An Odd Symmetry

I couldn’t help but notice a pretty odd parallel (or, properly, inversion) between the abortive auto bailout killed by Senate Republicans and the TARP bank bailout of October.  The first one, killed by House Republicans.  Gosh, the Republicans do not like bailouts.

Sidebar: While yes, large government bailouts do go against the Republicans’ stated ideals of limited government interference in the economy, that’s hardly the most compelling reason for them to oppose bailouts.  Bailouts are large, risky, unpopular, and backed by both the Democrats and George W. Bush.  The political advantage for any opposition party lies with being just obstructionist enough to establish opposition to such an act, but not enough to ensure it doesn’t happen if it’s necessary.  As an auto bailout most likely will, under the auspices of the TARP act.

Sidebar-sub-two: It’s looking more and more like TARP was just a blank check for a few hundred billion dollars’; should we not be a bit more concerned?

Anyway, main point: With TARP, Republicans were incensed that the Democrats wanted to interfere with the free market to cut executive salaries.  With the auto bailout, the Republicans were incensed that the Democrats wouldn’t interfere with the free market by forcing the unions to cut salaries.  Now, both parties obviously had political scores to settle, and both might be described as engaging in “class warfare”.

However, that seems to me to be a false moral equivalence.  It’s somewhat unseemly for the government to punish the wealthy and powerful, but it’s of a whole different character for the government to punish the non-wealthy and powerless.  It seems entirely inappropriate that at a time of near-economic collapse, the Republican Party is willing to destroy the economy of the Great Lakes in order to punish uneducated assembly-line workers with no career options.  At least banking executives were complicit in their mess.  Whatever one may say about the contributions of the unions to the woes of Detroit, what we just saw was a party attempt to take advantage of economic ruin to kill their political opponent.

It’s a smart move on their part.


-Alex Copulsky, Books and Arts Editor

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