Chrysler Repays Billions, Was Bailout Worth It?

Guests

Micheline Maynard, senior editor, Changing Gears
Dan Ikenson, associate director, Cato Institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies
David Kiley, editor-in-chief, AOL Autos

Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion dollars in loans, with interest, to the U.S. and Canadian governments Tuesday. Car sales are up and the company is profitable again. Many argue it's proof the bailout was worth the cost, but critics point out much of the government's initial investment was lost.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

Yesterday, Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion in loans, with interest, that it borrowed from the United States and Canadian governments. Car sales are up, and the company - like fellow bailout recipient GM - is now back in the black.

President Obama hailed a significant milestone for the turnaround of Chrysler, and many argue this is proof that the government bailout of the auto industry was worth the cost.

Critics complain that much of the government's initial investment was lost, that this is more of a shell game than a repayment, and that taxpayer money should never be used to invest in private industry.

We all had a stake in this. So, taxpayers, was it worth it? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, the year of the out athlete.

But first, the auto bailout. And we begin with Micheline Maynard, senior editor for CHANGING GEARS, the public radio project that looks at reinventing the Rust Belt. And she joins us from member station WUOM in Ann Arbor.

And Micki, nice to have you back on the program.

MICHELINE MAYNARD: Oh, it's always nice to be with you, Neal. Thank you.

CONAN: And Chrysler paid back more than seven-and-a-half billion dollars. Is that all the money they're owed?

MAYNARD: Well, they don't owe any other money. The way that the bailout was structured, the car companies got just direct money from the government, and then there was a portion of it that was a loan. General Motors has already paid back the portion that it was expected to pay back, and now Chrysler has paid back what it was expected to pay back, with interest.

CONAN: But there's other money it's apparently not expected to pay back.

MAYNARD: Well, there was a total of about $65 billion that was paid by the government to save parts of the American auto industry. I'm talking about the money that was paid to General Motors and Chrysler, what got them through the bankruptcy and out of the bankruptcy.

There were also payments for suppliers, for dealers, for some of the communities that were affected by the auto bailout, by the car plants closing down. So it was a pretty large price tag.

CONAN: And of that, how much is the government expecting ever to get back?

MAYNARD: Well, the government will tell you that they think they can get most of it back. There were estimates early on that they probably wouldn't get back 25 to $30 billion of it. But now people are saying that they might get, you know, might give up a little bit of it, but get most of it back.

CONAN: And the government still owns large parts of these two companies.

MAYNARD: Yes, it does. It owns, I think, about a quarter of General Motors, and it still owns about 8 percent of Chrysler. And one of the reasons why was because these companies offered stakes to the government in return for the way this financing was put together.

CONAN: And might those shares eventually be sold at some gain?

MAYNARD: Well, we don't know. General Motors is public now. They went public again last fall. Chrysler is now an arm of the Italian automaker Fiat. So I don't really foresee a day when you can go and buy Chrysler stock, unless it's structured in a very specific way.

CONAN: And what - the bailouts were less than universally popular when they were first announced. I think that's fair to say. Has that view changed, do you think?

MAYNARD: Well, at the time, you have to remember that there had been large bankruptcies in the American system. I covered the bankruptcies of the airline industry for the New York Times.

And we saw airline after airline - I think there were six major bankruptcies in the early part of the last decade.

And there were a lot of people who said the court system is available. Why don't we put the auto industry - or at least General Motors and Chrysler - through that same system? But there were also fears because the recession was, I think, at its deepest point a couple of years ago, when this all - the subject came up.

There was also worries about the auto parts part of the industry, because if Chrysler had gone bankrupt, for example, and liquidated, these auto parts suppliers served not only General Motors and Ford, but Toyota and some of the other foreign carmakers. So that was part of the argument, that we can't let the whole network go down.

But there is this other argument that you have other ways to do this, and this is the cost of doing business. Some companies make it. Other companies don't.

CONAN: And there is the example of Ford, which didn't take any government money.

MAYNARD: That's right. Ford, about five or six years ago, I think they could kind of see the light in the tunnel, and it wasn't daylight. It was the freight train coming. And they went out, and they literally mortgaged everything they had to mortgage, down to the oval, the Ford oval on the top of the headquarters building, and raised something above $30 billion.

And they were able to use that financing to get through the recession, because they had the foresight to know that this was coming and to take action.

So Ford didn't need the money, and that's certainly a point of pride for the people at Ford.

CONAN: And it is fair to say that all three companies are in the black, all making profits. Ford is making a lot more than the other two.

MAYNARD: That's right. Ford went through it earlier, came out of it earlier. The nice thing for Ford, I guess - if there's any silver lining in all this - is that they didn't have the distraction of having to deal with the federal government, with the Treasury, with Congress, with the administration. They could run the ship as they saw fit.

So they were able to get their product act together, get small cars, get more fuel-efficient engines, focus on that, focus on doing business rather than focusing on dealing with Washington.

CONAN: And though those two companies that got the bailout survived, they are much smaller companies than they were two years ago.

MAYNARD: Indeed, they are. And I think it's been very interesting. You'll hear reports, like the one that was just on NPR, about the companies hiring. And, indeed, the companies have been hiring. I think the latest announcement from General Motors that it's bringing back a shift of 2,500 people at a plant on the Detroit-Hamtramck border here in Michigan.

But what you have to remember is that, as part of these bailout deals, the UAW agreed to some sharply lower benefits. And also, it was already in their contract that there would be new wage rates for these newly hired people of about half of what the veteran workers made.

So you might be getting a job back, but you're going - the value of that job, the pay that that person is going to get, is going to be lower than in the old days.

CONAN: So let's get some callers in on the conversation: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. Taxpayers, was it worth it? Let's start with Roger, and Roger's with us from Commerce, in Michigan.

ROGER (Caller): Yes. I think that it was worth it, because first of all, I would like to mention that this was an auto - a loan for the auto industry, not a bailout, unlike the banks. And they were required to pay this money back, with interest, which they did, or are doing. So the government got its money back and jobs were saved - unlike all of the banks at Wall Street, where CEOs were continuing to get their bonuses and the auto industry head, well, were axed and no longer have their jobs.

CONAN: And Roger, some might say: You're calling from Michigan. Of course, you've got a particular stake in this.

ROGER: Well, I wouldn't deny that, but also, a heck of a lot of jobs were saved on top of it all. And we saw benefits on Main Street, and Wall Street, what benefits in Main Street did we get from their bailout, where they gave money? In the auto industry, it was loan money, and they were required to pay it back, which they did, or are in the process of doing, with interest. So yes, it was worth it.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it. Joining us here in Studio 3A is Dan Ikenson, associate director of the Cato Institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies. He wrote an op-ed earlier this month that ran on the Daily Caller, "GM's Profits: Nothing to Gloat About."

And it's nice to have you with us today.

Mr. DAN IKENSON (Associate Director, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute): Thanks for having me on the show.

CONAN: And was the bailout worth it?

Mr. IKENSON: Well, I don't think that we're really in a position to measure it, yet. Politicians and...

CONAN: Is this the position of the Chinese premiere asked about the French Revolution: We're not sure yet?

Mr. IKENSON: It's the fact that we're not considering all of the costs of the bailout. President Obama and other policymakers want to look at the outlays, the $65 billion, or in GM's case the $50 billion. And if taxpayers are made whole and get their $50 billion back, they want to characterize the bailout as a success.

But there were other costs that go unseen. We have a lot of Chevy Cruze sales which should be Ford Focus sales. Ford and Honda and Hyundai - who I consider American producers, because they do operate here and they do employ Americans - were denied the spoils of competition when the Bush and Obama administrations intervened to save a couple of companies.

They didn't save the auto industry. They chose to save a couple of companies. And I don't think that we're going to be in a position to know exactly whether it was a success or not.

Like, for example, some of the other costs are rule-of-law issues. I mean, TARP funds were diverted from the purpose that Congress intended, which was to bail out financial...

CONAN: Troubled Asset - I forget what the R was...

Mr. IKENSON: Yeah, Trouble Asset...

CONAN: Resettlement...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IKENSON: Retirement fund.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That's right.

Mr. IKENSON: But they were diverted. The Bush - President Bush did this in his last month in office, really, over the objections of Congress. Congress had just voted on a bailout and said that, you know, we're not going to do this. And that opened the door to the Obama administration to do more of the same, and...

CONAN: But if there were legal issues, wouldn't that have gone to court?

Mr. IKENSON: It should have gone to court. I think that we were in a sort of crisis mode, you know, as Rahm Emanuel, when he was in the White House, as he said: Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Paulson, former Secretary Paulson, told Congress they need to pass this financial bailout right away, or else we're all doomed. It prevents us from really thinking clearly and with circumspection as to what we're getting into.

So the costs of the rule of law, property rights were trampled with respect to the Chrysler bondholders, and this competitive process was stymied.

And so I think we need to - and if we look at the economy today, this regime uncertainty, which still persists - you know, we've been trying to come out of this recession. We've been moving slowly. Business is keeping money on the sidelines.

They're not investing in hiring the way we expected them to do in a -after recovering from a recession. And one of the reasons is it traces back to these bailouts, the financial bailouts and the auto bailouts, Dodd-Frank and all the regulatory environment that emerged in the wake of the crisis.

And so I think that that needs to be considered as part of the cost of the bailout.

CONAN: Troubled Asset Relief Program. It reminds me - reminds a producer who's either got a better memory or Google.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Micki Maynard, there's also, some will say, you know, you have to look at the jobs that were saved. These people are all paying taxes and paying mortgages, too.

MAYNARD: Many of them are also union members, and unions were some of the biggest supporters of President Obama when he was elected. I look at this as industrial policy. This is choosing an industry and deciding to support it.

And this is what we've criticized the Japanese for doing, the Koreans for doing, the Chinese for doing. Well, when push came to shove and we had a devastating recession and people's lives were on the line, we decided to do it, too. This is a political decision, as much as an economic decision.

And I'm not saying that I criticize President Obama or praise President Obama for doing it, but I think you have to view it in that context, as well as just simply saving General Motors and Chrysler.

CONAN: Chrysler paid back billions in government loans yesterday. GM paid down its bailout debt in previous months. Both companies are back in the black.

Was the bailout of the car industry worth it? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

A day after Chrysler cut a $5 billion check to the U.S. Treasury, we're talking about the federal bailout of the auto industry. In 2008 and 2009, GM took nearly $50 billion in taxpayer money, Chrysler about $12 billion. Three years, multiple paybacks and an uptick in car sales later, both companies are back in the black.

So, was the bailout worth it? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

CONAN: Our guests are Micki Maynard, who is the senior editor at Changing Gears, a public radio project that looks at the reinvention of the Rust Belt, a partnership of Michigan Radio, Chicago Public Radio and Idea Stream in Cleveland. Also with us, Dan Ikenson, associate director at the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies. We've put a link to his op-ed, "GM's Profits Nothing to Gloat About," on our website, again that's at npr.org.

And joining us now from his office in Detroit is David Kiley, editor-in-chief of AOL Autos, where he wrote the piece "The Auto Industry Bailout: Still Debated But Worth Every Penny." And it's nice to have you with us today.

Mr. DAVID KILEY (Editor-in-chief, AOL Autos): Thank you very much for inviting me.

CONAN: Worth every penny, how come?

Mr. KILEY: Well, for one thing, I think that the auto industry is different than a lot of other industries. And one of the arguments I hear against it, and I'm hearing it now, sort of reprised - especially by Republicans - is that the government shouldn't be picking winners and losers.

And I think - and I'm not being a Detroit homer here. I grew up and worked most of my career in the New Jersey-New York area. I'm a transplant out here. And I just think that the auto industry has a - has both a material, huge impact on the U.S. economy. I mean, when production is affected, you can see it reflected in the GDP, you know, on a quarterly basis. But it also has a symbolic, an iconic role, on a world stage.

I have to say when I heard Mr. Ikenson say that the loss in all of this is that, instead of Chevy Cruises, we'd be selling - we should be selling more Ford Focuses and more Hyundais and Kias - well, there's a tremendous trade imbalance here.

And Korea - and the idea of Korea and Japan taking up those sales, those are two markets almost entirely closed to U.S. car companies.

CONAN: Well, those car companies have plants that build cars in this country.

Mr. KILEY: No, no, no, I understand that, but let's face it: The profit and the wealth from that gets transferred back, mostly, to Japan and Korea. It doesn't stay here.

CONAN: As will Chrysler's, presumably go back to Italy.

Mr. KILEY: I would say there's no question that the takeover of Chrysler by Fiat, you know, was a compromise that had to be made. But I would also say this, that if you asked Ford CEO Alan Mulally if GM and Chrysler - whether it was good policy for GM and Chrysler to be helped out, he would say yes it was, and he was rooting for that and the help to the auto parts companies.

So, I just think that Dan's position on this, particularly when it comes to GM, is just incorrect. And I would also say this: they're competing on a global stage. Japan, Germany and Korea - the three countries that, you know, that have the auto companies that GM, Ford and Chrysler predominately are competing against - would never, never have let their auto industries collapse because they have actual industrial policies in those countries.

And I really liked what Micki said, earlier, which is that the decision to help these companies survive and protect millions of jobs was, in fact, kind of an emergency, almost triage industrial policy because this country doesn't have an industrial policy in place that would have made it a more orderly process or would have, perhaps, leveled the playing field between the Detroit automakers and the Japanese and German and Korean automakers.

And I'll give you an example...

CONAN: And quickly, because I want to give Dan a chance to respond.

Mr. KILEY: I will. These - in this country, we all know, we do not have national health care, and the biggest noose around GM's, Ford's and Chrysler's necks going into bankruptcy was health care obligation.

Well, we're competing globally against countries in Japan, Germany, Korea - almost every other industrialized country in the world has nationalized health care, which is part of not only health care policy but an industrial policy. We don't have that here in this country.

CONAN: All right, Dan Ikenson, I'll just give you a quick chance to respond.

Mr. IKENSON: Sure. I don't want to get into the industrial policy aspect of it and the health care aspect and who has what advantages, and we could talk for hours about that.

But the point is that in the United States, we have lots of producers. Yes, some of the profits for the Tokyo-based or Stuttgart-based companies go back to those countries, but a lot of the value stays here. They're employing American workers.

Likewise, GM sells more cars in China than in the United States now. Some of its profits come back here, and some of its profits help the local economy.

The administrations, both, didn't bail out the auto industry. They bailed out a couple of companies. And one of the problems with that is that there is over-capacity in the auto industry, globally and in the United States.

And to have a lean auto industry, you need to have the competition, and the strong should survive. Those that make the bad decisions should atrophy or go out. So that process was stunted.

CONAN: Let's get some more callers in. Mike(ph) is on the line, Mike calling us from Red Lodge in Montana.

MIKE (Caller): Yeah, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MIKE: My personal opinion is I don't think ever we should be bailing out companies with our tax dollars, especially when our tax dollars could go to so many other efforts. I just don't believe that, you know, we need to reward one company for foolish policy and not managing their money properly and let another company do the right thing and get themselves out of a sticky situation.

You know, I myself am a business owner. It has failed the last couple of years, due to the economy. And, you know, I went out, I got another job, and I'm paying off my business tax from the last two years and my business debt.

There was no bailout for small companies. It actually irritates me. You know, if one company fails, a giant company fails, another smaller company is then allowed to grow.

You know, we've had car companies fail in the past. So I just don't - I don't think it was the right thing to do on either administration's part.

CONAN: All right, Mike, that's an interesting point. Micki Maynard, the fairness issue is - a lot of people said where was my bailout, and he's right. We're not driving REOs anymore.

Ms. MAYNARD: Well, that's a very interesting point. And I would point you to the airline industry, because right after 9/11, literally two weeks after 9/11, Congress passed a bill to help the airlines.

They got direct money, checks of about $5 million, and then there was -excuse me, $5 billion.

CONAN: $5 billion, I was going...

Ms. MAYNARD: Sorry, $5 million wouldn't do much for anybody.

CONAN: Hardly remember that.

Ms. MAYNARD: And then there was another, I think it was $10 billion that was made available to them in loans, and the loans were administrated by a special board that had fed, Transportation and I think Labor Department representatives.

But that was a really arduous process, and it took months to get those loans, and a lot of airlines said: You know what? I don't want to put up with the scrutiny. I don't want to put up with people overseeing my operations. I'm not going to apply.

And in a very famous case, the board actually turned down United Airlines and sent them into the conventional bankruptcy process, where they stayed for about four years.

So you could do it the old-fashioned way, and I think the Obama administration decided this is a crisis. Yeah, it's unfair. Maybe other industries should be considered, but autos is the big profile - excuse me, big profile industry - and we want to help them.

CONAN: Let me ask you, I know you may have to be leaving us shortly, but I also wanted to ask you a question about politics. It was interesting, today in the paper, to read that Mitt Romney, who wrote a famous editorial opposing this in the past, seemed to be taking credit that this was his idea all along.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MAYNARD: I was kind of surprised when he actually opposed it, because his father, George Romney, was the president of AMC, American Motors Corporation.

And, you know, this is one of those things where, in the past, when the fight was going on, people questioned it, and now that it appears to have been a success story, you know - it's just like the father of the Mustang at Ford Motor Company. You know, success has many fathers, and failure, you know, only one, I think is the saying...

Mr. IKENSON: It's an orphan.

CONAN: It's an orphan, yeah.

Ms. MAYNARD: Is an orphan, excuse me, yes. So I think this will be an interesting subject in the 2012 political campaign, when everybody sweeps through Michigan and Ohio and Indiana and places where they've benefited from the auto bailout.

Mr. KILEY: You know, Mitt Romney was so wrong, and it's hard to believe - well, it's not hard to believe because he's running for public office - that he would take credit for something that he disavowed two years ago.

But he did not think these companies would reform if they weren't blown up, and that's not really true. I mean, as I've covered the companies, what I've seen is that they were freed up from a lot of, you know, onerous health care obligations and debt obligations that had built up over time for a variety of reasons.

But, you know, with - in the case of Chrysler and GM, they have some new management at the top, but for the most part, they're dealing with the same managers who were there before. And I kind of liken this to companies able to run with the braces off their legs. It's kind of like Forest Gump, you know, if you remember. So all of a sudden, he was able to run.

CONAN: You say the same managers. As you put in, the president fired the head of General Motors?

Mr. KILEY: Yes. I said, with - I mean, there's a new CEO at GM, no question, and there's new blood. But, you know, I'm thinking of the engineers and the product development people and things like that who -the people like that who do the really hard work of making vehicles either good, you know, bad indifferent. And those people are largely the same, and that's particularly the case at Chrysler.

I've been in - really covered them in-depth for the last year or so. And it's amazing to me how - as I've had long conversations with people who were there during Daimler's ownership and then during Cerberus' ownership. And now, these - they're same people and they're doing amazing work - but with management that's, frankly, much more talented -top management who recognizes that, you know, the proper way to build and develop cars. But also, again, without these onerous health care obligations that were, you know, that were reorganized...

CONAN: We got it, David.

Mr. KILEY: ...kind of lifted off the companies.

CONAN: Here's an email from Martha in Kent, Michigan: The loans to the car companies were worth it for my family. My husband worked as a contractor for a supplier. He was laid off for seven months. But as the car companies came back, so did his job. The supplier company is doing well now. He was hired by them last year. Getting back to work meant we didn't have to sell our home of 20-plus years and move out of state. Shame on the politicians who said they didn't care if the car companies and their supplies went out of business. They weren't just companies. Those were people's lives they were condemning.

I'm not sure the politicians said they didn't care. They cared about other things. But Micki Maynard...

Ms. MAYNARD: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: ...saving that job and that house and this is - we have to remember the - a distressed industrial area.

Ms. MAYNARD: Right. And you have to, you know - and working here in Michigan like the Changing Gears project and in Illinois and Ohio, we meet a lot of people who were affected by the situation. And, you know, years and years and years ago, there were a million people working on the line at auto plants. Today, I think, its might now be under 100,000 people, but there's still a lot of people who are connected to the industry: dealers, suppliers, the little cafe across the street from the car plant that closed. So, it has a human toll out here. It has had a human effect. And I don't think psychologically that people have even yet caught up with how dire the situation was and the rescue that came along to solve it.

CONAN: Micki Maynard, we'll let you get back to Changing Gears. Thanks very much for your time today.

Ms. MAYNARD: Thank you so much, Neal.

CONAN: Micki Maynard, senior editor at Changing Gears, which is a public radio project that looks at reinvention of the Rust Belt. And Dan Ikenson of Cato Institute and David Kiley, editor-in-chief of AOL Autos will stay with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if can get another caller on the conversation. This is Jason, Jason with us from Wichita.

JASON (Caller): Hi. How are you doing?

CONAN: Very well. Thanks.

JASON: I was against the auto bailouts for the reason that people always talked about capitalism failing and not actually working due to the recent recession. But the way I look at it is, that if you're always giving bailouts to industries or to certain companies, you're not really giving capitalism the chance that it needs to be true capitalism and work. Because whenever somebody is running a company and they make bad decisions, bad choices, that means they have the chance to lose everything because of bad choices they made. Whereas the companies being frugal, being smart about their choices, not taking too big of a risk, will - may end up actually, you know, reaping all the benefits and that helps everybody around them.

And so, it just seems like we always go these bailouts, you know, from the airline industry - 10, 20 years ago - to this. It seems like there's getting bigger, and worse and worse. And I think part of the cause is the fact that we're not truly giving capitalism a chance.

CONAN: This is the moral hazard argument, Dan.

Mr. IKENSON: Sure. I mean, people when think of capitalism, they tend to pin on capitalism the idea that you can only have successes, we can only have profits. And that when there are losses and when there are bankruptcies, well capitalism has failed. Well, losses and bankruptcy are just as much a part of capitalism as the upside.

CONAN: But that can be cold and cruel, too.

Mr. IKENSON: It can be cold and cruel and we have social safety nets. This was a particularly severe recession that we went through. And this industry was - has a lot of overcapacity. So it's taking - we would do for a reckoning. And quite frankly, before get too triumphalistic about GM's recent successes - and, you know, I'm sort of equivocal about how GM does by itself. I'd like the auto industry to succeed, but the jury is still out.

If fuel prices stay where they are, GM is going to have to figure out how to compete in the small car market. In 2010, it had about 8.4 percent of that market. This year, it has the Chevy Cruze, which it's selling with a lot of sales rebates, a lot of premonition. Whether the Cruze is the answer, we don't know. The Chevy Volt, which they've talked about quite a lot, is $41,000. It's not exactly an economy car. There are lot of concerns about how it's going to perform during the cold months.

And right now, the biggest purchaser of Chevy Volts is GE. Jeff Immelt, President Obama's right-hand man on the - his manufacturing and economy committee, has agreed to buy 50,000 Chevy Volts. Well, it gives the impression that we do have industrial policy going on and that people hands are on the lever and that there are some sort of a cabal deciding, you know, how the economy is going to function going forward. So, the sooner the government divest of GM, I think the better we'll all be.

But it's going to be difficult for that happen and make the taxpayers whole at the same time. The stock price needs to be at $53 a share. The 500 million shares that the government still holds need to be sold at an average price of $53. Right now, the stock price is $31. And what's suppressing the stock price is the market's knowledge that the biggest shareholder, the government, wants to dump these shares. So that's going to be with us for a while.

CONAN: Jason, thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it.

JASON: If I could say one thing about the...

CONAN: And if you could say it in 30 seconds, which is all we've got.

JASON: I can. On the winners and losers issue and the moral hazard, let's not forget that, you know, the neighborhood was on fire when these decisions were made. And leaders in governments choose winners and losers all the time, especially during times of calamity.

And the administration, I think, having covered it and read insider accounts, decided that they could get their arms around saving GM and Chrysler. And in doing so, we're able to save, you know, upwards to two million jobs that would have, sort of, gone to the wind - maybe come back, maybe not.

CONAN: And we're going to have to stop you there. I apologize. But David Kiley, editor-in-chief of AOL Autos. Our thanks as well to Dan Ikenson of the Cato Institute. There's links to things they have both written in our website, npr.org. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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