The government's Auto Task Force was given the difficult task of saving General Motors and Chrysler at a time when the credit markets were frozen and the economy was in chaos. The team ultimately got the job done by ushering the two iconic companies through extraordinarily short bankruptcies.
Former car czar Steven Rattner headed the Task Force through those tough times, and though he characterizes the bailouts as a success, he feels the United Auto Workers could have given more. The Detroit News reports that Rattner told the Detroit Economic Club that the Task Force should have insisted on UAW wage cuts. Rattner added that the wages of UAW workers is still higher than that of the foreign competition.
Rattner also pointed out that bondholders weren't asked to sacrifice enough, adding that a traditional bankruptcy would have meant that those investors would have likely lost everything.
In total, the U.S. government spent $82 billion in taxpayer money to bailout GM and Chrysler. That's a whole heap of coin, and the U.S. government estimates that it will lose $14 billion when all of its GM shares are sold. Even so, Rattner estimates that the bailout saved "millions" of manufacturing jobs.