First of all, UAW employees make more than double what Toyota's American employees make, and more than triple what the average American makes. But the problem with the unions is way more than just the money. They create an extremely complicated series of work rules that make it impossible to fire employees, close down factories that aren't needed, shift resources between different types of cars, or even promote employees who do a good job. Part of the reason Detroit keeps cranking out SUVs is because it would cost more to shut down the SUV factories than it does to make the cars and sell them at a loss.
Second, the reason Detroit doesn't make small cars is because they can't make money on them. A much larger percent of a small car's cost is labor, so the big 3 just get killed in that market. Of all the cars Ford sells, the only one they make any money on is the Mustang. The big 3 were obsessed with SUVs not just because of myopia but because they were the only way they could make money.
Lastly, forcing the big 3 to invest in green technology is a political phrase, nothing more. They already spend a ton of money on that stuff. Less than Toyota, sure, but only because they have less money. Second, green technology is a wonderfully vague term. R&D is expensive because no one is quite sure what will work. For example, we could force the big 3 to invest in hydrogen cars, only to have that technology prove a dead end. The government will almost certainly spend its money on the wrong things simply because no one knows what the right thing is.
The basic fact is that Detroit has been in a death spiral for decades now and it cannot be fixed without fixing the union problem. If you magically fixed the UAW problem tomorrow, Detroit would still be in trouble, but it would have a chance. If you fixed every other problem, but left the unions, they would still be on death row. They need to enter bankruptcy, discharge their obligations, and build up from a blank slate. A bailout will only delay the inevitable.
1) Yes, I know all about unions. Turning out crappy cars for high wages and all that.
2) The reason Detroit gets killed in the small car market is because they can't make small cars well (see your comment about unions). The ONLY reason that the Big 3 have been able to hang on for as long as they have is because of the stupid "Buy American!" sentiment lingering from WWII. But even so: putting all your eggs in one basket is a stupid strategy.
3) I really don't think it would have been that taxing on the great brains of their R&D to figure out how to improve gas mileage by a few mpgs. Or, say, how to reduce emissions. And I seriously doubt some engineer in Tokyo was the only person to come up with a hybrid engine. The Big 3 were all too willing to invest in fancy-schmancy hi-tech that wouldn't--couldn't--go anywhere, because if it can't actually come on the production line it can't cut into their SUVs. Which, if you ask me, is a piss-poor reason to start up an R&D project. Hydrogen cars? Great. It will never happen. I'd be willing to bet that somewhere in the halls of Toyota's R&D, they've got plans for a hydrogen car, with a "Revisit in 2030" stamp on it.
I agree with you, actually. I'm just incredibly amused by this whole thing--and I can't wait for all the twists and turns to pop up. I only wish I had popcorn so I can sit back and watch this all unfold.
Seriously, I could use a bowl now.
Oh, and government control of private industry without ownership isn't Socialism, its Fascism. I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation of the history of fascism right now (if you're interested let me know, it's a fun topic) but it was very much about forcing ostensibly private enterprise to contribute to "the common welfare" rather than "selfishly" chasing profits.
Is it fascism? I could never get clear what made fascism distinct from everything else out there (fascism is forever linked with Hitler in my mind, which is unfortunate because I know he was a dictator).
Besides, I'll betcha in a few days Obama will have some kind of press release saying, "after much consideration la di da no bailout." He's too smart (I hope) to not realize that burning money is a far better use of $10 billion than bailing out the Big 3. At least, you'd have the warmth.
An excellent history of Fascism.
More briefly, fascism as originally developed in Italy was very much a sort of 3rd way type ideology. While definitely a right-wing movement, it very much tried to exist as an alternative to both capitalism and socialism. The basic idea was corporatism. Essentially all industries would be organized into tiers of federations. So a steel mill would be part of the regional steel mill association, which would be part of the regional heavy industry group with would be part of the national industry group, which would eventually culminate in some sort of grand industrial council. Labor Unions would be organized separate but roughly parallel institutions. The government would mediate between the pillars of labor and capital in order to centrally plan virtually all economic activity for the nation, the idea being to advance the nation as a collective entity. "Rational" planning would eliminate "destructive" competition, and the whole country would march in lockstep towards greater prosperity, power, or whatever. There was also a lot of rhetoric about building a "new" national identity. New Germany, New Rome, etc. In Portugal the regime called itself the Estado Novo.
It succeeded politically because idea was attractive all sorts of constituencies. Business elites liked it because they thought it meant they would be in charge, and it would eliminate competition. Labor elites and liked it because they thought that they would be in charge, and it would forcibly unionize the whole country. Nationalists liked it because it placed the advancement of the nation as a whole as the highest political purpose. Progressives liked it because they liked the idea of rational planning as opposed to chaotic markets. Politicians liked it because they thought they would be in charge, and it gave them fun new powers to play with.
It also had good enemies. Communists HATED it because it was felt to represent a genuine alternative to capitalism. They knew capitalism was doomed, but Marx had no comfortable predictions about the inevitable demise of fascism. A lot of otherwise reasonable people in Italy and Germany sided with the Fascists because they felt the fascists were the only people who could stop the communists. Ideological capitalists also hated fascism, but in the 1930s, popular opinion was that capitalism was dead or dying, and needed replacing.
Since WWII, there has been a lot of blurring of the line between nationalistic socialism and fascism. Nasser and Nehru Ghandi adopted a lot of fascistic rhetoric about building a new country, but they directly nationalized large portions of industry. A lot of the early New Deal programs were based on what Mussolini was doing in Italy. The NIRA was the worst of it. Had the supreme court not overturned it, it would have cartelized most of the economy and fixed prices. A lot of the labor portions and regulations ended up getting adopted under different acts in later years. America was very much a corporatist place until the late 70s and early 80s, but it was never fascist. Put a gun to my head I'd have to say that fascism is revolutionary nationalism combined with corporatism or socialism.