Last week, Senate Republicans picked a fight with the U.A.W. on union pay scales — despite the fact that it’s the legacy benefits for retirees, not pay for current workers, that’s really hurting Detroit, and despite the additional fact that, in any case, labor amounts to only about 10 percent of the cost of a car. But the Republicans were fighting Big Labor! They were standing firm against bailouts! Some of the same conservatives who (correctly, in my view) made the case for $700 billion for Wall Street pitched a fit over $14 billion in loans for the automakers.
I also don't think he's too far off about the following:
Now there are other ways to explain the disparate treatment of G.M. and Citigroup. Finance is different from manufacturing, and banks from auto companies. It may be that the case for a huge bank bailout was strong, and that the case for a more modest auto package is not. Still, it seems to me true that the financial big shots haven’t been treated nearly as roughly in Congress or in the media as the auto executives, who have done nothing remotely as irresponsible as their Wall Street counterparts.
What’s more, in their disdain for the American auto companies, the left and right wings of the establishment agree. Of course, the particular foci of criticism are different — the left berates the auto companies’ management, the right the United Automobile Workers. But even on the left, while Democratic politicians still try to look out for the interests of the U.A.W., there’s not really that much sympathy for the workers. The ascendant environmentalists disdain (to say the least) the internal combustion engine and everyone associated with it. Most of today’s limousine liberals are embarrassed by their political alliance with the workers who built those limousines.
Kristol's image of limousine liberals is a cartoon, of course. But you certainly sense that, among Democratic elites, there's much more esteem for the socially liberal Wall Street types who bitterly oppose financial services regulation and insist on their tax loopholes than there is for the middle managers at Ford and GM who are just as parochial about their economic interests but who, unlike their Wall Street cousins, don't reflect the cultural sensibilities of the Amtrak corridor. But, hey, the first group has mucked up the entire global economy while the second has only screwed up a single industrial sector.