Call me a cockeyed optimist, but as bad as things look right now, some long-term good might come out of the Delphi bankruptcy.
The bankruptcy will be painful for many workers and retirees who will lose much of their income and benefits, or their jobs. It will hurt the communities where Delphi employees live and spend their disposable income.
It also could trigger a chain reaction, making this the big U.S. industry meltdown that many have predicted for two decades.
After it happened, some wags wondered why Delphi didn't wait another week to try to reach a negotiated settlement with General Motors and the UAW, since Delphi's objective was to file before the Bankruptcy Code changes on Oct. 17.
It must have been to give Delphi's own suppliers time to file for Chapter 11 protection before Oct. 17. Many will have no choice when payments from Delphi dry up.
Will this be a moment in a Rube Goldberg-like cavalcade of events that leads to a GM bankruptcy? I don't think so, but I'm not as dead certain today as I was a month ago. The world has changed a lot since then.
The point is that Delphi isn't alone in dealing with the high labor and health care costs that drove it to bankruptcy.
Now is the perfect time for the entire industry to re-engineer itself.
Two months ago at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., Toyota's North American sales honcho Jim Press called for a summit of U.S. auto leaders to formulate the industry's approach to environmental issues.
Such a meeting would be a good place to start hashing out economic issues, too, as long as no one steps over the antitrust line.
But change cannot solely come from within the industry.
The Delphi bankruptcy will be a big economic shock to every community in North America where the company has a factory or a supplier. Consider what a GM bankruptcy might do to the U.S. economy.
The shock waves would most certainly reverberate across the manufacturing sector.
Even a laissez-faire White House might not be willing to absorb such a shock. Could senators and congressmen survive such a blow to their states and districts if they did nothing?
Automakers and suppliers shouldn't count on Washington to bail them out the way it bailed out Chrysler Corp. with loan guarantees a quarter of a century ago.
But this is an auspicious time for Washington to rethink society's concept of retirement and economic security, which means tackling pension reform right along with Social Security reform.
This means, of course, that lawmakers would have to suddenly consider what is best for the country rather than what is politically advantageous.
Sadly, it often takes a crisis or a national tragedy to get our elected officials to pull together for the common good.
In the aftermath of the Delphi bankruptcy filing, it's clear the economic crisis is real and could become a national tragedy. Now is the time for the best minds to set aside partisanship and recast the future.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at