Friday, December 12, 2008

Automaker Bailout Falls Apart in Senate, Grab Your Helmets

The Senate put the kibosh on the $14 billion temporary bailout of the U.S. auto industry.  Of course, the temporary bailout was merely a stopgap measure to keep the car makers operating until a more permanent bailout solution could be concocted by the new administration.  What held up the bill?  The sticking point was how soon union employees' pay should be adjusted to parity with employees of nonunion workers' at plants operated by foreign automakers in the U.S.  The Republicans wanted to reach parity in 2009 and the Democrats wanted more time because, according to Sen. Dodd, with the economy in recession, he thought it wouldn't be fair to force auto workers to accept wage cuts in 2009.  Apparently, he thinks it's completely reasonable for a bunch of autoworkers to be unemployed during the worst recession this country has seen in decades.  Without government aid, both GM and Chrysler will file for bankruptcy before the end of the year.  Wave goodbye to what remained of the U.S. manufacturing industry because once the companies go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it seems unlikely that they will emerge.  Unless the government is willing to provide DIP financing, they're headed straight for Chapter 7 liquidation, which is great news if you're in the market for a cheap manufacturing plant in Michigan.  Bad news if you happen to live in the Midwest, because the economy is likely to head straight into the toilet.  Although I suppose all of those out of work auto employees can just go work for AIG.  Maybe they can line up a $3 million bonus just for showing up for work.  
I'm not placing the blame solely on the Democrats, of course.  The Republicans didn't support the rescue package because of "concerns about government intervention in the marketplace."  You see, according to the Republicans, it's perfectly okay to intervene in the marketplace as long as you are keeping insolvent financial institutions afloat (i.e. AIG, Citi, Mer) and supporting bonuses for Wall Street employees.  Blue collar union employees are a whole different story.  Amazing, yet not surprising, where our legislators decide to draw the line.    
The market, of course, is officially back in panic mode.  Futures are off significantly, as investors understand that the repercussions of a bankruptcy of the Big Three will be spread far and wide.  If you thought we were out of the woods, you were sadly mistaken.