The Bailout Paradox

As a condition of getting a federal bailout, the Big Three are promising, among other things, to cut costs. Among the costs to be cut will be jobs. This is paradoxical, since the reason Congress is considering bailing them out in the first place is to preserve jobs and avoid the social costs of large-scale job loss (unemployment insurance, lost tax revenues, pension payments that have to be picked up by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, and so forth) .

We should take a lesson from the Chrysler bailout of the early 1980s. The ostensible reason Congress voted for it was to preserve Chrysler jobs. Yet once the bailout was underway, in order to generate the money it needed to restructure itself, Chrysler laid off more than a third of its workforce. Most of these jobs never came back.

And it’s much the same with the mammoth bailout of Wall Street. Absent an explicit understanding of why public money is needed and what it’s to be used for, taxpayer dollars end up bolstering executives, creditors, and shareholders rather than the workers and communities that need the most help.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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