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The guilty pleasures of watching GM go bankrupt

I don't think we should bail out the failing failed American carmakers. I admit that I'll feel a guilty pleasure watching them go down the tubes.

It isn't that I don't support a vibrant American auto industry, or that I don't want to cushion the blow of all the layoffs that a collapse of the carmakers would entail. It's just that throwing money at the Big Three won't do either of these things. It'll be like flushing money down the toilet. And even if it would postpone the inevitable, I want my guilty pleasures now, dammit. I want to watch Rick Wagoner go down with his ship.

The carmakers aren't in this mess because of a little liquidity crisis, or a run of bad financial decisions that leave them short of cash. They're about to go belly up because their basic business isn't viable anymore. I have to admit, it gives me a sort of perverse pleasure to see GM going down the tubes after decades of building crappy cars. Perhaps its products aren't as inferior to their competitors as they were in the 1970s, but if you peruse Consumer Reports at all, you know that Toyota and Honda are still flogging GM on reliability even now. Oh, free market, work your magic.

It's also sinfully delicious to see the Big Three begging for money after the bottom fell out of the market for gas-guzzling SUVs. All the lobbying muscle that once went into fighting increases in the CAFE fuel economy standards tooth and nail may not be enough now to get the government to help them build better small, fuel-efficient cars. Too bad, so sad, Rick. You bet the company on the Hummer when you had to know that gas prices weren't going to stay low forever.

I'm also a little giddy about the failure of Detroit's carmakers after years of watching them do too little to push for national healthcare. They like to whine about their high health care costs, but they did far too little to push for the government-funded national health insurance that would have relieved them of many of the financial burdens they're complaining about.

Of course, none of this is going to make up for the real pain of a failed American auto industry. But that pain should be treated with something other than a bailout for the Big Three's shareholders.

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