Like most Americans, I have serious reservations about bailing out the auto industry. But one can at least argue over whether jobs and the livelihood of regular people will be needlessly sacrificed should the industry go bankrupt.
In contrast, many of Madoff's clients were sophisticated investors, who surely knew enough to suspect that if returns seemed too good to be true, well, that might merit a little bit of prudence and caution. But as long as the money was rolling in, it was easy to turn a blind eye to anything that might otherwise have raised suspicions.
Now, it's easy enough to run to the government. And next time another Madoff comes along, the same crowd will do the same thing -- knowing that there's no need to be prudent. After all, if they lose out, the government will step in. Again. With the money of people who were either too cautious or too poor to join the golden circle of Madoff investors.