POLITICS
03/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero Defends Working Class On Fox News (VIDEO)

Here's something I've noticed: you suggest that a bunch of Wall Street titans who screwed themselves and took the economy into the tank with them should agree to compensation caps, and people start wondering if you've lost your mind. On the other hand, you suggest that a guy who works on an assembly line should do the same, suddenly your point of view gets traction. Well, yesterday, Fox News hosted Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, and asked for his reaction to the latter premise. As you might suspect, he sort of rejected it!

BERNERO: "I gotta tell you I am so sick and tired of the double standard. One standard for Washington and Wall Street and another standard for working people in this country. It's always, it always comes down to, 'Hey, to be more competitive we gotta take it out of the hide of the working person' ... cut their pay, cut their benefits. How much is enough? ... What does Wall Street given up? What is Washington doing ... have they given up on their own their workers and thrown them out ... under the bus?...The auto industry will step up. And we'll take our lumps. But I guess there's no reciprocity in this country."

I'm not at all sure what Fox News expected, asking for Bernero's reaction, because the next thing his interlocutor did was act all offended and then drop a big, fat GOP talking point into the conversation:

"Okay, Mr. Bernero, that wasn't my question, and I'm sorry that you were offended by it, but now that you bring it up, here's today's editorial in the New York Post: 'The overall per worker burden for the Big Three is upwards of seventy dollars per hour compared to 27 dollars an hour. Burned by the average private sector worker in the upper midwestern states as a result, General Motors loses $2000 dollars per car sold. That is unsustainable.' Wouldn't you agree that UAW workers need to swallow some pay cuts ... a substantial one?"

Much has been written about how these Michigan auto workers are making $70 an hour, and what monsters they are. Here's Glenn Greenwald, for edification:

As Eric Boehlert, among others, has documented, the claim that automakers earn $70/hour is pure myth. At the very best, that figure encompasses total labor costs, which include health care and all other benefits (and even then, it's misleading). Nonetheless, note how the Fox "journalist" asked the Mayor about this $70/hour figure -- which indisputably includes health care costs -- and then excoriated him for defending worker health care benefits on the ground that health care benefits are irrelevant to the $70/hour issue. It's just not possible to overstate the stupidity both of our political discourse and of the TV actors who lead that discourse as they play the role of journalists.

Bernero had his own way of countering:

BERNERO: "Greg, I don't know about you, but I have good health benefits here in the city of Lansing; my guess is that FOX provides you with some good health benefits. So now General Motors and the other members of the Big Three are to be penalized for providing perks, for doing social good and stepping up to deploy and provide health benefits for their workers? Give me a break! You know what? Wall Street got billions of dollars, no strings attached, they haven't suffered one iota! And all we can talk about is how much more we can get out of the working person?

[WATCH.]