Understandably, Republicans are seething.
When Hank Paulson demanded $700 billion to haul away the trash in the dumpsters of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs -- assuring us we could hold a garage sale of the junk -- they rebelled. They acted as the nation, by 100 to one, demanded. They killed the Wall Street bailout.
The Dow quickly sank another 1,000 points, and, charged with criminal irresponsibility by the elites, the GOP buckled, reversed itself, rescued the bailout -- and was wiped out on Nov. 4.
Now we hear from Paulson that the $700 billion Congress voted will not, after all, be used to buy up all that rotten paper on the books of the big banks. Some banks are using the cash to buy other banks.
So Republicans are right to be enraged. They are victims of the biggest bait-and-switch in political history. But they are now about to do something terminally stupid. With GM, Ford and Chrysler teetering on the brink, they are turning a cold stone face to Detroit and are about to follow the counsel of that quintessential Bushite Dick Darman, who said of our computer chip industry, "If our guys can't hack it, let 'em go."
America responded -- by letting George H.W. Bush and Darman go.
Are Republicans aware of what they are about to do?
When workers, execs, engineers, dealers, salesmen and suppliers are all factored in, the Big Three employ 3 million people who contribute $21 billion a year to Social Security and Medicare, and $25 billion in federal income taxes. Add in all the businesses that depend on the auto industry, and we are talking about one-tenth of the U.S. labor force.
As columnist Tom Piatak of Chronicles and Takimag.com writes, 850,000 retirees, and their families, depend for pensions and health care on the Big Three. If they go under, the burden falls on us.
And to let the auto industry die is to write America out of much of the economic future of the planet.
In a good year, like 2005, Americans buy more than 17 million new cars, and West Europeans as many. Tens of millions in Eastern Europe, Russia, China, India and Southeast Asia are now moving into the middle class each year. These folks will all need or want one or two family cars. If we let the U.S. auto industry die, that immense and burgeoning market will be lost forever to America, and ceded to Asia.
"Who cares?" comes the free-traders' reply. Japanese and Koreans are setting up factories here. They can pick up the slack.
But that means Americans will work for and depend on foreign companies for a necessity of our national life as vital as the imported oil and gas on which our cars and trucks operate. All the profits of the mighty automobile industry in America will be sent abroad.