[media id=6885] Rachel Maddow interviews Leo Gerard, the President of the United Steelworkers Union and asks if the auto industry is getting toughe
December 3, 2008

Rachel Maddow interviews Leo Gerard, the President of the United Steelworkers Union and asks if the auto industry is getting tougher treatment than the financial industry did when it was their turn for a bailout.

Gerard goes through the list of bailouts that have cost our economy trillions of dollars and notes that no one complained when CEOs made away with hundreds of billions of dollars over the years while they have taken our entire economy down the tank. He makes some great points on how "we've treated the people who take a shower after work much different than we've treated the people who shower before they go to work".

As one of those people who takes a shower after I get off work and not before, I concur.

Maddow and Gerard then move on to how politics is playing into this debate. Transcripts to follow:

Maddow: I spoke with the President of the auto workers' union recently on this show about the difference in the response to those other industries that have been getting assistance or asking for assistance from the federal government and the way that the auto industry has been treated and it seems to me that there is a real political inflection to the resistance to helping out the auto industry. In that political inflection you can hear when they start, when people start complaining, critics start complaining about auto workers being overpaid. And they start complaining about unions. Unions are being set up as if they are the reason that America can't be competitive and that business has failed. Do you feel that is a political attack on the unions as a union leader right now?

Gerard: I think it's a lot of Republican hypocrisy, Wall Street hypocrisy, it's the hypocrisy of the already rich and powerful that have kept silent like the Governors that you had on earlier. Kept silent about bailouts when it was going to their friends on Wall Street. Look at the economic deregulation we've seen in this country over the last twenty years. We deregulated the financial sector. We deregulated industries like the aerospace industry, like the trucking industry, like the energy industry, we deregulated employment levels so that now for the first time in the last fifty years this generation might pass on a lower standard of living for the next generation. And we deregulated global trade.

Tell me which one of those have been good for working families. Which one of those has increased America's standing in the world. Of course it's a phony attack. An auto worker that made fifty seven thousand dollars a year, working some overtime who produces a good car, who has a half decent pension who has now had their pension equity whacked by more corruption and callamity on Wall Street, who has some decent health care after working thirty or forty years in a work place. An employer that's trying to provide that health care because it's the only country on earth where society doesn't get health care provided through a universal system, and all of a sudden we're going to blame the workers? Uh, it's not the workers' fault. In fact the calamity issue report said today people aren't buying cars.

I was in a car lot on Saturday with my wife. I went to buy my daughter a coat. Stopped at a car lot just to see what was going on. There was nobody in the car lot buying any cars. You know why? Because they can't access credit. That's not the auto workers' fault. That's Wall Street's fault. That's those who deregulated the financial sector.

You know I have this little saying, I get a chance I'll tell it to you. When we deregulated the financial sector, that was the economic equivalent of leaving three year olds alone in a candy store. You know what they're going to do. They're going to gorge themselves and when you go get them, they're going to throw up on your shoes. I'm just tired of having my shoes thrown up on by Wall Street.

Hear, hear. I think we're all a bit tired of having our "shoes thrown up on". I believe Mr. Gerard meant to refer to the fact that our country ranks very poorly among other industrialized nations and is the only wealthy industrialized country not to offer a single-payer program as opposed to the "only country on earth", but given all the other great points he made I think we can give him a pass for that slip. It's not easy being on television when you don't do it all the time as I'm sure he does not, but easy to criticize someone who puts themselves out there if they slip up, so I won't do that. I think it's obvious what point he was trying to make. The lack of universal health care in this country plays a huge factor in our industries having trouble competing with other industrialized nations. And worse yet we're never going to compete with countries that use slave labor and need to have that practice stopped and some trade laws enforced which protect workers rights in every country we do business with. With China owning us right now I'm not sure how likely that's going to happen any time soon, if ever.

We may have ended slavery in this country but sadly we just outsourced it so we no longer have to look it in the face.

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