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Washington debates the fate of General Motors

   WASHINGTON -- You won't see this posted on the side of any bus anytime soon, but GM's problems are HUGE.

   The company lost $2.5 billion in the third quarter and stands poised to run out of cash by the end of the year. Experts say that unless the government comes to the rescue of GM and other automakers, GM will run out of cash and be forced into bankruptcy by the end of the year.

   And that, experts said, would start a cascading collapse of the entire U.S. auto industry.

   "You'd see a domino effect," said Dennis Virag, president of Automotive Consulting Group. "There goes General Motors, then there go the suppliers, then Ford. And this would not only affect the domestic manufacturers."

   Yet some lawmakers are reluctant to sign onto the bill Democrats are crafting to allow automakers access to upwards of $25 billion of the $700 billion that Congress set aside to rescue the financial industry.

   And they make arguments like that of Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee.

   "I have automobile plants in my district. They pay $25-$35 per employee per hour," Bachus said at a hearing this week. "I am sure that I am going to be asked, "Congressman I work at Honda or Mercedes, I make $40 an hour; why are you going to take my taxpayer dollars and pay it to a company who pays their employees $75 an hour?'‚"

   So if you were in Rep. Bachus wing tips, how would you respond?

   -- Jerry Zremski

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