Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good Morning, All,

I have an interesting little entry from Media Matters' Eric Boehlert this morning that can be filed in the 'figures don't lie but liars sure know how to figure' column.  We have heard the often repeated charge of how overpaid auto workers are.  It doesn't matter much if the figure is '$70/hour,' or '$73/hour,' or even 'tending toward $80/hour.'  It sounds like a hell of a lot, especially compared to the supposed $43 per hour or so Toyota allegedly pays its assembly line workers.  That is what it looks like when the news puts up pictures of the guys in work dungarees and boots while talking about the cost of producing cars.  The articles imply that the guys on the line are pocketing the $70 per hour in base pay and benefits. Here is Boehlert's explanation:

"What that $70 figure (or $73) actually represents is what it costs GM in total labor expenses, on an hourly basis, to manufacture autos.

Do you see that there's a big distinction? General Motors doles out $70 an hour in overall labor costs to manufacture cars. But individual employees don't get paid $70 an hour to make cars. (The discrepancy between costs and wages is explained by additional benefits, pension fees, and health-care costs GM pays out to current and retired employees.)

Simply put, GM's labor costs are not synonymous with hourly wages earned by UAW employees. Many in the press have casually used the two interchangeably. But they're not.

Felix Salmon at Portfolio did perhaps the best job explaining the misinformation at play:

The average GM assembly-line worker makes about $28 per hour in wages, and I can assure you that GM is not paying $42 an hour in health insurance and pension plan contributions. Rather, the $70 per hour figure (or $73 an hour, or whatever) is a ridiculous number obtained by adding up GM's total labor, health, and pension costs, and then dividing by the total number of hours worked. In other words, it includes all the healthcare and retirement costs of retired workers. [emphasis in original]"

As Boehlert sums it up, the calculation is misleading and dishonest.  

One of my google searches is for blogs by crocheters and this morning I found this really nice little blog with a very intriguing idea.  Take a look at how she transformed a very nice top (cost $3 at a thrift store) that was too small into a totally new top.  I don't have anything to play with right now but will think about it for later.  


Marian at Elderwomanblog has a good post this morning.  She cites an author who, some years ago, described the current global economy as suicidal.  Her comments resonate especially since I have just finished 'Confessions of an Eco-Sinner' by Fred Pearce.  He tried to trace the source of all his stuff.  It is an interesting journey.  Even though third world workers often enjoy the best standard of living in recent memory supplying western consumers insatiable demand for more of what ever, they have done so at the expense of family and other community ties, their own health, and the environment (their own and other peoples.)  And, a Marian notes, 'the race to the bottom,'  as Pearce calls it, takes us to the bottom as well.  Our workers earn less, our industries leave (or pressure law makers to reduce environmental, labor, health and safety, and other protective regulations), small business disappears.  


I think I will leave this for the day.  See you all next time.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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