Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Unrelated News Items

Item 1

Line in sand: Health-care veto
Bush opposition to bigger program reflects issue's importance in '08
By Mark Silva
Chicago Tribune
September 21, 2007

WASHINGTON - President Bush's promise Thursday to veto a major expansion of government-paid health care for millions of children reflects the political stakes in a newly potent health-care debate that is beginning to shake up Congress and resonate through the 2008 presidential campaign.

Just days after Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a splash with her own health plan, Bush abruptly called a news conference to strike back against Democrats' assertions that he is indifferent to children's health needs. A Democratic plan for greatly expanding the pool of children eligible for government-financed health insurance, the president warned, would move the country toward nationalized health care.

"I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care," Bush said in the White House press room. "Their proposal is beyond the scope of the program, and that's why I'm going to veto the bill."

The increasingly vocal fight over health care, in Washington and on the campaign trail, reflects the public's growing anxiety over the cost and availability of medical coverage. More than a decade after President Bill Clinton's health reforms died amid concerns that they would limit patients' choices, some analysts believe the public is now willing to consider significant changes to the system.

Item 2

'GM has options, union doesn't'
6 days after their contract expired, automaker and the UAW struggle with terms, including competitive wages versus loss of U.S. jobs
By Rick Popely and Stephen Franklin Tribune staff reporters
September 21, 2007

The outcome of contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and General Motors Corp. could determine how many vehicles GM builds in the U.S. and the size of the UAW rank and file.

Talks between the two sides have continued six days past a contract expiration -- an indication that both sides know they face a critical juncture. GM is seeking major concessions on labor costs, while the union is trying to stem an alarming loss of jobs that began in the early 1980s.


GM wants to shift its $51 billion retiree health-care liability to the union, which would manage a fund and take on cost risks. The sides apparently haven't agreed on how much of the liability GM would accept, with the automaker reportedly offering 65 cents on the dollar and the union seeking more.


The union has helped out before, agreeing in 2005 to accept cuts in health-care benefits for GM and Ford retirees and over the years boosting productivity to lower the labor cost gap with Toyota to about $1,300 per car from $2,500.

But GM wants more, reportedly pressing for cuts in pension and health-care benefits for active workers, who now pay less than 10 percent of their medical costs; wage freezes or cuts; more flexibility in job assignments; and a two-tier wage structure in which new hires would get considerably less in pay and benefits.

The base UAW wage is $28 an hour, but GM says benefits for active and retired workers push the labor cost to $73.26. The Center for Automotive research says Toyota pays its non-union U.S. workers $45 an hour, including benefits.

That's why Cole thinks GM will move production to Canada, where national health care reduces GM's per-vehicle cost by about $1,000 compared to that in the U.S.


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