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  • Did Harold Meyerson Really Just Compare Toyota to a Slave Owner?

    Judge for yourself. Meyerson writes today:

    If Abraham Lincoln were still among the living as he prepared to turn 200 six weeks from now, he might detect in the congressional war over the automaker bailouts a strong echo of the war that defined his presidency. Now as then, the conflict centered on the rival labor systems of North and South. Now as then, the Southerners championed a low-wage, low-benefits system while the North favored a more generous one. And now as then, what sparked the conflict was the North’s fear of the Southern system becoming the national norm. Or, as Lincoln put it, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

    But, just as Lincoln predicted, the United States was bound to have one labor system prevail, and the debate over the General Motors and Chrysler bailout was really a debate over which system — the United Auto Workers’ or the foreign transplant factories’ — that would be. Where the parallel between periods breaks down, of course, is in partisan alignment. Today’s congressional Republicans are hardly Lincoln’s heirs. If anything, they are descendants of Jefferson Davis’s Confederates.

    No one is forcing auto workers in Kentucky and Alabama to do anything they do not want to do. To compare their current gainful employment to slavery just shows how completely intellectually bankrupt organized labor’s defenders are.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    28 Responses to Did Harold Meyerson Really Just Compare Toyota to a Slave Owner?

    1. CosmicConservative says:

      Whether he compared Toyota to slavery or not is only half the insult, and the lesser half.

      He just called Republicans "descendents of Jefferson Davis's Confederates." This is offensive on so many levels it's not even possible to list them. We'll just start with the fact that Jefferson Davis and virtually all of his Confederate cronies were DEMOCRATS. This is how far revisionism has gone. Democrats not only have completely whitewashed their own history on slavery, but can, with a straight face, accuse those who once fought a bitter civil war to end slavery, of being supporters of slavery.

      Here are the modern rules of engagement for Democrats.

      Republicans are pure evil. Democrats are angels of righteousness. That's it. Pure and simple.

    2. Jim Schuler, Illinoi says:

      "And now as then, what sparked the conflict was the North’s fear of the Southern system becoming the national norm." Which is why we fought the war to bring the North back into the Union… oh wait, it was the South that left, because they feared that the Northern system was becoming the national norm. So, in addition to being morally challenged, the author is historically deficient as well.

    3. A.W., Virginia says:

      You know i am one of those unreconstructed history buffs who refuses to buy into that old "the civil war was about state's rights" revisionism and the like. No, the civil war was about slavery and if you don't think every southerner saw a value in defending it and that every notherner saw slavery as a threat, you really don't understand what it meant to them.

      So having set my compass, here, let me say that this is ignorant on so many levels. Of course, James MacPherson is right to say that modern Americans ask WWLD (what would Lincoln do?) too much, but at the time it was claimed in the 1850's and 60's that Yankees were "wage slaves" and guess what? Lincoln had no sympathy for the argument. Why on earth should Lincoln have changed his mind by now?

      And never mind the deeply offensive part where the author says "Now as then, the Southerners championed a low-wage, low-benefits system while the North favored a more generous one." Yeah, the big difference between slavery and free labor was wage and benefits. not the fact that you are being forced, not the fact that you were packed in like sardines to get here, not the fact that you are beaten regularly, not the fact that you can be murdered with impunity and certainly not the fact that the women among you can be raped with impunity. no, no, the bad thing about slavery was low wages and lousy benefits. And that was of course what Lincoln was concerned for.

      Jesus, what an offensive and empty-headed comment.

      (Btw, the MacPherson reference was to his very nice book called something close to "Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution." Its very much worth a read.)

    4. Dana H., San Diego says:

      Equally offensive is the way Meyerson minimizes the evil of slavery by calling it a "rival labor system." It was a vicious institution of government-sanctioned tyranny, not a "low-wage, low-benefits system."

    5. Lurking Observer, Wa says:

      This is consistent with another recent piece which argued that Obama should compel a second Reconstruction, in order to bring the "benefits" of unions and more public spending to the South.

      Meanwhile, it's interesting that Meyerson says that today's Republicans are not heirs of Lincoln, but of Jefferson Davis.

      What party might Jeff Davis (and more recently Bull Connor or even past outright KKK-member Robert Byrd) have belonged to?

    6. Mike, New York says:

      The comparison Meyerson made is not at all new. It was a staple of slave owner propaganda before the civil war that industrial employment was merely "wage slavery". Further, that the factory owners did nothing for their worker's beyond their wages, (the csh nexus, as Marx famously put the same point) while slave owners offered health care and a long term commitment.

      Thus we see that not only have the parties switched sides, with the republicans base in the south and the democrats in the north east and new england disapora, but in addition liberal columnists like Meyerson have picked up the mantle of the defenders of slavery.

    7. Ron J, Jacksonville says:

      This has got to be the stupidist thing I have read in a long time. What good is it to point it out to Mr. Myerson that he's an idiot? Would it really change anything?

    8. tim maguire says:

      And as any Pennsylvania coal miner can tell you, the high wage/low wage euphemism is stupidly simplistic.

    9. Holdfast says:

      Because making up to four times the minimum wage with modest but real benefits in a low-cost state with a nice climate is exactly the same as slavery. What an *ss – does he pay the WaPo to publish his dreck? I guess Meyerson would prefer that all cars sold in North America are made overseas? Or perhaps a return to Smoot-Hawley style protectionism?

    10. Dennis Aderholt Soci says:

      The dems and liberals are destroying this country. The conservatives need to wake up. Another election is coming, vote we must

    11. David H Dennis, Pitt says:

      But is Meyerson telling the truth about the two systems?

      According to Meyerson, thanks to unions, the living standards of the North are higher than those in the South.

      I have always thought that with a lower cost of housing and labor, the costs of living in the South are lower than the North and as a result if you have anywhere near pay parity you are better off in the South.

      Since autoworkers in the South make nearly as much as those in the North, I would think their effective wages might well be higher.

      On the other hand, with many $1 houses in Detroit(*), it's possible housing is now cheaper there, but of course it's not clear if reasonably civilized people would want to live in those homes. Certainly I know on the whole the Northeast has extremely expensive housing.

      Anyone know who is right, overall?

      Of course with the Northern system requiring subsidies to continue it would appear obvious that the Southern system is superior, especially considering, again, the very low (I think about 2-3/hour) pay differential.


      (*) Just go to realtor.com, type in Detroit, MI, hit price low to high and you will see a ton of them. From my investigation you can find what appear to be more or less intact houses starting around $3,000.

    12. anonymous says:

      This isn't the only asinine comparison to slavery.

      Jon Stewart, millionaire celebrity, has finally been freed from a horror that is equivalent to slavery.

      http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?vid… (November 5, 2008)

      (at 4 minutes into the video)

      Chris Wallace: “You didn’t see our coverage, because you and Stephen Colbert were crying when at 11 o’clock when they announced the president.”

      Jon Stewart: “Yes, imagine people having human emotions to an historic moment. Imagine a country coming full circle from slavery and that affecting me on a deeply personal level.”

    13. Bart says:

      "…if you don’t think every southerner saw a value in defending it…"

      Absurd. Oh, I will agree the proximate cause of the war was the economic interest of the Southern elite in the peculiar institution. But, slavery benefitted only that elite, and hurt average Southerners by depressing the price of their labor. That, as Samuel Clemens noted, ordinary Southerners would take up arms to defend a system which actually worked against their interests is testimony to that Southern irascibility which endures to this day which does not take kindly to being told what to do by anyone.

      The Democrats, indeed, are the true heirs of Jefferson Davis et al. They have always believed in slavery. Their goal today is merely more ambitious: to extend the institution to an entire population of happy proles governed by a beneficent elite who know what is best for them.

    14. hitnrun says:

      Hear, hear Dana. A "rival labor system?" I suppose the Holocaust was alternative social infrastructure system. Hey, liberals like social tinkering and have discovered a new love for "infrastructure." Who are they to judge the holocaust.

      Ultimately, such analogies are so godawful not because they compare unions to emancipation, but because they compare emancipation to unions.

      On that note, abolishing slavery set millions of people free. Where's the benefit of Detroit's "rival labor system?"

    15. Rob, Middlesex, NY says:

      So here in N.Y., where we have no wage slavery and a progressive system, I have to work more and more to pay for the public employee unions' benefits and costs of the private employee unions who have made state so uncompetitve that no one with a right mind would actually do business in this state.

      This guy is nuts, but he is taking a break from the 'everyone who doesn't think like me is a Nazi, so at least it is somewhat fresh thinking.

    16. Yehudit says:

      I can't find the reference right now, but population has been shifting from union states to right-to-work states. Why? More jobs at better pay, because businesses can run more efficiently without unions (also those states tend to have lower business taxes). So not only are workers not forced to stay in non-union businesses, they are actively seeking employment in those businesses, to the point of picking up and moving. Strange definition of slavery!

    17. Dave, Maryland says:

      It's getting pretty amusing to read these moronic editorials about neoconfederates conspiring with the Japs and the Krauts to build better cars at lower cost. A devotion to free market principles and right to work laws has made the South prosperous. I just hope the folks moving south from the rust belt keep this in mind as the unions try to turn the entire nation's manufacturing sector into Detroit.

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    19. Rob Crawford, Cincin says:

      "On that note, abolishing slavery set millions of people free. Where’s the benefit of Detroit’s “rival labor system?”"

      When was the last time Detroit voted Republican?

      That's really what it's about — keeping the union side of the Democrat/Union political machine running. What pisses off the Democrats isn't that Southerners are FREELY exchanging their labor for a lower cost than Northerners, but that the Southerners aren't tithing into the Democrat campaign coffers euphemistically called "unions".

    20. Doug, Detroit says:

      What's the benefit of Detroit's labor unions?

      I guess that we will find that out sooner or later, once China enters the US automotive market with cheaper vehicles targeted at the growing percentage of the US population that will not be able to afford Japanese or Korean vehicles, new or used.

      My hometown and state will inevitably lose it's core industry, but if the people living in states who catered to the Japanese by subsidizing the building of plants and factories there, think that they won't be affected by the loss of the domestic three, they better think again.

    21. plutosdad says:

      I stopped believing these socialist Democrats cared about anyone when I compared a speech by Douglas with a speech by Kerry during 04. Kerry was talking about Iraqis, but some of his phrases were word for word the same as Douglas "they don't want democracy or freedom, we can't force it on them, they aren't ready" etc. I was shocked at the similarities.

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    25. Vicktor, CA says:

      This is a horribly insensitive comment. One can draw analogies between Obama and Bush and their popularity during their respective initial elections and their followers religious devoutness and faith-based campaigns to the rise of say, Hitler and the Nazis… A possibly decent analogy in both cases, but one that does little to nothing but stir hearts.

      Human slavery is, in my opinion, one of the most horrible acts and institutions we are capable of. This statement by Meyerson is does NOTHING to actually shed any real light onto the situation or bring new perspective – new valid perspective at least.

      I understand writing stuff like this down, really, but it should stay in your personal private journal… and be sure to wash your hands afterwords, you don't want to spread it. This reads more like an anonymous blog comment than something someone would sign their name to – publicly.

    26. jack adams, Washingt says:

      The Post has more funny pages than any paper in the country. They consist of not only the comics, but the kind of stuff that Meyerson and his band of overpaid leftists at the Post scribble on the op-ed pages.

      The reason that GM and the "beg 3" make big cars is they can't afford to make the very successful versions of their European models in this country and pay over 1,000,000 retirees' pensions and benefits.

      There are thousands of former northern workers now living in the South and happily assembling the kinds of cars people have wanted and been buying for decades from Toyota, Honda and the like. To compare them to slaves is insulting to them and to the slaves who were held down by the Democrats before, during, and after the Civil War. And the Post wonders why it has lost hundreds of thousands of paid subscribers who refuse to buy this kind of nonsense that infects every page of the Post?

    27. Francisco says:

      I havent read the comments this halabaloo is all about. I just would like to point out that religious or not, SLAVERY in caps, has been around

      since before recorded history. No matter the economic status of the empires that practiced it.

      And it was imported by those that benefitted by it, where even the poor had slaves. The religious

      writtings all have references to it and condoned it. To all these pundits, don't get religious but

      read some of those writtings. You might be surprised by the reasonings behind it.

    28. Mark, New York says:

      What a ridiculous analogy. This is the same mind-set that put the steel mills out of business in Buffalo and other cities in the northeast. That labor strategy really worked well, didn't it? Not only did it destroy the steel mills, it destroyed cities.

      America needs to get back to work and stop asking "what's in it for me". Entitlement will destroy this country. If the unions shops are such a great idea, why are they the only ones looking for a bailout?

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