Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Ongoing Saga of the Auto Bailout

Yesterday the House of Representatives approved a $14 billion bailout of the domestic auto industry, largely along party lines. The original bill had some good stuff in it, especially a provision that would prevent the auto makers from suing states that have passed laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. It also had some kind of unrelated rider that had to do with the original $700 billion bank bailout that was passed earlier in the fall ("As an amendment to the auto rescue plan, the House approved a measure that would require banks receiving assistance from the Treasury’s $700 billion economic stabilization program to detail new lending activity each quarter." -- The New York Times. See story here.)

But the part about the lawsuits got struck as a part of a compromise, and then the whole thing got trounced today by Senate Republicans.

And thus nothing has changed. The issue remains one of Democrats versus Republicans and some other stuff, or something like this: Democrats support maintaining a suicidal way of life/industry, but they disguise the issue as one about jobs; Republicans support union busting disguised as industry restructuring.

In the meantime, the sales of hybrid vehicles are plunging along with gasoline prices, and that is not good for the planet or any of the life on the planet.

People do need jobs and people also need benefits. But the kinds of jobs we have and the way we become entitled to benefits need to change.

Tim Redmond, the editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, suggests that now is the moment for a public works project on the lines of the New Deal, except MUCH bigger. The New Deal, was a drop in the bucket compared to what was needed during the Depression -- we all learned that in history classes when we got to World War II and realized how absolutely effective our collective efforts (in the form of government) could be at pulling the nation out of economic malaise. This current nationwide, from-coast-to-coast, public works project needs to start with a comprehensive study to determine the best ways to produce and distribute healthy food, create truly livable communities, and transport people and goods -- with less energy. And if it is determined that certain sectors of our economy need to be bailed out -- for example, our public transportation sectors -- then by all means, let's bail them out.

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