GM spends also $5.6 billion a year on healthcare -- more than it spends on steel. Its foreign competitors spend nothing on healthcare. So GM and the UAW are common victims of America's failure to have national health insurance.
The UAW, to its credit, has advocated national health insurance since the days of its first president, Walter Reuther. General Motors, like the rest of American big business, has fiercely resisted it -- preferring to bear billions in expenses to having a national policy it considers socialistic. But it would be another mistake to conclude that autoworkers have had too good a deal on health insurance. The reality is that most Americans have had too bad a deal.
Somehow, the rest of the industrial world can provide health coverage for everyone and only spend an average of about 10 percent of its national income, while we spend 14 percent and leave over 44 million people without health insurance.
It’s time for our country to step up to the plate and do something for the millions of uninsured Americans and the companies that struggle to provide workers with health insurance. Polls show that 67 percent of Americans think we should guarantee health care to all citizens; just 27 percent disagree.
The issue is finally making it to the halls of Congress. Senator Barack Obama recently advocated relief from soaring health care costs for auto makers in exchange for more fuel-efficient cars, and CEO Bill Ford recently spoke out about the need for Congress to help.
"U.S. automakers also provide health-care benefits to more than two million employees, retirees and their families. And we pay more than $11 billion in pensions each year to 800,000-plus retirees and surviving spouses. To put it simply, we invest in America -- and in Americans -- every single day."
The question is: What is Congress willing to invest in the health of Americans? What is Congress willing to invest in the economic competitiveness of American companies?