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Let me admit right up front that I'm pretty much your garden-variety liberal.

I believe that we should let women decide what to do with their own bodies, we should not get into wars with countries that didn't attack us, we should all pay our fair share of taxes (without whining about it) and we shouldn't treat people like second-class citizens even if they do have have a different skin color, religion or sexual orientation.

With all that in mind, then, let's get to the real point of this: Why, for God's sake, are we even considering bailing out the auto industry with our tax dollars?

I know what you're thinking: It's already been decided that the federal government really needed to give the corrupt and ailing banking and investment industry $700 billion - but I happen to believe that, too, was wrong.

Both cases are examples of our government rewarding people for not only making idiotic decisions, but getting filthy rich from those decisions - and we can jabber about it all day and not change that fact.

At the very worst, the automakers ought to be punished for being too dumb to make cars that people actually wanted to buy. The pencil-necked liberal in me, however, says the least we should do is let them stew in their own juices.

And yes, I understand that the repercussions for the entire country are huge. I do realize that for every actual autoworker job on the line, there's another myriad of supporting jobs - vendors and suppliers and symbiotic services.

But, you see, all the rest of us are playing by the rules. When we make dumb decisions, or fail to successfully perform in the marketplace, we have to cut our losses, or our prices, or change direction, or come up with new or better products, or eliminate people, or make any number of potentially painful adjustments.

I'm tempted at times to belly-ache about the fact that I not only don't (and probably never will) make as much money as your typical American auto worker and that I don't have the same level of health insurance or the same generous retirement benefits - but I can't because I made a choice years ago that this is what I want to do with my life.

They tried to tell us, back in journalism school, that if what we want out of life is to make a lot of money and to have an easy, comfortable future, we should get into business or real estate or even manual labor. We, of course, didn't listen. We made our choice.

On the positive side, though, you don't meet a lot of newspaper reporters who hate their jobs or who dread going to work every day. What I do is fun, interesting, challenging, even stimulating.

It's not unlike the experience of others who follow their hearts instead of the almighty dollar - teachers, say, or health-care workers, clergy members, musicians or librarians. Most of us who choose a career path because of something other than money don't spend a lot of time regretting that choice, and we certainly don't expect the rest of society to come along later and fix our decision-making after the fact.

There was an interesting twist on all of this earlier this week, though. On Monday we learned that the Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and various other media holdings (and even the Chicago Cubs), was filing for bankruptcy.

If real estate mogul Sam Zell, who took on $13 billion in debt after the Tribune Co. went public a year ago, should ever appear before Congress to ask for a handout, the answer to him should be the same: No.

Those of us down here in the trenches - you know, the ones just plugging along, minding our own business and paying our bills - can't take any more of this. And let's be clear, it's us non-rich people they're asking to save their sorry butts.

We should be telling these wealthy boobs with the long-winded sob stories the same thing we'd tell the panhandlers outside the downtown Macy's store if we weren't so danged polite:

'Get a job.'

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.

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