From Detroit’s perspective, the 2008 presidential election is a referendum on the efficacy of government support for the auto industry, financed by the American taxpayer. Except for the historic rescue of Chrysler Corp. almost 30 years ago and its famous repayment of its government-guaranteed loans seven years early, U.S. auto makers have not sought handouts. But in times of crisis, the U.S. government has shown a willingness to shore up companies vital to the economy, as evidenced by ...

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