More than $1500 of every GM car goes to pay for employer-based health benefits--benefits that are being reduced in ways that cut into worker productivity and security, even as they continue to put GM and other US automakers at a severe competitive disadvantage to Asian and European automakers.
It has puzzled many that US automakers and other corporate interests with the same problem do not jump on the universal healthcare bandwagon. Shields points to one explanation from Dave Lindorff at In These Times:
How can the same corporations that in Canada recognize the bottom-line logic of a national health system be so opposed to the idea here?It's as good or better explanation as any and it rings true to these ears. Shields concludes:
One answer is ideology. The notion of having the government take over an industry that represents about 15 percent of the U.S. economy gives U.S. executives the willies. But in backing insurance company interests, GM runs counter to both its own business interests and the sentiments of many customers. (ITT)
As the General Motors layoffs are showing us, even though it may make some uncomfortable, a clear case is to be made for universal healthcare in the United States. Simply put, it's an issue of competitiveness. There's a reason GM is cutting thousands of jobs mostly in American factories. The executives will never admit it for political reasons, but the crushing burden of healthcare costs is taking away American jobs. While universal healthcare has long been an interest of the party, it's often pushed to the back, being seen as too controversial. But now that Democrats have seemed to find their footing and the will to fight back, it certainly seems the time has come for bold healthcare proposals supported by obvious economics. This issue should be a no-brainer for Democrats in 2006 and 2008.But no-brainers are only no-brainers for people with brains. Another paradox.
[Cross-posted at Effect Measure]
Addendum: After posting this I found Paul Krugman has a column on the same topic in today's (11/25/05, p. A35) New York Times. It contains the additional information that Toyota spent only $201 per vehicle in North America and $97 in Japan, compared to over $1500 for GM.