News this morning is one more shot to the head, with Citi (“C”) receiving another $20 billion, because it was “too big to fail.” Somehow, here in Michigan this all comes across as a little too self-serving, another privileging of finance versus the actual manufacturing of stuff.
Last week we were treated to the theatre of political outrage over executives who flew down in jets. Obviously profligate. The loud protests are certainly familiar. What is the rhetoric here, except that of moralistic contempt for the old drunken working stiff: we won’t give money to you, won’t have programs for you because you’re a drunk, morally unfit etc. This was always the language of moral uplift, all the more for the progressive good government types who sniffed at the working class, terming them “machine politics”, boss-ism, ethnics and the like. Political morality with a class bias: that has been the way of the world for some time, especially in this democracy.
There are some counter weights out there, however.
First, in case one ever doubted it, Detroit is still very much in business, as Mark Phelan notes in yesterday’s Free Press, in 6 Myths About the Detroit 3 . Here on the west side, we sometimes conveniently forget this; since the opportunity of the all-purpose punching bag that is Detroit is too inviting. This weakness among the auto industry and its union has a hidden perilous side: in their weakness it is easy to pile contempt upon contempt, fueled as it is by its mixture of envy and resentment. What goes missing is that it is not just the auto plant and its union, but a linked series of industries, whose connections transmit the pain to all parts of society.
That was the point in today’s New York Times — the Big Three are more tightly wound into the American economic fabric than many of the too casual commentators realize.
Over the past three years, as the auto industry’s fortunes darkened, big banks like Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase helped the automakers sell more than $56 billion of new debt securities,
And of course, it almost goes without mentioning that the very uncertainty introduced into the system by the refusal to come to terms creates fiscal doubt at all levels in the supply chain and in the supporting communities.
So we’re back to the deal, and the ease with which $20 billion can be found for the financier and his edifice, but that other edifice, the one found in the factory towns throughout the midsection of the nation — those lives are less visible and so, sadly, less served. In 10 days we will have an answer, for the sake of our communities lets hope it’s more than the F for factory that so far has been the case.
Update. The class/regional bias is not simply the ravings of a midwesterner. Evidently, Time understands this as well.