Thursday, January 15, 2004

What ails ya? -- So, Ford wants a national health-care policy that will help relieve it of its burden of providing medical insurance to its workers and retirees. (According to the article, only 1/3 of the cost covers current employees.)

According to Ford's vice chairman Allan Gilmour, it's a competitive problem. Ford's substantial health-care burden adds about $700 to the cost of every car it sells.

Downshift is a good liberal and recognizes that the health-care "tax" on every Ford is the positive consequence of strong unions negotiating for quality health benefits. Downshift further recognizes, like Ford, that the private sector is not capable of providing quality health care at a cost the nation can afford and that Ford (and the other automakers) compete against companies in countries where the government shoulders the healthcare load. (To the extent that the foreign automakers build cars here, much of the pre-assembly is still outside the US, the unions are not as strong in the newer American factories, and that companies like Toyota or Honda have not been building long enough in the US to have a substantial retiree population to support.) So, we're generally sympathetic.

Only generally because it strikes us as particularly hypocritical to recognize the failure of the free market with regard to health care and so vehemently resist government regulation that would improve auto and truck fuel economy and safety.

Time for a little linkage. Democrats should rush to help Ford (and other American companies) on the healthcare front, but only in exchange for higher (and better) CAFE numbers, a national gas tax, more stringent safety measures (particularly on the SUV compatibility front), or some substantial mix of the above.