It’s Your Local Car Dealer’s Fault that a Congressional Auto Bill Failed

The NYT, never an institution to quit when it’s behind, continues its crappy reporting on the auto crisis. In today’s installment, Micheline Maynard uncritically regurgitates GOP spin on why the auto bill failed last night, buying the GOP claim that it’s the UAW’s fault that Congress couldn’t give the auto companies a loan.

Opponents of a Congressional bailout for Detroit auto companies laid blame for its defeat Friday on the United Automobile workers union, which refused to agree to grant wage concessions in 2009 as a condition of the deal.

The entire article continues by totally misrepresenting the reason the UAW refused the GOP "deal."

Representatives for the union, which had already accepted a series of cuts in its current contract, sought instead to push any more concessions back to 2011, when the U.A.W.’s contract with Detroit auto companies expires.

Um, no. As the quotes included in the article make clear, the problem wasn’t starting concessions now. The problem was completing them by an arbitrary date within the next year. 

In a statement Thursday night, the union said it was “prepared to agree that any restructuring plan should ensure that the wages and benefits of workers at the domestic automakers should be competitive with those paid by the foreign transplants. But we also recognized that this would take time to work out and implement” using programs like buyouts and early retirement offers to bring in new workers at lower rates.

“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans insisted that this had to be accomplished by an arbitrary deadline,” the statement said.


Mr. Corker said he proposed that wages and benefits of U.A.W. members be competitive with lower rates at American plants run by foreign rivals — Toyota, Honda, Nissan and B.M.W. — during 2009, and offered the union the opportunity to pick the date next year when the changes, which would be certified by the Labor Department, could be put in place.

See?!?! A deadline–and end point, not a beginning point. (And never mind that you could get mired in the question of what "competitive" means for that entire year.)

Maynard’s big problem, though, is in ignoring the underlying point: the UAW was the only stake-holder being asked to accept such a deadline.

Perhaps the NYT hasn’t figured this out yet (it certainly hasn’t shown in their reporting), but the UAW workers and retirees are NOT the only ones who have something to give to make GM and Chrysler more competitive. Their white collar workers, bond-holders, suppliers, and dealers would also have to make concessions. 

But for some reason, the GOP wasn’t demanding such concessions be made by a certain date. In fact, in Corker’s description of concessions he had negotiated (looking for the link), he doesn’t even mention concessions from the dealers, probably because dealers tend to be fairly conservative, generous contributors in all 50 states.

So Maynard’s article would actually make as much sense if she had blamed the failure on her local car dealer for not making concessions to GM and Chrysler.

But I guess since no one powerful ever sent her a press release making that equally absurd claim, she didn’t credulously report that story. 

13 replies
  1. SparklestheIguana says:

    So should I blame bad reporting on newspaper budget cuts, or just plain stupidity and laziness? I can’t decide.

  2. barne says:

    “Credulously,” I’m sure mtw knows, is generous.

    Matt Yglesias had a post up, years ago, about a friend of his in the Journo biz who advised Matt to look beyond stupidity or laziness as the causes of bad reporting.

  3. Leen says:

    We know the NYT is great a “regurgitating the GOP’s spin” Maybe Michelin will go and interview someone from the UAW or the auto workers losing their jobs. Nah that would be digging too much

    What do folks make in these foreign owned plants?

    40 bucks an hour is really not out of line with the cost of living.

    If Corker and the rest were demanding that UAW agree to lower their wages. What would Corker be willing to lower his wage too? What does an equivalent Rep in Japan make a year?

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      Hey, if we apply Japanese rules to everything then everyone in Congress who has disgraced themselves (the list is long) would have to commit hari-kari. THEN think how many strange Senator replacement shenanigans we’d have to endure….

      • lexalexander says:

        And if we applied Japanese rules to everything, we’d have government-funded health care and those costs wouldn’t be the burden to the automakers that they are now, too.

  4. oldnslow says:

    … the GOP claim that it’s the UAW’s fault that Congress couldn’t give the auto companies a loan.

    So, the UAW is more powerfull than Congress? That is teh awesome. Who knew?

  5. Leen says:

    Just wondering if the 35 Senators asking for United Auto Workers to take a pay cut. Would be willing to take the lead and set a date for a pay cut?

    Congress: Rank-and-File Members’ Salary
    The current salary (2008) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $169,300 per year.

    * Members are free to turn down pay increase and some choose to do so.

    * In a complex system of calculations, administered by the Office of Personnel Management, congressional pay rates also affect the salaries for federal judges and other senior government executives.

    * During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin considered proposing that elected government officials not be paid for their service. Other Founding Fathers, however, decided otherwise.

    * From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year.

    Congress: Leadership Members’ Salary (110th Congress)
    Leaders of the House and Senate are paid a higher salary than rank-and-file members.
    Senate Leadership
    Majority Leader – $188,100
    Minority Leader – $188,100

    House Leadership
    Speaker of the House – $217,400
    Majority Leader – $188,100
    Minority Leader – $188,100

    A cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.

    Corker could have taken the lead…..d=15190812

    • MrTentacle says:

      Just wondering if the 35 Senators asking for United Auto Workers to take a pay cut. Would be willing to take the lead and set a date for a pay cut?

      If they really want to drive their point home, all 35 senators should accept the same hourly wages and benefits provided by the foreign auto makers, since this is the benchmark they are pushing. This includes, of course, punching a time card, elimination of expense accounts and housing allowances. etc.

  6. freepatriot says:

    I found this gem in the reader’s responses to bobo’s gibberish de jour

    where exactly is Glen Arbor Michigan ???

    You have no idea about the rage that is brewing here. If General Sherman reappeared and proposed a march south, he could raise an army in no time.

    some may think I’m crazy, but I’m not the only one …

    with apologies to John Lennon

  7. Neil says:

    A new Senate star emerges from the auto row
    Thursday talks fail, but Tennessee Republican Corker has new stature
    By Tom Curry
    National affairs writer, updated 9:09 a.m. ET, Fri., Dec. 12, 2008

    Why does Bob Corker hate Americans who work for domestic car companies but not Americans who work for foreign car companies so much that he would risk the entire industry, its supply chain and investors like you and me who through the choice of our retirement investments have part of our retirements invested in auto?

    Someone ought to ask Tom Curry what constitutes being a “new Senate star.” Maybe Sen. Selby told him that was the case, in a shrewd move to deflect the fame.

  8. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    buying the GOP claim that it’s the UAW’s fault that Congress couldn’t give the auto companies a loan.

    Having viewed clips on the Internet showing white union people literally going door-to-door, making phone calls on behalf of Obama and Dems, and helping push new Dem Senators, as well as Obama, it’s evident that entire new social networks have emerged.

    Evidently, the GOP thinks that it can use the US Senate and courts to shut them down; that is a huge misjudgment.

    The blowback against Cerberus and its fellow travelers hasn’t even started to begin yet. Just to underscore that point, note that TPM is highlighting a Bloomberg report today that the Fed (Paulson?) is refusing to reveal information about where $2 Trillion in loans went:…..refer=home

    First, the NYT shouldn’t waste its time quoting GOP Senators; instead, it should be reporting on GOP comments in its Obit section. I suspect that what’s really happening here is the Death Watch of the GOP, which is dying of self-inflicted wounds.

    I didn’t expect K-k-k-Karl Rove’s GOP to die of suicide, but that’s sure what it looks like today.

  9. sunshine says:

    EW, Good post.
    Has the white collar auto workers (non union workers) been asked to make cutbacks? Is it in comparison as with the union workers?
    What’s the retirement packages are for the white collar workers in the auto co’s? The general public is so used to all the talk being about the Union workers but the white collar work force is nearly as large as the blue collar work force in the auto industry.

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