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Automaker Bailout -- Heads They Win, Tails We Lose

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Okay... this automaker bailout thing is really making me hot.

I get that if the car companies go out of business, many American workers will be without a job. And that doesn't make me feel good. But I'm sure the makers of bridles and bits were ticked off and fighting for their jobs when the first horseless carriage hit the scene. I'm sure the hay companies, carriage companies and other ancillary businesses were upset, too. But you know what... that's business. It's called progress, and the companies which are flexible enough to change with the times and move forward are the ones who survive.

So why haven't the Big Three done that? How is it that other countries figured out long ago that smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles are the way to save the environment and minimize dependence on foreign oil, all in one swoop? How is it that many foreign automakers have used innovation and efficiency in production to not only survive, but thrive? And don't say it's because they take all the jobs overseas, because Toyota produces more cars in the U.S. than the Ford company produces in North America, according to Dr. Herb London of the Hudson Institute.

Bad management and horrible future projection are just two of the reasons for the position American automakers are in. Oh, and let's not forget about greedy special interests. We know that our dependence upon foreign oil is a national security issue, yet the Big Three have been shamelessly marketing SUV's and gas-guzzlers at us for years. Hey, you don't do something that abhorrent unless somebody is making money off the deal.

And speaking of making money off the deal... here's what else that makes me hot. A New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/18/business/economy/18auto.html?th&emc=th
says that GM chief Richard Wagoner was paid $24 million in 2006 and 2007, in salary, stock options and other perks. And his 2008 salary base is $2.2 million. I'd be embarrassed as all hell if I were him! How can you think you deserve that kind of money when the company you are leading is begging for a bailout from the government?! What exactly did you do for all that cash? The honorable thing would be to give the money back.

That's why we middle-class taxpayers in America are ticked. You walk home with a $24 million paycheck and you want me to bailout your company? Tell you what, why don't you sell one of your multi-million dollar homes and meet me at the Dollar Tree and we'll talk while we shop.

Here's what I know: If I have a company that is not doing well, and I need an infusion of cash to get it out of the dumper, as an American business owner I have three options.

1- I submit a business and marketing plan to my financial institution and let them decide if my plan makes enough sense for them to be willing to risk giving me a loan.
2- I go into bankruptcy reorganization and make some major changes in my business.
3- I go out of business.

Mitt Romney thinks the bankruptcy idea is a good one (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html?_r=1&th&emc=th).

It makes sense to me. In fact, many economists and business gurus are saying the same thing. On the flipside, going out of business isn't always a bad thing either. Take a look at history and many of the failed businesses of the past. Sometimes the fall of giants opens the door for innovation and progress.

What makes the automakers think that they deserve special treatment? What makes them think that they, above all other businesses, deserve to be bailed out by taxpayer dollars? There is no guarantee in America that a company you own will not go down the toilet. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of past business owners in America who will tell you that. So why are the automakers asking us to keep them afloat? You own a company, you take a risk. But then, you also reap the rewards if the company succeeds. So I ask you... if we are to bailout the automakers in their time of distress, where is all our profit from the good years? That's the old Heads I win, Tails You Lose coin toss. And I'm ticked that Washington may fall for it.

Frankly, I'm tired of all these big businesses putting their hands out and trying to scare us into giving them money by threatening us with an economic disaster. Sounds like extortion to me. Hey, you wanted all those big bonuses and profits in the past, now it's time to put on your big girl underpants and get over it. Yes, our economy may suffer because of it, but it's happened before, and it will most likely happen again. It's American ingenuity that will pull us out. And frankly, I'm not seeing any of that right now coming from the American automakers.


Pam Atherton was Alaska's Energy Answerwoman during the oil crisis of the late 1970's

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