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Russell Shaw

Russell Shaw

Posted: October 21, 2005 12:17 AM

George Will To Sick GM Retirees: Pay Up!!


Syndicated conservative columnist George Will is a crisp writer, and one might argue, a brilliant man.

Sad when we see such fine minds argue, essentially, that free markets are by their very nature, equitably determinant. In other words, you can count on the free market to do the right thing most of the time.

I've known for some time that's the way Will tracks.Yet even I was fuming after I read his latest piece, GM Rolling Out of Its Welfare State.

Will's key point would appear to be that with health care costs skyrocketing for insured retirees and current workers, GM's health care insurance nut is so high they have to take money better spent on research and development and spend it on a corporate "welfare state."

Will then quotes Robert Miller, CEO of auto-parts manufacturer (and former GM subsidiary) Delphi as saying: that the social contract written after 1945 is being — must be — repealed because, given globalization, unskilled manual labor cannot be paid $65 an hour, with the cost passed on to consumers. "When you buy a Hyundai you get a satellite radio as your option, but if you buy a Chevrolet you get social welfare as an option. Long term, the customer is going to desert you if you try to price for your social-welfare costs."

Is your blood boiling yet? I know mine is.

Will seems to be saying, well yea, you worked on the assembly line for 28 years, Buddy, but now, well, GM is hurting,and they want to get the stock price back up, so maybe now you need to help by paying your own way. Because the market demands it.

First of all, why are health care costs so high? In large measure because the party in control of Congress and the White House, and almost unanimously backed by industrial giants such as GM, is also in the grip of big pharma - a sector that is also opposed to price controls and import of legal drugs from Canada.

And it is also instructive to note that not everyone tends to believe that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., he of the multi-multi-millionaire hospital entrepreneur Frists - has handled the confluence of his business, financial and political affairs in the most appropriate manner.

What about the foreign competition that Will believes puts American corporations such as GM at such a disadvantage they ought to cut back on insurance for their workers?

The same party backed by the automotive industry (but opposed by the United Auto Workers), is the same party that has backed free trade agreements that have riled up this competition from places like Korea and China.

It is interesting to note, though, that most of our wheely imports don't come from Korea and China. They come from Japan- where health care coverage for auto workers is universal, and from Germany-where health care coverage is universal.

Now if you want to talk about "welfare states.."

Yea, force the retired or ill GM worker- who has been with you all these years, worn your colors, drove your cars,even represented your plant in a local softball league - to dig in and pay $283 out of his own pocket for a drug made by a pharmaceutical company enjoying record profits.

Record profits that just might rival the $33.45 billion GM made in gross profit last fiscal year.