Don’t Look Now, but Expect Yet Another GM Bail Out
In a recent article for Forbes, contributor Louis Woodhill lays out a convincing argument that in a second Obama Administration, we may be on the hook for yet another auto industry bail out. The numbers do not look good for GM specifically right now and the executive rearranging of the chairs only points to some distress within that company. I will not get into the details of that article but some highlights are worth mentioning.
The government currently owns some 500 million shares of GM stock, or about 26% of the company. In order to break even on that “investment,” stock would have to sell at $53 a share. Today, it is worth a little over $20 a share. This represents a $16.4 billion LOSS for the government if they were to sell now. In November 2010, GM “went public” by offering stock at $33 a share. Given its current selling price, since going public, GM stock has lost 39% of its value. However, the Dow Jones has risen 20% overall since then so that even though the Dow Jones is doing well, GM is an obvious loser here. In fact, when that rise in the value of the Dow is factored in, General Motors has lost 49% of its value since November 2010.
In Obamaland, this is called “success.” Well, at least he is not quiet about running around the country touting the “success” of the auto industry bail out. In fact, he might even get rave applause from adoring UAW members in Michigan during one of his many campaign stops. And REALITY dictates two very bad choices for Obama at this point.
First, he could sell those 500 million shares now, hope there is a buyer(s) and take a $16.4 billion loss. Unfortunately, the federal government cannot write off those losses on its “taxes.” The best Obama can do is say, “Ooops…we goofed. We made a bad investment with your tax money.” Then he has to hope that voters will understand and grant him a pass. Most likely, George W. Bush will be blamed for this situation at some point and David Alexrod and the cadre of Democratic talking heads will have to explain that it was the best solution at the time and that they saved untold jobs along the way. In other words, selling now at a deflated price would be politically embarrassing and give Mitt Romney an “I told you so; the government cannot pick winners and losers” narrative and line of attack.
His other option is to roll the dice and hold onto the stock and “hope” the price increases to either break even, or more likely, mitigate the anticipated losses. That would translate into some figure less than $16.4 billion. The trajectory of the stock is not, however, on the upswing. This would then mean, in order to avoid political embarrassment, that he let the stock drop to near nothing and then seek another bail out. Now, General Motors will not hit rock bottom before November, but it would behoove Romney to keep an eye on this stock and have a counter, given the closing price each week, to illustrate how much the government is losing with General Motors.
It would also be increasingly difficult for Obama to get another bailout given the unmitigated failure of this one and the fact he will likely be dealing with a Republican House and Senate IF he wins a second term. Given that political reality, the only option is, besides taxpayers being out money, bankruptcy for General Motors. And isn’t that the suggested solution in the first place by Romney? Throw in the fact that secured creditors were screwed in the auto bailout in favor of the unions and given palpable anti-union sentiment now, the only losers in a bankruptcy will be the UAW. That was Obama’s biggest fear and greatest motivation in the original bailout. Today’s political reality means that “this isn’t Kansas any more.” In case Obama missed the point, there is a very active Tea Party right now and that his policies and insistence on those policies have pushed any “moderate” Republicans more to the right. That is, they may have been fooled once, but it won’t happen again.
Obama’s best alleged achievement- based upon his own statements throughout the country on the never-ending campaign trail- is exposed as nothing but phony capitalism. It was a program that turned traditional capitalism on its head, dismissing secured creditors or brow-beating them into accepting the terms of the government. Of course, most of this was done as nothing more than a pay-off to organized labor, specifically the UAW. Already, stories are emerging of how the same union practices that priced American cars of lessened quality than their import counterparts out of the market are slowly sneaking back in.
Additionally, the inspector general for TARP, as recently as April of this year, noted that GM and its finance arm, GMAC (Ally Finance) still owes the federal government money it received through TARP. In fact, they owe the biggest share of the outstanding $119 billion TARP funds. The lending arm itself owes $14.5 billion. Now for the interesting part. As part of the agreement, General Motors placed $16.4 billion of TARP funds into escrow that could be tapped with permission of the Treasury Department. They granted permission to tap those funds- $6.2 billion worth- in order to make a repayment to the government. In other words, they used TARP funds to repay the government for TARP funds. Then people get upset when Rick Perry compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme? What is worse is that in Obama’s strange economic mind, GM repaid part of its TARP obligation. Meanwhile, he demonizes Wall Street banks for doing something similar and creates Frank-Dodd to deal with it. What we need is a program to get rid of this phony capitalism and fortunately we have a ready-made system. It is called an Presidential election.