Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bailing General Motors and Ford: A Necessary Evil

If this country weren't in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the argument to bail out General Motors and Ford would be less than persuasive. However, given the current situation, the loss of the jobs at America's automakers and the multiplying effect of losing other jobs related to these corporations' existence are too great to allow them to fail at this time. Without the current crisis, it would be fitting that these poorly managed companies partnered with unions who couldn't see the writing on the wall, would have faded into extinction.

Even now there are many who say why bother to save General Motors when its market capitalization as of Tuesday, November 11, 2008, is less than $2 billion. Most people who have been following the long-term demise of the American automotive industry have been well aware of the overindulgent benefits provided to retired auto workers. Many of the automotive industry retirees have never had to deal with Medicare because they had perpetual gold plated medical coverage. Now, like the rest of American retirees, they have to deal with the intricacies of Medicare. Couldn't they, along with management, have seen long ago that this benefit was too excessive to last at a time when the automotive industry in America was continuing on a downhill path?

It has been pointed out that most companies declaring bankruptcy under Chapter 11 don't go out of existence. Instead, they shed debt, reorganize, and emerge as healthier companies. That's what United Airlines and Delta Airlines have done and Circuit City is planning to do. However, this requires special financing which most lenders are not willing to do at the present time at a time when the credit market is still mostly frozen.

The government must do more than just give money to the automakers. The automakers must present a workable plan for how they will become profitable and how they will pay the money back to the people of America. The next administration must be extremely vigilant in its monitoring of the automakers, as well as other companies that have been given government money. While no one wants to government to take over the auto industry, or the banking industry, the people in charge of the companies that have been bailed out have shown themselves to be clueless at times. The most egregious example has been the plans for multimillion dollar bonuses on Wall Street and the expensive road trips at AIG. While Guantánamo must be emptied out of its current occupants, perhaps it should not be entirely
closed. Pictures of empty cells at Guantánamo could be sent to the CEOs of the companies
receiving government bailouts as a reminder of what is at stake.

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