The Parity Fallacy (UPDATED X2)

Lately, Republicans have been pushing the idea of pay parity for auto workers, arguing that American workers should get paid roughly what their foreign counterparts make.

First, since when has the GOP been in favor of using the federal government to interfere with businesses and dictate wages? Aren’t Republicans supposedly the ones who want to “get the governments off our backs”? Or is that just rhetoric they like to use when they’re not in charge?

Second, autoworkers make somewhere around $50,000 a year. United States Senators, on the other hand, make $169,300 a year. Minority Leader Mitch McConnnell, who opposed the bailout, earns $188,100 a year because he’s a member of the leadership. And all of those Congressional salaries include a $4,400 a year pay raise Congress gave itself last year.

So you have Senators who rake in three to four times what auto workers make complaining that those autoworkers are grossly overpaid.

I wonder how long it’s been since any of the major Republicans opposing the bailout have had to live in the equivalent of $50,000 a year:

  • Mitch McConnell went to law school, served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Ford and went on to become the Jefferson County Judge/Executive. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1984.
  • Bob Corker started and sold a construction company before purchasing a large real estate company in Chattanooga (which made him the largest private landowner in Hamilton County, Tennessee). Corker’s current assets are estimated to be worth nearly $20 million, and he was elected to the Senate in 2006.
  • Richard Shelby also graduated law school, became a U.S. Magistrate for the Northern District of Alabama and then a Special Assistant State Attorney General. He was then elected to the Alabama Senate and the United States House of Representatives before being elected a U.S. Senator in 1986.
  • David Vitter earned a law degree from Tulane University before being elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. He was then elected to the United States House of Representatives and was elected to the Senate in 2004.
  • John Ensign attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Oregon State University and Colorado State University and upon graduation became a veterinarian. He opened his own animal hospital in Las Vegas before being elected to the House of Representatives. Ensign was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Let’s face it, none of these guys who opposed the bailout have had to live off the equivalent of $50,000 a year for a very long time.

Now, you could argue that all of those guys listed up there earned the money they make, and you’d be right. But what makes Senators more deserving of their salaries then autoworkers? Haven’t autoworkers worked hard and organized and negotiated good wages and benefits for themselves? How are they less entitled to what they earn than those well-paid Senators are?

It just doesn’t make sense. Well, actually, it does make sense when you consider that many of the Republicans leading the opposition to the bailout are from states that have sizable foreign auto manufacturing presences or from states with union-hostile “right to work” laws. Those Republicans have a clear financial and/or ideological incentive to attack American auto workers and the union that represents them, so let’s make no mistake about where their rhetoric is coming from.

Make sure to take the GOP bluster on the auto bailout and the American auto companies with a huge grain of salt; you’ll need something to cover up the disgusting taste of hypocrisy and self-interest.

UPDATE: This is why I read John Cole:

US Senators are openly colluding with foreign auto companies to drive down the wages of American workers. Something to think about the next time you hear “You’re either with us or against us.”

And as a side note, as someone who has never really cared much for unions, I am as shocked as anyone to see myself defending the UAW this vigorously. I guess I am just taken aback by how brazen the efforts are to blame this on the workers and to let the economy explode just to destroy unions. It is pretty mind-boggling, and that is even after a pretty amazingly awful eight years of suck.

UPDATE II: Also, burn:

“I don’t know what Sen. Vitter has against GM or the United Auto Workers or the entire domestic auto industry; whatever it is, whatever he thinks we’ve done, it’s time for him to forgive us, just like Sen. Vitter has asked the citizens of Louisiana to forgive him, ” said [Morgan] Johnson, president of [UAW] Local 2166. Otherwise, Johnson said of Vitter, it would appear, “He’d rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers.”