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Why should banks and insurers get all the free money?

Cerberus paid $7.4 billion to acquire most of Chrysler. Let's consider that a bridge loan, not unlike the

$85 billion


(AIG) - Get American International Group Inc. Report

received in September.

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Why can't the U.S. government step in and help the automakers this time -- with a tidy profit for Cerberus, of course?

We're only talking about a small percentage of the $700 billion bank bailout money. Somewhere between $20 billion and $25 billion should be enoughto cover the $12 billion

General Motors

(GM) - Get General Motors Company Report

wants to finance a merger with Chrysler, plus a little something for

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(F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report

to keep it fair and a few billion to help the unions get over their objections to all the job cuts that will be coming.

But the

Treasury Department

doesn't seem inclined to include the carmakers in the banking bailout.

No matter. There's talk of providing relief through the

Energy Department

. To get that money, the companies may need to give some lip service to producing more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Some free-market capitalists may object to the government telling automakers what kinds of cars to make. But let's face it: GM, Ford and Chrysler haven't been doing such a hot job of deciding that themselves, anyway.

So let's just cut some checks already. The way things are going, U.S. automakers won't be making


cars if they don't get help.