The White House believes it can win back depressed and economically stressed voters by turning President Obama into the storyteller-in-chief again. But victims of Obama’s Chicago politics don’t want to hear any more of his own well-worn tales of struggle and sacrifice. They’ve got their own tragedies to tell — heart-wrenching dramas of personal and financial suffering at the very hands of Obama.
Consider the real-life horror story of 20,000 white-collar workers at Delphi, a leading auto parts company spun off from GM a decade ago. As Washington rushed to nationalize the U.S. auto industry with $80 billion in taxpayer “rescue” funds and avoid contested court termination proceedings, the White House auto team schemed with Big Labor bosses to preserve UAW members’ costly pension funds by shafting their nonunion counterparts. In addition, the nonunion pensioners lost all of their health and life insurance benefits.
The abused workers — most from hard-hit northeast Ohio, Michigan and neighboring states — had devoted decades of their lives as secretaries, technicians, engineers and sales employees at Delphi/GM. Some workers have watched up to 70 percent of their pensions vanish.
John Berent of Marblehead, Ohio, lost one-third of his pension: “I worked as a salaried employee for GM (30 years) and Delphi (10 years). After 40 years of dedicated service, I was forced to retire. Then Delphi terminated my health care, life insurance, vision, dental, then terminated the pension plan. Everything I worked 40 years for was wiped out.”
Kelly Fabrizio of Franksville, Wis., saw her pension reduced by 55 percent after working 30 years at Delphi/GM: “I am truly scared for my future. Every day I wake up, shake my head and say out loud — This Is Not How It Was Supposed To Be.”
Roger Hoke of Columbus, Mich., and his wife were both longtime Delphi workers. His pension shrunk by more than 40 percent: “After 33 years with GM and another 10 with Delphi, what did I do wrong to deserve such a fate?”
Paul Dobosz of the Delphi Salaried Retiree Association recounts how they got screwed: “The Auto Task Force knew that the only thing standing in the way of GM getting what they wanted out of Delphi was the already frozen pension obligations.” They hatched a plan to dump those pensions on the federally run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, while at the same time “devising a clever way to make the UAW pensions whole using GM and TARP money to accomplish it. The scheme was documented in sworn depositions (that) revealed … that some groups of workers were more ‘politically sensitive’ and would be afforded special treatment (i.e. subsidy using TARP money) while others less politically worthy would be left out.”
In other words: Obama’s team of auto-crats — stocked with Big Labor-friendly appointees and self-admitted know-nothings about the car industry — decided to “cherry pick” (one Obama official’s own words) which obligations the new Government Motors company would assume and which they would abandon based on their own political whims and fealty. Due process and equal treatment of union and nonunion workers be damned. Administration officials assert that the Delphi workers’ pension fund was underfunded, but two separate actuarial analyses undercut the claim.
The Delphi workers sued the feds and will have a day in court on Sept. 24. They are not asking for a bailout. They are simply asking for fair treatment under the rule of law. Delphi supporters also point out that the very scheme used to “top up” the union workers’ pensions with taxpayer subsidies was challenged by the federal government and ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in the 1990s.
A separate investigation by TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky, announced last week, will also probe “whether political considerations played a role in favoring hourly over salaried retirees.” It shouldn’t take long to unearth the facts. Obama’s own former auto czar Steve Rattner admitted in his new memoir that “attacking the union’s sacred cow” could “jeopardize” the auto bailout deal.
While Obama conducts his worker empathy tour at staged town halls and rallies across the country, his Treasury Department continues to stonewall and refuses to answer questions about the Delphi disaster. But many workers left out in the cold know the truth: Lip-biting, yarn-spinning Obama doesn’t feel their pain. He caused it.