Conservatives are cheering as they watch the economic collapse destroy one of their most hated opponents: organized labor. But instead of sneering at the vanquished, the business class should be thanking them in gratitude, for the unions did themselves in (I say this as a current unionized worker and a partner in two small businesses). I'm not talking about the "excessive" wages of workers when the executives who pay them earn so much themselves they lose sight of reality, I'm talking about how since 1968 they turned to their oppressors' politics against their own economic interests.
Union labor voted more heavily for Nixon in 1968 under the mistaken impression that he was all about law and order (for others - the young, the non-whites, foreigners, etc.). With that shift in allegiance, their own future was sealed, and they are now reaping the benefits they are now due. These 1968 voters are included among the legacy costs which GM claims to be costing $70 an hour (a false figure based on all current and retired employee costs divided only by current employee work hours). Abandoning those contractual obligations "would save us," failed GM CEO Rick Wagoner exclaims to the Congress as he pleads for relief like the Wall Street banks already got at taxpayer expense (yet his company is very profitable in foreign markets!). "I'll work for a dollar a year!" proclaims Ford CEO Alan Mulally, whose reorganization package includes shafting his workforce for his errors one more time (but at least he will share in the pain!).
Can you hear the anguished cries of the UAW retirees, the ones who voted for Nixon in 1968 and started this whole mess we now live in? "Save us!" they cry, but there is no one to heed their cries. The current president is too busy removing the organization rights of about 8600 federal employees while issuing "guidelines" protecting the fundamentalists' religious beliefs against having to serve the public's medical needs while helping to create more by removing protections against the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
So these self-assassinated retirees and their still-working union descendants can only turn to the incoming Chief Executive for relief (to non-union workers: "Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Labor!"). Leading the charge on their behalf is Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson, who declares that "Obama [...] needs to publicly and personally urge Bush to not utterly abandon the American worker. It would be a strong sign that his White House will be one where the working stiff is not stiffed."
Ah, that audacity of hope is at work again! There is only one problem, as Jackson's colleague over at The New York Times, Bob Herbert, observes: "What I wonder is whether the members of this team, in addition to their grasp of the issues and success at achieving power, have a real feel for the needs of the people they are supposed to be representing. [...] The people at the pinnacle of power in Washington are encased in a bubble that makes it extremely hard to hear the voices of those who aren’t already powerful themselves."