The car companies cannot be allowed to fail for a number of reasons. First, going into what could be the 2nd Great Depression is the wrong time to lose 2-3 million jobs. Duh. Second, there is a very real national security cost to losing our manufacturing sector completely. Remember, in WWII it was the auto manufacturers that were effectively nationalized in order to make tanks, jeeps, and aircraft. Without an American manufacturing sector that expertise will bleed out of our populace, making the nation weaker and therefore less safe.
Enter the Neo-Hooverite Senate Republicans. They don't have a problem with throwing money at their Wall Street buddies, but the thought of bailing out an industry chock full of Democrats is beyond the pale. In fact, in a leaked strategy memo the Senate Republicans say that killing the Auto Bailout is a "first shot against organized labor." Wasn't this the party whose slogan in the last election was Country First? Go figure.
All the same, through the process of negotiation the Senate Republicans procured a number of very meaningful concessions from the companies - things I support. Most importantly, they forced a move to wage parity with the foreign auto-makers U.S.-based workforce. Over the course of 18 months, the UAW's wages would fall to match those of Toyota's workers. Although this isn't the most important action for transforming the Big 2-3 into healthy companies (that would be building cars that people like me want to buy), it is nonetheless key. I heartily approve of union's efforts to ensure that a company's profits are shared with the workers and do not accrue solely to the benefit of stockholders and executives, but the unions need to be willing to give some of those increased wages back during tough times, so long as the pain is shared with management and shareholders.
Here's where the Senate Republicans reveal themselves to be the idiots they are. The UAW workers have contracts, so without the availability of bankruptcy as an option for forcing them to change those contracts, it is only through their agreement that their wages can be changed. The Senate Republicans succeeded in convincing the UAW to give consent to just such a adjustment to the contract, but then the Republicans killed the bailout! The UAW's consent was in the context of that bailout! Therefore, by killing the bailout they killed the only chance they had of actually firing a "first shot at organized labor."
So, given that the bailout died in the Senate, unable to overcome a Republican filibuster, what do you think would happen next? Do you think the Bush Administration, newly christened lovers of socialism, will be happy going down in history as the government that did nothing while the U.S. Auto Industry to go extinct? Did the Senate Republicans think the Bush Administration, who had given $700 billion to the financial sector, would balk at a measly $17 billion for one of the cornerstones of the U.S. economy? OF COURSE NOT, YOU IDIOTS!
What do we have at the end of this towering monument to stupidity? The Big Three get their money, and the UAW is forced to make no concessions at all! And when the new Senate convenes, do you think the remaining 41 Republicans will be able to get as many concessions as 49 of them just did on any future bailout? OF COURSE NOT, YOU IDIOTS!
I wanted to see the UAW's wages fall to parity with the Big Three's competitors, but now we have to trust that the Democrats will work against their electoral interests to secure that concession. I don't think that's out of the question for a party that puts practicality above ideology, but in an oppositional system, such as we have, trusting the majority to do the right thing is a gross failure of the minority party.