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Why The Double Standard for the Auto and Finance Industries?

An Analysis By Scott Rasmussen

Voters opposed bailouts for both the auto industry and the financial industry, but the federal government provided support for both. Some critics—particularly those who favor the auto industry—have noted that the terms and tone of the bailouts were markedly different, however.

Most dramatically, the government pushed out Rick Wagoner, the chairman and chief executive officer of General Motors. No similar actions were taken against financial industry leaders.

The difference can most likely be explained by the 43-point gap between 12% and 55%.

Twelve percent (12%) represents the number of voters who say their finances would be impacted if General Motors filed for bankruptcy.

Fifty-five percent (55%) represents the number of voters who belong to the Investor Class by owning at least $5,000 worth of stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

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In an environment where people are opposed to taxpayer-funded bailouts, the safest political course is to hope that the cost of the bailouts is overwhelmed by the benefits of a rising stock market. At the same time, when voters want accountability, why not show it by getting tough with a company whose worst-case showing would directly impact just 12% of the nation?

It’s worth noting that support for having the government push out senior managers declined in the week following Wagoner’s dismissal.

Americans are still opposed to bailouts, even though most believe it’s likely GM or Chrysler, the auto companies seeking bailouts, will not survive the next few years. For now, the issue is whether Chrysler can find a partner in 30 days to stay in business and whether GM can avoid bankruptcy by producing a reorganization plan in 60 days that satisfies the president's auto task force and releases more bailout loan money. Seventy-six percent (76%) say it’s possible for the economy to recover even if GM does not.

Overall, most Americans believe that the individual actions of business owners to help their own companies will do more for the U.S. economy than anything the world’s political leaders come up with.

See Other Analysis By Scott Rasmussen

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