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Ron Radosh

The Cars that Leftists Drive

December 4th, 2008 - 3:38 pm

Everyone knows the stereotype of the left-wing academic liberal, who drinks a daily latte at Starbucks and drives a Volvo wagon. Since that first appeared, the car is no longer a Volvo, but more than likely a Toyota, a Hyundai, a Nissan or even a BMW, a Mercedes or a Volkswagon—anything but an American car.

In fact, I can’t name anyone I know who drives an American car except me. The argument is simple: if you want a good car, buy Japanese. The American cars will give you trouble; they’re not roadworthy, they’re not good on gas, etc. There is another reason not to buy an American car. Foreign and especially Japanese cars have so much more to offer than the competing American model and cost only a thousand or two more

When we had to recently get a new car after an accident that totaled our old car—we did the unthinkable. We settled for a Mercury Sable LS. Yes, an American car. That, I guess, unmistakably marks me as a die-hard conservative.

One reason the American manufacturers cannot compete: labor costs. As an article in The New York Times makes clear, “the average U.A.W. member costs G.M. about $74 an hour in a combination of wages, health care and the value of future benefits, like pensions. Toyota, by comparison, spends the equivalent of about $45 an hour for each of its employees in the United States.”  Those high labor costs make it virtually impossible for GM and the other big U.S. automakers to compete on an equal footing with companies like Toyota.

It is because of this that the dwindling membership of the U.A.W. has announced their willingness to make drastic concessions to help the American firms stay in business. It finally has dawned on them that if their old programs and benefits stay intact, the manufacturers will go bust and all their members will find themselves out of a job. That is why the U.A.W. now proposes to sacrifice job security provisions and financing for retiree health care.

The Japanese automakers, to put it simply, don’t have to deal with the unions. And here is where I get to the blatant hypocrisy. How many people on the Left- who talk regularly about the evil of income inequality and non-union jobs that deprive workers of rights and an income and health care they deserve, drive Japanese cars because they don’t want to buy from American firms whose hands are stymied by those horrible union benefits?  There is no way to take a survey, but I sure know plenty of them, and those I know aren’t driving Fords or Pontiacs or Chevrolets.

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