December 12, 2008
One of the drawbacks to the increasingly populist nature of the Republican Party is that it puts a strain on maintaining popular support for policies in times of recession. Old fashioned belt-tightening, pro-business economic remedies just don't go over too well in small towns where the factories are closing down. (See below.) Paradoxically, however, the current political-economic situation in the United States may actually redound to the Republicans' benefit, as Gannett columnist Chuck Raasch noted. He speculated that the Republicans might be able to capitalize on the widespread public opposition to the Detroit bailout proposal, while being faithful to the party's traditional opposition to interference in the market. I think he's right, and for once, populist politics is in harmony with the national interest. Let's hope that Sen. Richard Shelby and other Republican leaders stand up against the pressure to fork over huge stashes of Federal cash to companies with grotesquely excessive payrolls -- executives and workers are getting paid too much.
Raasch also noted that at one of those "debates" in October 2007, most of the Republican candidates seemed unaware of the growing economic hardships faced by many people. Two notable exceptions were libertarian Ron Paul and social conservative Mike Huckabee, who were very conscious of the emerging recession. Very interesting... (That column by Raasch appeared in the News Leader print edition, but you can't access that column on their Web site without some kind of login.)
I am generally anti-bailout, but I am not so dogmatic about it that I wouldn't consider arguments based on prudence or practicality, such as Ben Stein, whom I cited yesterday. Nevertheless, it seems clear that bailing out Detroit now would only prolong an industrial system that cannot be sustained indefinitely. The labor unions do not serve the interests of the working class in general, and the United Auto Workers in particular need to be told very clearly: "No more!"
Speaking of factories closing down, the Invista plant in Waynesboro (formerly DuPont) just laid off 210 workers, shutting down nylon fiber production. See the News Virginian. Times are indeed very tough all over, including right here in the Shenandoah Valley.