The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Why not pay back taxpayers first?

How about paying back the $15 billion first? I’m sure there are sophisticated arguments for why the UAW members shouldn’t pay back the taxpayers who bailed their employer out of bankruptcy before they negotiate a deal that gives them each a $5,000 bonus. I just can’t think of them right now. … Just from a PR standpoint, repaying the debt would seem like a good idea. …

Sure, as a going concern, GM has to pay to keep its employees from bolting to a competitor. But what are the odds that most of GM’s UAW workers (i.e, the ones not in the $14-an-hour Tier Two) could find jobs anywhere near as good as the ones they now hold? Almost all their leverage comes from the Wagner Act’s power to strike and not be fired. Without Wagner, they’d be free to quit, which they would not do. (Go ahead. Make GM’s day.)  

It’s one thing to give workers power to negotiate above-market wages through collective bargaining–hey, let them squeeze the bosses for all the bosses can bear. It’s another thing when they squeeze more than the bosses can bear, the bosses go broke, and ordinary citizens, many poorer than UAW members, have to make up the difference.  After that, why let the UAW continue to extract Wagner Act wages as if nothing happened? … 

The $15 billion aside, if GM is so profitable it can afford to give its new hires a raise and all its UAW workers plush health benefits and a big bonus, that’s great. But why do I fear the economic assumptions underlying these numbers will prove to be unrealistic? Sure, GM’s doing OK now, with two of its major competitors  (Toyota and Honda) crippled by the Japanese earthquake. Those two are now coming  back online, while other GM competitors like Hyundai and VW are gaining market share. VW, at least, is explicitly pursuing a low-cost price-chiseling strategy, the better to exploit its non-union wage advantage. Plus the whole new car market may be shrinking as the economy stalls.

Maybe the UAW has taken this all into account. Or maybe they are whistling past the graveyard, Solyndra-style, hoping GM will remain profitable–or, barring that, that it will still be “too big to fail” the next time. …