At least that’s the view of Mark Haines, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk On the Street, after the New York Times columnist gave an impassioned political argument (at end of segment) for a carbon tax.
Friedman has been everywhere the past few days. I’ve seen him on The Daily Show, Hardball and on CNBC to make the argument that responsibility for the U.S. automakers’ problems should be largely shared by Michigan lawmakers who have for years bent to the will of whatever the automakers and the unions wanted, rarely challenging them to insist on higher fuel mileage and less onerous labor packages.
According to an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Ingrassia this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition, non-American automakers are successfully running plants in the U.S. while paying salaries and benefits comparable to what the Big Three offer. They are not union shops, however. According to Ingrassia, they save money by having more flexible work rules and co-pays and deductibles in their health care plans.
Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, one of my favorite whipping boys as the guy who drove Home Depot into a ditch and was rewarded with a $240 million golden parachute, is certainly one who should be replaced if taxpayers bail out the automakers. Friedman and Ingrassia think not just the CEOs, but top management and the boards of directors, should be replaced if government rescues bails them. At the very least. There also needs to be government oversight of the plan moving forward. Remember, taxpayers already bailed out Chrysler once, and here they are with a failed leader showing the light to oblivion.
But unions will also need to make concessions.
One of the greatest challenges for the Obama administration will be to reform unions. Friedman in the interview this morning wasn’t willing to take on the unions. I’ve always been a fan of the working man and would like to see unions strengthen and expand. But they must be reasonable and recognize the changes in global market. They need to look to how they can sustain the industry, and hence their jobs, rather than leap from contract to contract trying to sustain the status quo.