I'm sure you've read the heasdlines. The U.S. auto-makers want their turn at a federal bailout. They apparently have only a few months worth of cash on hand. They can't sell their cars - or if they could, people can't get financing to buy them. They bet all their money on gas-guzzling SUVs, spending untold lobbying $$$ to fight tougher fuel emissions laws and gas taxes, and this is where is brought them: to the brink of ruin. The ripples to the global economy from the failure of a US auto maker, they say, will make the failure of Lehman look like a splash in the pond.
So what if, for the sake of argument, we let them fail? What if, instead of throwing more good money after bad, we focused on creating a safety net for auto industry workers?
What if the federal government offered extended (indefinite?) unemployment benefits for laid off auto workers, coupled with launching a massive re-training, education and relocation grant program. In exchange for agreeing to spend a year doing community work (building roads, bridges, etc.), workers could obtain these grants. Or they could be awarded based on need. Or on merit. I'm not talking about freebies but something that you have to earn in some sense, and includes some element of giving back.
If the program were successful, it could be broadened to other industries or sectors of the economy.
Think about how much more this would accomplish in terms of increasing human capital, compared to handing the auto companies $x billion, which auto execs skim off the top and then hand off to their creditors, who skim off the top and hand off to their creditors, etc. with cents on the dollars trickling down the auto workers.
Just a thought...