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.