The unacknowledged Democratic agitprop mouthpiece seized on news of Toyota projecting its first operating loss since 1938 as evidence that unsustainable labor and legacy costs are not to blame for Detroit's malaise.
Here's what Maddow said on her radio show Dec. 22 --
With the economic trouble that we're in and the steps that are being taken to try to figure out the way forward and also to figure out how our politics maps onto something that doesn't have a lot of innate partisan character, I feel like we could learn a lot from the way that other countries are doing things, just in terms of being able to explain the utility of our actions. I know that sounds a little bit vague but let me explain what I mean ...
The argument in the United States has been mapped onto partisan politics as such -- the Southern Republican conservative senators who represent states that have foreign, non-union automakers operating in their states, they've got, you know, whether it's Mercedes or BMW or Nissan or Kia, these Southern senators who represent these states that gave huge state subsidies to these foreign companies to get them to relocate there in order to create jobs in Southern states, they have made an argument against government assistance for domestic auto companies to save jobs on the grounds that the difference between these two scenarios -- government giving money and breaks to companies for the purposes of jobs -- the difference between these two scenarios, they said, is essentially that the domestic car companies should go bust because they have unions and unions are bad. And if they didn't have unions, they'd be doing fine.So now we've got Toyota reporting its first-ever operating loss, well not first ever, they had one in 1938, first operating loss in 70 years and it sort of gives lie to the domestic arguments here, right? If the problem is, as defined by the Southern anti-car bailout senators in the United States, is that the Big Three have unions and otherwise they'd be doing fine, if we could just bust their unions, then we'll succeed in our policy goals, you get told, you get shown the big lie about that by looking at the way that the car industry is suffering around the world, totally regardless of unionization of the workforce.
Right now if UAW, if unionized auto workers in Detroit were working for free, were not taking a wage, the Big Three would still be going under in the economic climate that we're in right now.
Workers not only make far more than the prevailing wage in the rural areas where most plants are located but considerably more than every state's average wage. With overtime, they can earn $70,000 or more a year at some plants. Average pay and benefits: roughly $45.
The UAW has been able to force only three elections at the foreign-owned plants. The union lost overwhelmingly at Nissan's Tennessee plant in 1989, failed in another election there, and lost at the Mercedes plant in Alabama. The UAW might thwart better if "card check" is approved by Congress next year, allowing organizers to succeed without the need to win a secret ballot election. But the transplants should still have little trouble thwarting UAW organizers.
Embarrassed by the success of the foreigners, the Big 3 carmakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) claim the tax and other "incentives" the transplants get from state and local governments in the South are no different than the subsidies they're seeking in Washington. But that's not quite true. "There's a big difference between a subsidy and an incentive," says Michael Randle, president of Southern Business and Development and an expert on the southern auto industry. "A subsidy pays to keep jobs. An incentive pays to bring them. If you're paying to keep them, it means somebody wants to leave. ...
... So far, these investments have paid off handsomely. Michael Randle points to the case of Alabama, which has delivered $1.2 billion in incentives to four automakers. The companies, in turn, have spent $20 billion in salaries alone to their employees. "If Warren Buffett took $1.2 billion and turned it into $20 billion in 10 years, he'd be called a genius."