Ford TruckWill the bailout of the Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler — refresh the auto industry or further sour the economy?

dollarsThe Bush administration and the Federal Reserve announced on November 25 almost $800 billion dollars in additional funds to help, bail out, or otherwise prop up the financial sector, bringing to nearly $7 trillion the total sum that the federal government has thus far spent or pledged to spend in its feckless efforts to spare America's largest corporations from insolvency. Included in the latest package is $200 billion for the purchase of securities backed by many different kinds of loans, including student, credit card, auto, and small business. Such loans have become much harder to obtain in recent months, and the Fed's action is intended to get credit in these areas moving again.

atuo bailoutThe pleading for a financial bailout of the U.S. auto industry is becoming more widespread and insistent. Governors from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware, New York, and South Dakota have added their voices to those of auto executives urging U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to share with automakers some of the $700 billion earmarked for Wall Street. They claim that Detroit's Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) are too big to fail, since one out of every 10 jobs in America depends on the auto industry. In addition to the hundreds of thousands employed directly by the automakers, millions more work in the industries that supply steel, aluminum, copper, plastics, rubber, and electronics to them.

fedBy now everyone knows that Congress and the White House approved an enormous $700-plus billion package a short time ago and that the Treasury Department is rapidly burning through that mountainous sum and asking for more. What wasn't known until the past few days is that the Federal Reserve has been "lending" hundreds of billions of additional dollars to troubled companies and institutions. In fact, the Fed may have already dished out nearly $2 trillion!

Chevy emblemIt's no surprise that U.S. automakers are in trouble. Facing massive costs for health insurance, falling demand for mainstay products like trucks and SUVs, and skittish consumers worried about the economy, the Big Three face an uncertain future.

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