Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iced Tea

The National Tea Party folks planned a big protest at the auto show in Detroit yesterday. They wanted to show their disgruntlement over the government’s bail-out of General Motors and Chrysler. Two people showed up.

One of the reasons might have been that it was very cold in Detroit yesterday, but another reason might be that the people in Michigan who are sympathetic to the tea party movement are also people who work in the auto industry and are grateful that they still have jobs.

The Michigan Messenger reported on Michigan tea partier and ex-GM employee Joan Fabiano Facebook campaign urging her fellow protesters to stay away:

“In conclusion it is my opinion that this protest is ill-conceived and quite frankly an attempt at attention grabbing grand standing by those outside and unfortunately inside of Michigan. … Why must some Americans boycott G.M. and throw INNOCENT people, such as myself, out on the street trying to find another job in this economy? Did I do something wrong? Would you like to see yourself out of a job if your company’s leadership made the errors and you had NOTHING to do with it?”

As the Messenger reported, Fabiano, like most tea partiers, is opposed to the government bailouts of banks and the so-called “out of control spending” in D.C.. But when it comes to General Motors and Chrysler — two companies bought out by the government in the depths of the economic downturn — Fabiano said the protest could hurt the business climate in the one of the worst states for unemployment in the country.

It’s all well and good to talk about something like letting the auto industry fail — hey, that’s capitalism — but it’s also well and good to remember the butterfly effect; one plant closing touches more than just the lives of the people who work there. It also closes businesses, which reduces the tax base, which then hits the schools and the infrastructure such as public utilities, which then start to crumble and fail. People move away or become dependent on the public safety net, which begins to unravel because it doesn’t have the funding to keep going, and so on. Even in towns hundreds of miles away where fifty people work in a small company that supplies the parts for the auto industry — electrical wiring harnesses or roller bearings, for example — have to cut back or even go out of business, and that then hits that small town… you get the idea.

The problem with movements like the Tea Party isn’t their politics, it’s that they don’t think things through. They come up with bumper-sticker answers for complex problems. It sounds good when you call in to C-SPAN, but it doesn’t really solve the problem, or it causes more problems. Let GM fail? Sure. Then what? Who is going to help the people who are out of work? Are the tea-baggers going to help them find another job, get health insurance, or make their mortgage payments? Or should they just tough it out because it’s better to suffer than succumb to socialism/fascism at the hands of the Usurper? That’s easy to say unless you’re the one that’s going to end up living in a refrigerator box under the approach to the Ambassador Bridge.