01/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Triage for the Big Three Automakers

Triage is the process of prioritizing patients based on the severity of their condition. This facilitates the ability to treat as many patients as possible when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately.

Nowhere is this more appropriate than in addressing the problems of the Big 3 automakers. The current proposal of prioritizing the bailout to the company in the most dire straits, GM, has it all backwards. The money should go to the company or companies that have the best chance of recovery. Forget about trying to save all three manufacturers. By doing so with the limited funds available, we'll help none of them. If we want to rebuild our auto industry and do the most for the workers and suppliers, we need to create as sound a foundation as possible. And that means building on the strengths, not the weaknesses of Detroit.

So what should we do? Congress should be comparing the restructuring plans of each, figuring out which ones make the most sense and have the best chance of success, and then support the strongest.

Phil Baker is the technology columnist for the San Diego Transcript, a product design consultant, and author of the just released "From Concept to Consumer" from Financial Times Press.