From The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel — Originally published Wednesday, April 1

President Barack Obama gave taxpayers a break this week when he tightened the screws on General Motors and Chrysler. He also did the companies a favor, even if their executives and his critics didn't appreciate his tough love.

Last December, the Bush administration put taxpayers on the hook for $17.4 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler and directed both to come back by the end of March with turnaround plans. Mr. Obama has rejected those plans, forced out GM CEO Rick Wagoner and set short deadlines for the two companies to come up with more viable plans to qualify for any more public dollars. ...

Mr. Obama has avoided — for now, at least — the trap of sinking more and more taxpayer money into GM and Chrysler without demanding changes that will give them a better chance to keep up with their foreign-based competitors. ...

Normally, we wouldn't be comfortable with the idea of the president forcing out the CEO of a private company. But when taxpayer money is on the line, things change. ...

Insisting on new leadership at GM helps protect taxpayers' $13.4 billion loan to that company, and any more financing that might follow. ...

We accept the government's bailout of GM and Chrysler with reservations. We are particularly wary of the Obama administration getting too deep into the details of running the two companies. ...

Between them, however, GM and Chrysler employ hundreds of thousands of workers in factories and dealerships. They support hundreds of thousands more jobs in related industries. The two automakers also provide benefits for hundreds of thousands of retirees. Their collapse would be a body blow to an already staggering U.S. economy.

It's essential for the Obama administration to enforce the conditions it has set for the car companies to make sure taxpayers aren't run over.

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