By Robert Borosage
Campaign for America's Future
In their last obstruction, Mitch “Dr. No” McConnell’s Senate Republicans blocked a bridge loan for the auto companies, unwilling even to sustain them long enough for a new administration to sculpt a responsible response to their crisis.
What was the sticking point? It wasn’t getting rid of the CEOs that drove the companies into the ditch. It wasn’t forcing the creditors to cut their loans in exchange for stock, giving them a stake in the future. It wasn’t accepting an auto czar to enforce the agreement and drive a transition to fuel efficient cars. That was agreed to.
No. Led by benighted Tennessee Senator Bob Corker – known previously solely for his “call me” race-bait campaign ad that helped him win his 2006 election – Republicans wanted to break the union and punish the workers.
They insisted that the United Auto Workers agree to cutting workers wages and benefits immediately to match the average hourly compensation paid by non-union foreign auto companies based in the South. This would entail cuts in pay by about 50 percent within the next months. For Republicans, the problem wasn’t the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It wasn’t wrong-headed management that was skewered when soaring gas prices wiped out their SUV cash cows. It wasn’t the Wall Street dominated trade policies that sacrificed US manufacturing behind a high dollar that made it profitable to move plants and production abroad and benefited foreign competitors.
No. For the Republican senators, the bailout was a chance for a little class warfare. Why should an autoworker make $50,000-$60,000 a year, plus health care? The workers should accept half that and be happy. Autoworkers have agreed to wage givebacks and benefit cuts over the last years. They pledged even deeper cuts in relation to the agreement. But their sacrifices weren’t great enough nor the cuts fast enough for Corker and the Republicans....(Click for remainder)
By Michael Moore
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers start building only cars and mass transit that reduce our dependency on oil.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers build cars that reduce global warming.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers withdraw their many lawsuits against state governments in their attempts to not comply with our environmental laws.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the management team which drove these once-great manufacturers into the ground resign and be replaced with a team who understands the transportation needs of the 21st century.
Yes, they could have given the loan for any of these reasons because, in the end, to lose our manufacturing infrastructure and throw 3 million people out of work would be a catastrophe.
But instead, the Senate said, we'll give you the loan only if the factory workers take a $20 an hour cut in wages, pension and health care. That's right. After giving BILLIONS to Wall Street hucksters and criminal investment bankers -- billions with no strings attached and, as we have since learned, no oversight whatsoever -- the Senate decided it is more important to break a union, more important to throw middle class wage earners into the ranks of the working poor than to prevent the total collapse of industrial America.
We have a little more than a month to go of this madness. As I sit here in Michigan today, tens of thousands of hard working, honest, decent Americans do not believe they can make it to January 20th. The malaise here is astounding. Why must they suffer because of the mistakes of every CEO from Roger Smith to Rick Wagoner? Make management and the boards of directors and the shareholders pay for this....(Click here for remainder)
Radio Address on the Economy
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Earlier this week, we learned that the number of Americans filing their first claim for unemployment insurance rose to a nearly 30-year high. This news reflects the pain that’s been rippling across our entire economy. Jobs are being cut. Wages are being slashed. Credit is tight and people can’t get loans. In cities and towns all across this country, families enter a holiday season with unease and uncertainty.
To end this economic crisis, we must end the mortgage crisis where it began. This all started when Americans took out mortgages they couldn’t afford. Some were reckless, aware of the risks they were accepting, but many were innocent, tricked by lenders out to make a quick buck. With banks creating securities they could not value, and regulators looking the other way, the problem began infecting the whole economy, leading to the crisis we’re now facing.
One in ten families who owns a home is now in some form of distress, the most ever recorded. This is deeply troubling. It not only shakes the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American Dream. There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call your own. It’s not just a place to live or raise your children or return after a hard day’s work -- it’s the cornerstone of a family’s financial security.
To stem the rising tide of foreclosures and strengthen our economy, I’ve asked my economic team to develop a bold plan that will dramatically increase the number of families who can stay in their homes. But this plan will only work with a comprehensive, coordinated federal effort to make it a reality. We need every part of our government working together -- from the Treasury Department to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the agency that protects the money you’ve put in the bank. And few will be more essential to this effort than the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
From providing shelter to those displaced by Katrina to giving help to those facing the loss of a home to revitalizing our cities and communities, HUD’s role has never been more important. Since its founding, HUD has been dedicated to tearing down barriers in access to affordable housing -- in an effort to make America more equal and more just. Too often, these efforts have had mixed results.
That is why we cannot keep doing things the old Washington way. We cannot keep throwing money at the problem, hoping for a different result. We need to approach the old challenge of affordable housing with new energy, new ideas, and a new, efficient style of leadership. We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just won’t do. That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs, and metropolitan areas. No one knows this better than the outstanding public servant I am announcing today as our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development -- Shaun Donovan.
As Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City, Shaun has led the effort to create the largest housing plan in the nation, helping hundreds of thousands of our citizens buy or rent their homes. Prior to joining Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, Shaun worked both in business, where he was responsible for affordable housing investments, and at one of our nation’s top universities, where he researched and wrote about housing issues. This appointment represents something of a homecoming for Shaun, who worked at HUD in the Clinton administration, leading an effort to help make housing affordable for nearly two million Americans. Trained as an architect, Shaun understands housing down to how homes are designed, built, and wired.
With experience that stretches from the public sector to the private sector to academia, Shaun will bring to this important post fresh thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas. He understands that we need to move past the stale arguments that say low-income Americans shouldn’t even try to own a home or that our mortgage crisis is due solely to a few greedy lenders. He knows that we can put the dream of owning a home within reach for more families, so long as we’re making loans in the right way, and so long as those who buy a home are prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership.
In the end, expanding access to affordable housing isn’t just about caring for the least fortunate among us and strengthening our middle class -- it’s about ending our housing mess, climbing out of our financial crisis, and putting our economy on the path to long-term growth and prosperity. And that is what Shaun and I will work to do together when I am President of the United States.
Posted by Bret M-C at 5:39 PM
MANAMA (AFP) — US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned on Saturday that US adversaries would be "sorely mistaken" to test Barack Obama in the Gulf and called for regional pressure to change Iran's behaviour.
"Anyone who thought that the upcoming months might present opportunities to 'test' the new administration would be sorely mistaken," he said at an international security conference.
"The president-elect and his team, myself included, will be ready to defend the interests of the United States, and our friends and allies, the moment he takes office on January 20," he said.
Gates said a change of behaviour, rather than a regime change, was sought from Tehran.
"Nobody is after a regime change in Iran," he said.
"What we are after is a change in policies and a change in behaviour so that Iran becomes a good neighbour of people in the region (rather) than a source of instability and violence."
He said it "remains to be seen" whether the incoming Obama administration will broaden the conditions for direct diplomacy with Iran.
"But one thing I think I can say with some confidence is that the president-elect Obama is under no illusions about Iran's behaviour and what Iran has been doing in the region and is doing in terms of its own weapons programmes," he said.
"I think we all need to work together to see if we can bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bring about a change in Iran's behaviour," he said during a question and answer session.
"If we say that we want to try to change Iranian behaviour and want to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons and we want to avoid conflict, then the way to get them to change there behaviour is to use every tool at our disposal to bring economic and political pressure on them," he added....(Click for remainder)
Posted by Bret M-C at 2:38 PM
By Dan Strumpf
Associated Press via Yahoo! News
NEW YORK – General Motors Corp. said Friday it will temporarily close 20 factories across North America and make sweeping cuts to its vehicle production as it tries to adjust to dramatically weaker automobile demand.
GM said it will cut 250,000 vehicles from its production schedule for the first quarter of 2009, which includes a cut of 60,000 vehicles announced last week. Normal production would be around 750,000 cars and trucks for the quarter, spokesman Tony Sapienza said.
Many plants will be shut down for the whole month of January, he said, and all told, the factories will be closed for 30 percent of the quarter.
"We're adjusting pretty dramatically," spokesman Chris Lee said.
The move affects most of GM's plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. During the shutdowns, employees will be temporarily laid off and receive a portion of their normal pay from the company. They can also apply for state unemployment benefits, Lee said.
GM and nearly all automakers who sell in the U.S. are mired in the worst sales slump in 26 years. GM reported its sales in the U.S. plunged 41 percent in November and are down 22 percent for the first 11 months of the year compared with the same period last year.
Cash-strapped GM is seeking government loans to stay in operation beyond the end of the year. The White House said Friday it may tap into its $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund to help GM and Chrysler stay in business after the Senate blocked a measure to provide $14 billion in immediate loans.
The measure failed in dramatic fashion late Thursday after Senate Republicans balked at passing the bill without more wage and benefit concessions from autoworkers....(Click for remainder)
Posted by Bret M-C at 9:19 AM
Exclusive: Pentagon Pro-Troop Group Misspent Millions, Report Says
By Noah Shachtman
The Danger Room @ Wired.com
While the Pentagon preps for a new administration, a scandal from an earlier era is rearing its head.
A Defense Department project, supposedly designed to support U.S. troops, was used instead to channel millions of dollars to personal friends and allies of its chief. The "America Supports You," or ASY, program was led in a "questionable and unregulated manner," according to a Department of Defense Inspector General report, obtained by Danger Room. At least $9.2 million was "inappropriately transferred" by the project's managers. Much of that money served only to further promote ASY, instead of assisting servicemembers.
In 2004, the office of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set up ASY as a six-month effort to showcase the U.S. public's backing for the troops and their families. "If you're serving overseas, and you watch the mainstream media coverage, sometimes you can't tell if America knows you're there," one official overseeing the program says. America Supports You was seen as a way to counteract that sense.
In time, however, the program grew. Pro-troop rallies were organized. Special wristband and dog tags were made. Special-edition comic books were printed up. Processions were held on the National Mall, on the 9/11 anniversary. Sesame Street characters were enlisted to make DVDs that encouraged families with young children to talk about overseas deployments. America Supports You became a kind of umbrella group for all sorts of charity-related work for service members and military families.
Meanwhile, ASY began to spend millions — not to help the troops, the Inspector General says, but to help itself. "Instead of focusing on its primary mission of showcasing and communicating support to the troops and their families, the ASY program focus [turned to] building or soliciting support from the public," the Inspector General's report notes. In 2006 and 2007, for instance, more than $600,000 was spent ginning up support for America Supports You among schoolchildren. Another $165,000 went to a pro-ASY concert aboard the USS Intrepid, docked on Manhattan's west side. And $15,000 went to actor and musician Gary Sinise's "Lt. Dan Band" to play a separate show. The report calls all of these "questionable and unregulated actions."...(Click for remainder)
Posted by Bret M-C at 9:02 AM