The axis of Obama’s speech was his invocation of the auto bailout as the greatest vindication of his economic policies. “This blueprint begins with American manufacturing,” he said. “On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse… In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences.”
By “responsibility” Obama was referring to the White House demand that auto workers take a 50 percent pay cut, along with the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs, major cuts in pension and health benefits for retired workers, and a ban on strike action, cementing the role of the United Auto Workers union as the company police force inside the plants.
While auto workers paid the price, the auto bosses reaped the profits. “Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker,” Obama boasted, “the American auto industry is back.”
He continued with the following extraordinary words: “What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.” This statement should be taken as a threat to the jobs, living standards and democratic rights of every worker in the United States.