity of family members. As it stands I expect that I will need to work until I am 80 to make ends meet if I am to have ten years watching the sun set over the shuffleboard court at Golden Acres.
The millions of American autoworkers who expect that there will be much of a retirement waiting for them are in for a rude awakening. I anticipate that within ten years there will be massive defaults on retirement obligations by U.S. automakers, and that at least one of the Big Three will cease to exist.
Now: go back to your happy Sunday and listen to the presidential hopefuls vow to provide you with all sorts of goodies. Senator Clinton and her presidential competitors will make you feel better, just you wait.