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Cavuto's Band of Merry Hit Men (and One Woman) Blame Unions for Downfall of GM

Reported by Marie Therese - March 6, 2007 -

On last Saturday's edition of Cavuto on Business, the first segment echoed the same sentiments that had already been expressed on the earlier FOX business show, Bulls & Bears, namely, that there is a credit crunch simmering underneath the surface which will seriously hamper the ability of large portions of the American populace to fulfil their global economic function, i.e., buy, buy, buy. Even Cavuto seemed surprised when Joe Battapaglia of Ryan Beck & Company painted a gloomy picture. Battipaglia is usually a stalwart rah-rah man for the "everything is just fine" school of economic thought.

However, it was the segment on Wal-Mart that showed just how out of touch the FOX News business contributors are with the economic realities of the average American.

The segment was staged as a "head to head" discussion of which company is "better for America" - Wal-Mart or GM.

Of course we all know what the majority opinion on the panel of experts was before the first word was uttered. Cavuto, Battipaglia, Charles Payne (WStreet.com) and Tracy Byrnes (N. Y. Post) have often expressed their utter contempt for the idea of unions. Thus, it was left to token Democrat Greg Hymowitz (FOX News Business Contributor and founder of EnTrust Capital) and guest Chris Kofinis of Wake Up Wal-Mart to offer the rebuttal.

However, as is so often the case on FOX News, the playing field was not level and the referee had been bought and paid for ahead of time.

Joe Battipaglia jumped right in saying that he'd like to keep it "real simple" stating that "Wal-Mart has created jobs over the past twenty years. GM has destroyed them. Wal-Mart has created wealth for its suppliers and its shareholders, even its employees who became shareholders. GM destroyed it. And last but not least, of course, they've helped keep retail prices low which is a non-inflationary kind of thing which is helpful to the economy."

Cavuto called on Chris Kofinis for a response, yet disparagingly referred to him as "Mr. Wake Up Wal-Mart". It was obvious that it would be downhill from then on.

Kofinis responded that "this is a company that fails to provide health coverage to 53% of its workers. Pays poverty-level wages. The average full-time worker at Wal-Mart makes about $17,000 a year. Has done more to ship American jobs overseas than any other corporation, arguably, in history." Kofinis did not get to finish his thought as Cavuto interrupted him and loudly called on Ben Stein repeatedly for a rebuttal, speaking over Kofinis in a demonstration of utter incivility.

Ben Stein made a big deal about how he was the only one on the set who was a union member and he didn't care if it unionized or not.

However, when a clearly upset Kofinis attempted to interrupt Stein, Stein became petulant and asked to be allowed to finish, saying "I didn't interrupt you". Kofinis didn't stand a chance on this show.

Subsequently, Greg Hymowitz was allowed to complete most of his thoughts before being cut off by Mr. Rude Cavuto. Hymowitz made the case that there are plenty fo companies that are unionized and very successful whereas GM's problems were not caused by the fact that it was unionized, but were precipitated by larger issues that faced the entire American car manufacturing sector.

Hymowitz said that the new House bill "is supposed to allow employees to be able to make the decision to join the union without the interference of the company."

FOX viewers didn't get to hear the end of Hymowitz's statement because Cavuto talked over him to call on Charles Payne.

Payne, ever-predictable "yes" man, jumped right in to say that it was the unions and only the unions that made GM fail. Payne said, "... GM lost a lot of value for its people but really it's the unions that did."

Hymowitz argued that this wasn't true, impelling Payne to take it up a notch:

CHARLES PAYNE: "There was a time when we needed unions in this country, we really did. I think that the era of paying for the wrongs of the average worker is probably over. And as you point out ..."

GREG HYMOWITZ, interrupting: "That is - that is a disgraceful argument."

NEIL CAVUTO: "One at a time. Charles, finish your point."

CHARLES PAYNE: "My point is that because of the unions General Motors cannot compete and at the end of the day almost everybody there is gonna lose their job."

At this point Cavuto asked Chris Kofinis if he and his organization would back off of Wal-Mart if they unionized. Kofinis responded: "Listen, I think there are two ways Wal-Mart can become a more responsible employer. I think by unionizing and providing their workers better wages and better health care, I think that would be a great thing. They can also change on their own. This is a question about responsibility." Kofinis didn't get any farther because yet again Cavuto interrupted, belligerently saying that Kofinis didn't answer his question. and repeated himself.

The discussion then entered the realm of the surreal, a classic example of elitist rich people making asinine statements about a reality they just don't comprehend.

BEN STEIN: "Nobody is compelling anyone at gunpoint to work at Wal-Mart."

(No, of course not. But most people do like to eat and buy clothing, so - guess what? - most people need to work. As for a roof over their head, well, Wal-Mart and other substandard wage companies don't pay enough for the average employee to afford the rent on a place of their own. When was the last time Ben Stein was forced to share his space with two, three or four other people?)

BEN STEIN: "I suspect I'm not only the only union man on this stage but also the only one who shops regularly at Wal-Mart. The workers are in a very cheerful mood. They're in a very happy frame of mind. They seem to be very happy to wait on you..."

(The real reason that the workers are so cheerful might have a lot to do with the fact that Ben Stein is a famous rich man trolling for bargains in a venue where very few famous rich men ever show up!)

CHRIS KOFINIS: "Evidently you have not gone to Wal-Mart lately."

BEN STEIN: "Oh, I was at a - I was at a Wal-Mart three days ago, sir. I love Wal-Mart. I go there all the time."

CHRIS KOFINIS: "And I imagine you spend a lot of time talking to the workers."

BEN STEIN: "Well, sir, how do you think I get my work done there? Do you think I do it by hand signals?"

CROSSTALK.

CHRIS KOFINIS: "Well, then I have - I have thousands of workers ...."

BEN STEIN: "The people there are very friendly and cheerful and happy and I must say they seem happy ..."

CHRIS KOFINIS: "Ben, I have thousands of workers ..."

END CROSSTALK.

NEIL CAVUTO: "Alright, Chris, make your point, Go ahead Chris."

CHRIS KOFINIS: "I have thousands of workers that you can come and speak to, the people that call me on the phone and cry because they can't pay their bills 'cause they're getting paid so poorly ..."

CROSSTALK.

TRACY BYRNES: "But, then they shouldn't work there then!"

CHRIS KOFINIS: " ... who've had their hours cut ..."

CHARLES PAYNE: "I just want to say one thing ..."

CHRIS KOFINIS: "... who don't have affordable health care ..".

TRACY BYRNES: "They shouldn't work there."

CHARLES PAYNE: "Listen, listen. Here's the thing ..."

CHRIS KOFINIS: "And this argument that they should go find another job ..."

NEIL CAVUTO: "Alright! Charles."

CHRIS KOFINIS: " ... is - is ridiculous!"

CHARLES PAYNE (loudly): "Chris talks about Wal-Mart. Unions have to be responsible, too. You know you talk about a couple of successful places. I'm not anti-union but the unions are totally irresponsible ..."

When Greg Hymowitz commented that it made no sense to accuse unions of deliberately trying to shut down the companies that provide their jobs, Cavuto called on Joe Battipaglia who predictably blamed the unions for the woes of the American auto industry without mentioning the abysmal decisions made by upper management.