Carmakers Under Threat

We discussed the objections to the inclusion of transit aid in the automaker bailout yesterday, but the failure of the bailout has made such aid an impossibility. Following Republican unwillingness to support the Democratic/Administration bill, the Senate deadlocked, unable to meet the 60-seat vote required to even consider the bill openly. Note that this remains the pre-election 2008 Senate, with no majority on either side (both Vice President-elect Joe Biden and President-elect Barack Obama have resigned), not the post-election Senate, which will have a large Democratic Majority. As a result, Republicans still command a large amount of power in that chamber.

The immediate result of the failure of the bailout is that there will be no transit aid in dealing with the deals made with companies such as AIG, at least in the short-term, which means at least until January. Because of the other priorities spelled out by the incoming Obama administration – notably an economic stimulus, health care reform, environmental protections, energy security, two failing wars, a fall in international standing, etc – this issue isn’t exactly going to be at the top of the docket. We better hope that the big transit agencies have prepared to survive for the next few months paying larger bills to their creditors….

But the larger effect of the failure of this bailout will be the likely bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler, and possibly Ford soon after. If they’re lost, the economic stimulus packages we’re envisioning now will have to become far more ambitious. The failure of the three automakers would continue to push the economy further into the downward spiral it has breached in recent months; a dramatic change in economic priorities for the government of the United States will be necessary if we want to avoid a depression.

Where does transportation fall in this equation? Does economic failure on the national stage mean a re-envisioning of how our society works? Let’s keep these questions in mind as we consider the events of the next few months.

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