Step 1: Really, really screw up your industry beyond all hope of repair, while paying yourself a nice salary to do so
Step 2: Claim to the world that your industry is unique and different, and failure of your company and/or industry will cause a chain reaction that will bring down the whole economy and cost the country many multiples of the bailout price tag
Advocates for the nation's automakers are warning that the collapse of the Big Three - or even just General Motors - could set off a catastrophic chain reaction in the economy, eliminating up to 3 million jobs and depriving governments of more than $150 billion in tax revenue.
Step 2 is obviously pulled off easier if either a) representatives from your industry run the Treasury department or b) the new President owes your unions big time for his recent victory in a critical state. For those of you just trying to keep you small business afloat, don't try this at home. No bailout will ever be forthcoming if you don't have the power to move electoral votes, but you should expect to pay for other people's bailouts.
Postscript: This is funny:
Automakers say bankruptcy protection is not an option because people would be reluctant to make long-term car and truck purchases from companies that might not last the life of their vehicles.
I think if people still buy tickets on airlines that are operating out of chapter 11 (an item that has zero value if the company folds) then people will still buy cars. This is so totally lame it is tremendously irritating.