November 19, 2010
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This week, GM launched an IPO, moving forward in a turnaround that many thought unlikely a few years ago. Just a couple of years ago, GM was losing a ton of money, closing dealerships, and about to go into serious bankruptcy. Bush 43 began the bailout process with over $17 billion in loans. Obama and Co continued the bailout, but with a caveat that many still consider controversial to say the least: the United Auto Workers came out with a larger stake in GM than the shareholders and bondholders, even though the amount GM owed the union was less than that owed to the shareholders. Many feel that letting GM go into bankruptcy and emerge leaner and profitable would’ve been better and allowed the pain to be shared more equally. Many also felt that allowing the unions to end up with a larger share that seemed out of proportion was an obvious example of the Dems giving special treatment to their union supporters.
Sidenote: many of the left leaning sources that are celebrating the IPO are saying the company would’ve died without the bailout. This isn’t necessarily true. A large number of companies that go into bankruptcy eventually come out.
So my good friend Ocie asked me this morning: “GM IPO, we’re making American cars, people are employed, was the $50B bailout of GM worth it?” My immediate answer to him was that it would be worth it once the US breaks even on its investment at least (the US Treasury owns a 33-35% stake in GM, that it took instead of money payback). Having thought more about it, I would say that it has its positives and negatives. I agree jobs were saved, but there is no guarantee jobs would not have been saved via bankruptcy. I will say that bankruptcy may have had more of a negative impact “down the line,” as in the vendors that do business with GM. But it can’t be denied that politics played a part in the end result–the union ended up with a larger stake than stock and bond holders. And it will be years before the US is fully divested and paid back on their “investment.”
So let’s declare that it was worth it, but should’ve been done differently.