Maybe It Depends on What the Definition of “The” is?

I didn’t want any of you to miss out on what must be one of the most bizarre chapters in the political career of Bill Hobbs.  And yet, frankly, I don’t know what to make of it.  Shall we look at the facts?

Fact One: GM employes about 3,500 Tennesseans.  Spring Hill and Columbia, Tennessee are what they are because of the Saturn plant.

Fact Two: GM is looking to the government for a huge bailout.

Those are the facts.  Should the Feds bail out GM?  I don’t know.  I know that, when you start to think about all the parts of our economy that are tied into the auto industry, letting them fail seems pretty damn terrifying.  You think the economy is bad now; what would happen if even half of the people employed by GM were out of work?

Ugh.  Sorry, this was supposed to be a humerous post and all of a sudden I felt like I should call the Man from GM and offer him our couch to live on.

Where were we?  Ah, yes, Bill Hobbs.

So, Christian Grantham over at Nashville is Talking makes this post in which he says:

Tennessee Republican Party Spokesman Bill Hobbs speaks out in opposition to a proposed bailout for the employer of 3,500 workers at Spring Hill’s GM plant.

And then comes this post in which Christian says:

Tennessee GOP Spokesperson Bill Hobbs sent me the following email late yesterday regarding this post.

The statement that I spoke out in opposition to the bailout of the Big Three (or that the TN GOP did) is a lie. A slanderous lie.

I wrote an analysis of the situation, not a statement of opposition to or support of the proposed bailout. Period. You can not find one fraction of that post that is a statement of opposition to it.

I demand a retraction and apology.


I want to laugh, America.  I surely do.  But I can’t quite get to laughing because I’m stuck wonder whether Bill Hobbs knows what the words “opposition” and “support” mean.

And then, when I get past that, I’m stuck wondering if, when he says “You can not find one fraction of that post that is a statement of opposition to it,” there’s some prize if we do find a fraction.  And what kind of prize would I want from Bill Hobbs?  Perhaps a hand-drawn cartoon of some religous figure?  Hmm.

But let us take this sentence: “The statement that I spoke out in opposition to the bailout of the Big Three (or that the TN GOP did) is a lie.”

Shall we look at the post?  (And maybe I wonder this, too.  Does Bill Hobbs not know that people can read the things he writes?)

Republicans may not be able to stop this bailout – indeed, not all Republicans oppose the bailout – but Republicans certainly ought to insist that the bailout include helping Ford, GM and Chrysler amend their UAW contracts to be more competitive (otherwise the Big Three will still fail). Republicans also ought to insist that the bailout package include provisions to bar unions from using union dues for political purposes unless union members are allowed to opt out of paying that part of their dues because they don’t support the union’s political agenda.

Republicans also should insist on regulatory reforms so that the Big Three (and all other automakers) may more easily import fuel-efficient automobiles currently sold in other countries.

“Republicans may not be able to stop this bailout.”  That is a direct quote.  The implication in that is clear that Republicans (at least most Republicans, including the author) are on the side of at least trying to stop the bailout.  Don’t believe me?  Then go on to the second half of the sentence in which Bill Hobbs outlines what the Republicans should do, since they can’t stop the bailout–change the terms of the bailout.

Bill Hobbs is clearly speaking out in opposition to the bailout of the Big Three, by implication when he says that Republicans may not be able to stop it, and then explicitly when he urges them to change the terms.  By definition, once you change the terms of the bailout, it is no longer the bailout as proposed, but a new bailout.

He is indeed opposed to the bailout.  He may not be opposed to any bailout.  But he’s clearly opposed to this one.

And Christian’s the liar who should apologize?

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Okay, now I’m laughing.

15 thoughts on “Maybe It Depends on What the Definition of “The” is?

  1. He doesn’t know what slander is, either. You’d think a guy in the media industry would know the difference between libel and slander and why this isn’t either of those.

  2. I’m still waiting for confirmation from Hobbs whether the TN GOP is 1) For, 2) Against or 3) voting “present” on the proposed bailout now before Congress. His email can literally be one sentence long.

    I’d be thrilled to share any of those answers. Until then, the best the city of Spring Hill can do is decypher his own posted comments on the bailout. We’ll see if I was indeed wrong, and all will be well in the hills of Tennessee.

  3. I like how GOP opposition to this thing basically boils down to:

    “It would be wrong to use government to pay the people these companies owe money to. Instead we should use government to screw the people these companies owe money to.”

  4. I’ve been laughing about that very thing. I think the truth is that, if only the unions had negotiated contracts with their workers in which the average worker at GM were making AIG cash, they’d have no problem getting more money from the gov.

  5. The problem with the bailout for the US auto industry is that it really isn’t a bailout for “the US auto industry.”

    It’s a bailout for the American nameplate auto industry.

    Toyota, Nissan, and BMW aren’t asking the American taxpayer to bail them out from their fautly business decisions. Those companies, while maybe having a bad quarter or two, will be fine in the long run.

    The problem with GM/Ford/Chrysler is that their current business models are in and of itself so faulty that even if they get another 25 billion now, they will be needing another 25 billion a few years beyond, and then another 25 billion dollars beyond that, if they don’t enact some highly radical change in how they run their businesses.

    We might as well be giving $100 bills to a crack addict, and expect him to spend it on food, than to give Detroit 25 billion in corporate welfare, and expect them to spend it on attaining long term profitability.

    Let them go chapter 11. They will eventually, the question is whether it’s now, or ten years from now.

  6. I expect that Hobbs doesn’t want to issue a definitive comment because there’s no right answer here.

    On the one hand, it would be good for the companies to be able to “reorganize” if they choose to do so. It will get them out of the union contracts that are strangling them. The unions have outlived their usefulness and have moved into an age when they’re downright malignant. But it’s not all their fault. Certainly, previous management at the automotive companies could have had better foresight and negotiated much tougher.

    Speaking of foresight, it would have been good if the “American” auto companies could have been making more cars that Americans want to buy than just the big SUVs and trucks. But short-term greed got in the way of long-term planning.

    On the other hand, auto companies and those that build durable (expensive) goods are not likely to successfully come out of bankruptcy like airlines and service industries. There’s no warranty on your flight. You don’t need it five years after your purchase. Really, would you buy a car from a company you think won’t be around in a year or so?

    And it’s not just the GM workers in Tennessee. It’s all the people who work for those suppliers. Many of those suppliers are vendors for Nissan, too. But if a portion of their business disappears, they will likely have to increase prices to Nissan. That will cause consumer prices to rise, sales to fall, and so on. There’s a domino effect.

    So I support the bailout. But with some of the suggestions that Hobbs has made. Cut salaries, cut pensions, cut bonuses. I have a hard time feeling sorry for GM retirees who live a life of luxury compared to what I’m facing when (IF) I ever retire.

  7. That said, Hobbs’s post was extremely negative and the implication was definitely there that he does not support the bailout. But it wasn’t outright. You’d just have to be a fool to interpret it otherwise.

    And I laugh at the irony that in his post, he calls for more government regulation. The Republicans–the big government party!

  8. If unions have become so irrelevant, why are the Republicans still going so crazy trying to kill them?

    Sorry, this approach is just that class warfare thing all over again. Saving the highly-paid jobs of white-collar workers who have made decisions so bad they are on track to destroy this country’s economy? Oh, that’s urgent, vital, necessary. Saving the jobs of less-highly-paid (but still more highly-paid than unionized autoworkers) employees of brokerages and banks who carried out those stupid policies? That’s too many jobs to lose, we must save those jobs as they are, at any cost. But saving blue-collar jobs, jobs that pay less than the white-collar jobs we’ve already acted to save, jobs that are a lot less highly paid than they could be because unions, as responsible players in our economic process, have made give-back after give-back as the economy has worsened, jobs of people who are given no input in the decision-making process but who just make the lousy cars that management has decided on? Oh, those are union jobs: crush ’em, screw ’em.

  9. There’s enough fault in the auto business to spread it on thick, both from management and union sides. Both have been moral men and women making immoral decisions at various times.

    Pushing against minimal increases in CAFE standards over the last few decades has stifled innovation and excellence. A simple 1/2 percent increase a year would have us at 40+ mpg now. People who made those decisions should suffer for them – we do.

    OTOH, I know Ford and GM retirees who live better now than I do while I still work every day. Union negotiations and management concessions gave them something I may never have – a retirement with security and insurance and bills paid. Do I deserve it less than they – or they more than me?

    When does too big to fail become too big to let live?

  10. Barney Frank on NPR, saying that 25 billion of course isn’t enough, and then evading the inteviewer’s questions on how much it would actually cost.

    You could buy the Big Three for just 12 billion. There’s a reason nobody wants to.

    (Of course it was Frank who said he wanted to “roll the dice” when it came to Freddie and Fannie back in 2003.)

    Sorry, this approach is just that class warfare thing all over again.

    Please remember that it was the Republican house members who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the original bailout. Many Dems didn’t either, for good reason as well. So this isn’t a partisan thing or class warfare thing.

  11. It isn’t partisan, necessarily. (I don’t see any Democratic spokesfolk cheering over the chance to finally, finally, destroy unions. But I’m aware that not all Republicans are approaching the problem that way, either.) But the crush the unions NOW part of the approach is playing out awfully like anti-blue-collar class warfare.

  12. nm, if you think that union workers aren’t making the same or more than “white collar workers,” then you have obviously not worked in a business with the UAW. Actually, I was a white collar worker who benefitted needlessly in a UAW negotiation years ago. I wasn’t a member and didn’t even know what was going on until I got a memo from HR saying my pay rate was increasing by $4K a year. I still don’t understand why. And I still blame those UAW negotiators for the problems that company still has.

    I have cousins in Michigan who are UAW blue collar workers. I don’t want to see them lose their jobs. But I would prefer to see them paid a fair wage and get fair benefits based on what they do. The UAW makes sure that they get paid more than I feel they should. Why should someone make $70K a year to put tires on a car? They do–and more–because of union-mandated yearly pay raises. People stick around for years because the union won’t let the automakers reduce the workforce. And GM retirees have some of the best lifestyles of any people in this country and certainly moreso than most “blue collar workers.” The unions are requiring that new workers get the same pension and retirement benefits as workers from 60 years ago despite the fact that the labor force and the world has changed. It’s ridiculous. The rest of us have to scrape by on 401(k)s and (maybe) Social Security and Medicare. Why shouldn’t they?

    This isn’t about class warfare. It’s about organizations who are preventing a company from being able to be competitive. The carmakers are choked under their old-school commitments. I think that’s part of why they lack innovation. That and, of course, poor management overall.

    The unions are all rackets. That’s why every political candidate panders to them. What I don’t understand is why the “American” automakers continue to let them have so much control. I’d say, fire all of them and then re-hire without the union. Now’s a good time to re-negotiate. Though most union contracts are negotiated when production is busy. They like it that way.

  13. Lesley, I’m talking about the white collar workers at all the brokerages and banks who we rescued because we just couldn’t put those folks out of work. Do you think they would do their jobs for a measly $70K a year? They would laugh in your face if you suggested it. Yet while I heard some rumbling about “no bonuses for executives” I sure didn’t hear “here’s our chance finally to cut the brokers’ salaries/commissions.”

  14. nm, oh–sorry about that. I see your point now. I support the bailout even though I hate unions. I just want to make that clear. I would really have preferred the money that went to AIG and all of the banks to go into any industry that’s creating or maintaining jobs in this country. Real jobs, not bullshit banker jobs.

    I think that the money should be offered to the carmakers with a bunch of stipulations re: cutting executive salaries and bonuses for people making more than $100K per year and that kind of thing. With those kinds of rules, I don’t think Ford will take any money. But I think the unions should have to make some big concessions, too.

  15. Lesley, why can’t unions “restructure” and re-organize with respect to how they weild power. If Corporations did not have a history of wringing every last drop of sweat from people, then callously discarding them, unions would not exist. Collective bargaining came about to protect workers, not fleece employers. Its gotten way out of hand, so, perhaps there needs to be limits imposed on their negotiation practices, but to say that they serve no useful purpose seems a tad out of touch with the history of Corporate abuse.

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