I’m still spitting nails over the impending auto bailout (have no illusions, though it may be delayed it is inevitable). I think what upsets me the most about it is that we have so many examples of government mismanagement that the very idea of a government bailout should elicit either howls of laughter or angry protestations. Indeed, government is synonymous with inefficiency in our country, with phrases such as “close enough for government work” being part of our American lexicon (a “government mismanagement” Google search yields 2,050,000 results). But somehow this is all forgotten when the discussion is about bailouts. It seems that fear is the lever that moves the immovable in all of politics, and “emergencies” certainly don’t allow for time to stop and think. So I suppose John Adams was wrong when he opined that “Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.” We are, of late, ruled by a government wielding fear.

I suppose if we were to ignore the adrenaline-induced panic that quickens our collective pulse, we would consider government’s mismanagement and pilfering of social security (a program initiated during a period of great economic fear, by the way), which, now nearly bankrupt, has put severe strain upon the federal budget that is resulting and will continue to result in a heavier tax burden for all in order for government to meet its obligations. Or we might also ponder the state of Amtrak, the government-owned national passenger railroad service. It has faced financial trouble since the early 90s despite enjoying bountiful federal funding and may not be viable without further subsidies. For a more recent example, why not look to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which stand as a monument to the federal government’s malfeasance and incompetence. With a “business” model based upon an agenda of social change and justice, they became part of the chain of failures that has led us to the deluge of bailouts we’re drowning in today. The list goes on and on and on…

So what can we expect as a result of a government-run auto industry? Well I’m sure Congress will turn it into the same sort of social experiment that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became, mandating extreme emissions standards and other environmentally-friendly measures that ultimately don’t sell on an open market. They will limp along for another five years or so, until they need yet another cash infusion just to keep the lights on. I can’t help but laugh when I read, as I did today, that Congress is demanding the Big 3 auto manufacturers produce a winning business plan before the money is forked over (laughable, the money will be forked over anyway, with our without a sound plan), when it’s Congress that has yet to produce a business model that is profitable in the long term.

Only a fool gives the car keys to a repeat-offending drunk driver and hops in the passenger seat. But fools we must be. And I’m here to tell you, if we don’t start getting serious about accountability in government and firmly establishing its limits, we’re in for one hell of a ride, one that we may not survive.

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