The way I see it, taxpayers are going to be helping U.S. carmakers one way or another.

If Congress doesn't come out with an official bailout, then General Motors ( GM), Ford ( F) and Chrysler will likely seek a back-door bailout by declaring bankruptcy and dumping their burdensome employee retirement obligations on the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

OK, the PBGC isn't directly supported by taxes and isn't officially backed by the U.S. government -- but that's what they said about Fannie Mae ( FNM) and Freddie Mac ( FRE), right?

The PBGC is already burdened with a nearly $11 billion deficit for fiscal 2008 after taking over pension plans dumped in recent years by U.S. airlines, including UAL ( UAUA), US Airways ( LCC) and Delta ( DAL).

If the carmakers don't get help from Congress, you can be sure they'll follow the example of the airlines.

Where it gets really interesting for lawmakers is deciding whether foreign carmakers should get help, too. These days, Toyota ( TM), Honda ( HMC), Daimler's ( DAI) Mercedes and BMW have almost as many factories and employees in the U.S. as the so-called Big Three.

So maybe the best solution is to offer a car loan deduction to U.S. taxpayers along the lines of the mortgage deduction. Even crappy cars may move off the lots if they become more affordable.

After that, let's ditch the gas tax so we can afford to fill up the tanks of our big, shiny, new American gas guzzlers.

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