Bob Corker’s Chumps in the Senate

I’d like to second a point Trapper John just made at the Great Orange Satan. Senate Democrats have no business hailing Bob Corker’s bad faith claim to broker a compromise on Thursday night.

Let’s make this very plain.  Bob Corker just led the charge to kill the American auto industry, and with it some 10% of the American economy, because he wasn’t allowed to bust the UAW.  As such, Bob Corker is definitionally one of the most traitorous and despicable human beings ever to track slime across the floors of the Senate. He is attempting to take advantage of the financial crisis to literally dismantle the American middle class. He is beneath the contempt with which partisans regard even their most radical and craven domestic political opponents.  And to see three of the most prominent leaders of the party that portrays itself as the party of working Americans line up to commend this sanctimonious puppet of big money, this enemy of working Americans . . . well, it’s disgusting.  There’s really no other word for it.

I’d add one thing to Trapper’s post. Trapper is right that Corker should not be celebrated because of the way he attacked the notion that our workers ought to be able to sustain a middle class life.

Also, Democratic Senators ought to be a little more skeptical about Corker’s alleged good faith when considering his actions on Thursday.

As I pointed out the other night, Corker demanded that workers make date-certain concessions, without making the same demands of the other parties: the bond-holders in particular.

But since Thursday, it has become increasingly clear that the bond-holders appear to be the only other stake-holder Corker was demanding real concessions from. In the statements I’ve seen him make, for example, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him ask for concessions from dealers. Take his description of negotiations on Fox yesterday.

We began a process by first getting the bondholders to take $0.30 on the dollar, a $0.70 haircut. That had to happen first by March 15 and if it didn’t…

WALLACE: And they agreed to that.

CORKER: They have agreed – they got – yes. They have agreed that if they don’t get there, the company has to file bankruptcy.

So General Motors was at the table, Chrysler was at the table, Ford was at the table. They were in the ante room. They agreed to that.

Secondly, we agreed to the fact that the VEBA payments was, without getting into a lot of details, $21 billion that General Motors has. Half of it would be paid in stock, half of it in cash.

So that’s off to the side. We had everything worked out except for one thing and that is that the UAW had to be competitive. [my emphasis]

Corker’s "everything" doesn’t, apparently, include concessions from dealers.

Or take his explicit dodge on dealer concessions on Thursday night:

The third issue is the dealership issue. I don’t think we can deal with that today. There’s two issues that we can deal with in this loan and solve the problem; okay? One is the capital structure. The other is the labor issue. [my emphasis]

That’s significant for two reasons. First, in every major discussion of how to improve GM’s competitive position–including GM’s own–cuts in the sheer number of dealers as well as cuts in the number of brands has been central. You’ve got to cut brands to make every brand they’re investing marketing and engineering support into more viable; you’ve got to cut dealers to bring up the profitability on each car and the viability of each individual dealer. Thing is, when GM cut Oldsmobile, they paid billions in cutting out those dealers. If there were an easier way to do this, it’d give GM a much quicker path to profitability.

But Bob Corker apparently didn’t include that in his plans at all.

There’s undoubtedly a very good reason for this. Car dealers, you see, are reasonably powerful constituents in every congressional district in this country. In fact, they tend to be (or used to be) wealthy. And conservative. The kind of people, in other words, that the Republican party wouldn’t want to offend for the purpose of making a political point. 

So, in spite of the fact that Corker boasts of having had the solution for the US automotive industry’s competitiveness in the palm of his hand until those mean union workers stole it away, he knows well he didn’t. He was completely ignoring one major part of the equation.

You can prove Bob Corker wasn’t negotiating in good faith by the way he asked only one party–the workers–to make date-certain concessions.

Or you can prove it by the way he refused to ask for concessions from those–largely conservative–small businessmen whose omnipresence around the country might cause a big political headache.

Bob Corker wanted to cause Democrats headaches, you see. But not Republicans. 

Unfortunately, those lauding his efforts in the Senate are unwilling to point this second bit out, and in so doing, calling his bluff. So we’re stuck with the unsavory prospect of being made chumps by Bob Corker even while his stature–and ability to attack union workers–continues to rise. 

17 replies
  1. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Thanks for this one, EW.
    The Dems needed to be more frank in pointing out that any time you have a single member of Congress taking on the role that Corker has created for himself, we’re headed for chaos.

    The man appears to be on an incredible ego trip.
    Are we going to have each of the other 99 Senators each ‘calling a conference’ with this or that industry? If I were the BushCheney WH, I’d have bitch-slapped this guy into a corner four weeks ago, but since they have no clout left they were probably glad to let him take the stage.

    As for the Republican dealders… I don’t think Corker’s done the GOP any favors.
    I kind of have to turn away from the sight of the guy; I’m not a big fan of watching self-destruction.

  2. NelsonAlgren says:

    Do you know what The Big Three has done as far as dealers go in the last few years? I know that Ford used to pay some stand alone Lincoln-Mercury dealers to close up shop because L-M wasn’t selling. In fact, I’d wager that there aren’t very many stand alone L-M dealers left. They either were paid off to close or else merged with a local Ford dealer(If they were owned by the same person(or company). Has GM tried to pay off dealers to close up(or consolidate)?

    • emptywheel says:


      GM has used a number of ways to thin dealers, including letting them decide to go out of business themselves, and paying them to go. I thikn the number cited for the Olds closures though was 1-2 billion. Not chump change.

      But those dealer contracts are contracts every bit the way union contracts are, but somehow Corker thinks they’re sacrosanct.

  3. Arbusto says:

    Another issue you alluded to and the point of Trapper’s post was DINO Senators, Reid & Dodd lining up to fluff Corkers cork. I continue in amazement, on how little the 110th has done to aid the American citizen and worker, while increasing Government power and initiating laws without a care of consequences of the law. I believe Plantation Senators is an apt title.

      • klynn says:

        They really did “fluff Corker’s cork”

        Corks are small. Two inches at the most? How does one fluff a cork? Sounds like a terrible task.

        But then this is Corker we are discussing so “terrible” fits.

    • dosido says:

      another example of what Glennzilla calls the Political Class. A very self protective club that says the rules apply to the little people and not to us. R or D doesn’t matter. If we elect them, we just gave up the right to prosecute them.

  4. freepatriot says:

    so the repuglitards message for 2010 is that American workers make too much money, and that American workers are a bunch of lazy money grubbing crooks ???

    should be real popular with most of the wingnuts

    the other 80% of the nation is gonna be OUTRAGED

    but the wingnuts will be happy

    sixtyseven seats in the senata and over 300 seats in the house

    watch it happen

    and after we redistrict in 2012, things should get REALLY GOOD for the Democrats …

    the repuglitards are dying, and from the looks of their policy ideas, they ain’t gonna take long to do it …

  5. joejoejoe says:

    Senate Democratic “leadership” is in the pocket of Big Stupid.

    Here’s Bob Corker almost in tears talking about VW on YouTube. Corker said he was in a meeting with “bloviating” Senators when he got the call from VW that they were locating a plant in Tennessee (after getting a $557 million subsidy from the people of the state of TN) and he basically admits he was overcome by emotion hearing from Volkswagon, “the very best manufacturing partner” that Tennessee could ever had. I guess the GM Spring Hill plant is filled with assholes, eh Bob?

    Hey Chris Dodd and Harry Reid, try to lick Bob Corker’s bunghole just a wee bit less in the future. You make me want to change my voter registration to Independent to distance myself from your mewling festival of suck.

  6. freepatriot says:

    this is off topic, but I’ve been reviewing the shoe thrower tape, and I want to call Shoe interference on Maliki for the second shoe

    he was clearly “Face Guarding”, and that’s a penalty at all levels of fottball

    I’m not sure how we resolve this (is that a “spot foul” or just a ten yarder ???

    all I know is the guy who threw the shoes is owed another throw …

    (had to be said, wink)

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Random question and sorry if the answer is here and I missed it — but here’s a thought that maybe massaccio or someone has an answer to…?

    In my region, car dealers, ‘real estate developers’ (mostly of the strip mall variety) and also ‘commercial real estate’ (owning local office buildings) all go hand-into-interwoven hand.

    Wasn’t Corker a real estate developer?
    If so, he probably has friends who are auto dealers.
    Anyone know whether Corker ever helped build an auto dealership? Or was a percentage owner…?

    (I doubt it, as it would raise conflict of interest issues, but thought I’d pose the question in case anyone [knows anyone] who knows… It’s equally likely that Corker’s mindset is simply right out of 1985 and he really doesn’t grasp all the implications for pensions, patents, and the state budgets involved.)

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    In a dilettantish way I researched some of these concerns, including reading into the current site’s experts’ comments, and recalled a perhaps illustrative incident years past when some folks gifted me a Mercedes sedan somewhat aged but utilitarian for my purposes. The gas cap got lost. A kind mechanic at the dealership explained, those then 3 decades ago, that the $125. for the replacement gas cap was standard price. To ease my discomfort, knowing as I did the local Kragens had non-MB gas caps for about $10., the loquacious mechanic’s superior joined the conversation as I paid the bill, explaining that the mechanic had gone to MB technician school in Germany and all the dealership employees earned standarized MB technician wages.

    Suppose the dealerships became like those in some mythical Russia, several cars to chose from, but only a few; downsized lots; and totally outsourced repair. The unions likely would be combattive about losing the influence of strong presence in the lucrative repair shop portal of dealerships, and the mechanics would earn less. But gas caps prices would appear way below $125./ in 1979 dollars, would be my guess.

    Recently I did a survey of Russian language car sites, which very much resemble US car sites. I did this is extraordinarily rusty Russian language. But the hype is the same. It is like a kiddie tour of Hollywood. For the curious, if you know how to set your browser to cyrillic, search on МОСКОВСКИЙ МЕЖДУНАРОДНЫЙ автомобильНЫЙ САЛОН, which is a venue of a yearly auto show in the capital.

    After reading bmaz’s perspectives, I have appreciated what the dealerships do more completely, but from personal experience see Corker room for compromise only in those areas in which dealerships garner the bulk of their income.

    All of this is apart from the vast bulk of complex influences which congress is examining. It was simply some personal recognition there is some small way dealerships might transform as well, at least for some bridge timespan until the eco versions of current machines become available. It is a world a lot like utilities, but its reliance on yearly cashflow in the competitive big ticket consumer market makes automobiles stand apart as an exceptionally cashflow sensitive sector. I imagine Bush’s branch of the Republican Party missed this repercussion of their policies of domestic economic rapine.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Good God, Mr. Lopresti — you never cease to amaze this fellow reader.
      Closest I’ve ever come to Russian was/is the ability to suss out Greek (which also comes in handy for statistics, but I digress…)

      Thank heavens someone ’round these here parts can suss out Cyrillic. ‘Tis beyond my own feeble powers. But just because I enjoy puzzlez, could I ask two quick questions?

      The МЕЖДУНАРОДНЫЙ I infer (from Greek) to be something on the order of m-e-ch/k-(ical/arahin) as in ‘mechanical thingies’. And the автомобильНЫЙ somewhat more ‘au/ae-tom-bulin’ or some such?

      Sorry to be so OT, but on a scale of 1 being, “well done, there!” and 10 being, “Whatcha thinkin’, that was Coptic I was writin’?” how’d my guesses span out…?

      I do agree that there could be a transformational opportunity for auto dealers, and your comment is the first that I’d glimpsed of such a notion. I still think they have no business whatsoever on floodplains.

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