[Marxism] Steven Rattner: capitalist pig of the month

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 30 12:53:02 MDT 2009

In the current issue of Vanity Fair, there’s a fascinating article on 
Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, the boss of the N.Y. Times who many blame, 
including author Mark Bowden, for causing the stock to decline from $50 
in 2002 to $3.77 in February-less than the price of the Sunday paper as 
Bowden notes. It is now selling for $5.76 a share, hardly enough to make 
investors confident. Rumors abound that the paper will be sold at a 
bargain rate, perhaps even to Rupert Murdoch-an archfiend in the eyes of 
Arthur Sulzberger, but not that much different politically. Bowden, a 
contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has exactly the background needed to 
write about the Times’s plummeting fortunes. Having written “Blackhawk 
Down” about the American military debacle in Mogadishu, he must 
certainly have a flair for how stupidity leads to disaster.

Despite my fascination with the N.Y. Times and the broader question of 
the “death of the newspaper”, my intention here is to shed some light on 
Steven Rattner, a character who gets a brief mention in the Bowden article:

His [Sulzberger] career progressed in prodigious and unearned leaps. He 
went from the Washington bureau, where he was close friends with Steve 
Rattner, Judith Miller, and a handful of other reporters, to New York, 
where he worked briefly as a very young assistant editor on the Metro 
desk, before moving on to stints in the advertising-and-production side 
of the paper, becoming deputy publisher in 1987.

Rattner? That name rang a bell. Wasn’t he the investment banker who 
Obama appointed czar of the auto industry? The very same guy who started 
out as a N.Y. Times reporter? Indeed he was:

"A couple of months ago, Steven Rattner knew little about the U.S. auto 

"But that didn’t prevent President Obama from recruiting him to solve 
one of the most vexing problems of the financial crisis — how to avert a 
catastrophic collapse of Chrysler and General Motors.

"Rattner’s supporters argue that his diverse experiences — wealthy 
investment banker, prominent Democratic fundraiser, former New York 
Times foreign correspondent and fixture in upper-class Manhattan society 
— make him an ideal candidate to undertake such a daunting challenge."

(Washington Post, March 12)

Apparently, some of the soon-to-be-overhauled “decades-old practices” 
include the generous benefits won by the UAW when it was still had 
teeth. In an effort to help promote Rattner’s latest deal with UAW and 
Chrysler involving majority share ownership by the UAW as proof that we 
are living in some kind of new New Deal, the Times pretended that the 
union still had the power to stand up to capital:

"In the devastating slump that has forced one of Detroit’s automakers 
into bankruptcy and another to the edge of it, the United Automobile 
Workers union stands to become one of the industry’s few winners.

"According to restructuring plans proposed this week, the union will 
have more than half the stock in Chrysler and a third of General Motors, 
meaning it will have tremendous influence, with the government, in 
determining the future of the companies."


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