At a hearing held this past week by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, it was amusing to watch the Democratic majority be thoroughly outmatched by the minority Republicans on the committee. The minority managed to divert the subject of the hearing to the National Labor Relations Board and its ridiculous job-killing complaint against Boeing.
The chairman of the committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA), called the hearing to discuss “The Endangered Middle Class: Is the American Dream Slipping Out of Reach for American Families?” Harkin called perfectly predictable witnesses who stuck to the party line, like former Clinton administration official Robert Reich. Reich couldn’t understand why we didn’t raise “taxes on the rich” so all citizens could share in the gains of our economy. We are in the terrible position we are today, according to Reich, because we “deregulated and privatized” and “slashed public goods and investment.” With record debt, Reich believes the government is still not spending enough! Forgive him: his economics are stuck in 1937, looking up at the Commanding Heights.
Another witness, Heather Boushey, is a forgettable economist from the Center for American Progress who claimed the supposed “decline in our standard of living” is due to “the decline in union membership across our nation.” Her economics were stuck in 1956 — she spent most of her time attacking our “Wal-Mart” economy. Apparently having one of the most successful retailers in the world hurts the economy in her view. (Her testimony is hardly surprising, given her father is a retired Boeing union machinist in Washington state.)
A final witness was a union automaton from the AFL-CIO. Naturally this third witness agreed with the previous Wal-Mart antagonist: middle class problems are caused by the decline in union membership resulting from the “intense and protracted anti-union campaigns” of employers. She was stuck in 1917.
Harkin obviously wanted the hearing to be a forum for bloviating in favor of labor unions, the largest campaign contributors to Democrats. Additionally, no Senate hearing would be complete without the usual tactic of blaming George Bush and evil corporate America for a variety of economic ills, and this hearing didn’t disappoint.
But Senator Mike Enzi outfoxed Harkin. He called — as his sole witness — Michael Luttig, general counsel for the Boeing Company and former justice of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Luttig was there to talk about the outrageous complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing for opening up a second assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner aircraft in right-to-work South Carolina instead of closed shop Washington state. Like so many large manufacturers, such as Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, and Michelin, companies are realizing the American South provides a highly skilled workforce without the labor boss skim. Why do you think the rust belt is the rust belt?