The list of egregious behavior could go on and on. They are the epitome of "bad actors.' However, I still believe that we cannot risk their failure. There are three reasons I feel we need to hold onto the U.S. auto industry: workers, economy, and maintaining an industrial base.
All of these losses would hit an economy already on the skids, and already hemorrhaging jobs at a horrendous rate. The failure of the major U.S. automotive industries would be a tsunami on an already drowning economy.
But perhaps the biggest long term loss would be the decimation of the manufacturing sector. The United States has already lost most of its manufacturing and industrial capacity due to the processes of outsourcing and off-shoring. We have sent it to Mexico, China, India, Eastern Europe, and other places. In the 1980s, as we made the shift from a manufacturing to a "service" economy, we sold off, and parted out, significant portions of out manufacturing capability. This included electronics, textiles, and heavy industry. Our manufacturing sector is a fading shadow of itself. As we have sold off capacity to make "real" things, we have become increasingly dependent on those who do.
There is a lot of talk about the impacts of our dependence on "foreign" oil, but virtually none on our dependence on "foreign" manufacturing. Why is that? Largely because the transnational corporations profit significantly from moving manufacturing out of the United States. The country has not profited. The tax burden has shifted more and more to the people. The people trying to earn a living (all of us) have not profited. In fact, we have seen an erosion of wages and benefits, and increasing personal indebtedness. But big media and big business are the same entities and we get the corporate view of the world. "We the people" rarely figure into that drama.
Of course, one of the unmentionables is that one of the "Big Three" is not a U.S. company any longer. Chrysler is now owned by the German company Daimler. So part of the "bridge loan" - should it occur - will be going to bail out a German manufacturer. If Ford and GM also hit the tubes, it is likely that their loss will be filled by China, or Japan, or India, (or Dubai or the Saudis). Then, if they run into problems, they too may come hat in hand to the Congress for a bailout. But then that is perhaps the long term plan.
In a world increasingly structured around the corporation rather than the nation and people, perhaps our roles in the future will be to directly funnel tax dollars into the global corporate maw.
So, I argue, keep the behemoths alive and put big chains on the public support they receive. It is clear that the U.S. automakers have not been operating in either the public or national interest. On so many levels, there is just too much at stake, the consequences of their failure too high, to not act to keep them operating.
U.S. Census Bureau Manufacturing sub-sector Motor Vehicle Manufacturing (2002)
Body & Trailers
Sales Value (x1,000)
Data from U.S Census Bureau - 2002 Census. click here target="_blank">Manufacturing - by subsector (drill down N336)