Paying the GM bailout toll
Still wondering where to find a creative Christmas gift that will keep on giving?
Well, there has been a lot of General Motors stock changing hands over the last week.
GM’s stock price rose roughly 8 percent in just three days, closing at $27.33 a share Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.
That’s because, in large part, the company has begun buying back 200 million shares from the U.S. Treasury.
That’s only the first stage of the corporation’s massive purchase of stock that the federal government bought — at premium prices — nearly four years ago.
The Treasury aims to unload 40 percent of its GM stock within weeks, and the rest within the next 15 months.
So how did taxpayers make out on that deal?
From The Wall Street Journal: “The Obama administration had been reluctant to sell its GM shares before the November election, in part because of the auto maker’s sagging stock price. It needed the stock to hit $52.39 a share to break even. Now it must sell its remaining shares at $69.72 to break even.”
As part of GM’s buy-back deal, the administration has already waived some restrictions on the company — including the use of private aircraft to transport its executives.
That’s additional evidence of the benefits of having friends in high places — including Washington.
Estimates of the taxpayers’ final loss from the $50 billion federal bailout of GM now range up to $15 billion.
More from the Journal: “The potential loss on the GM bailout is likely to dwarf the estimated $1.3 billion loss the government took on the bankruptcy rescue of Chrysler Group and the transfer to Fiat control. The government has said it wants to balance its desire to get out of the auto business with the desire to recover money for taxpayers.”
Too bad so many politicians still can’t balance their desire to spend money we don’t have with many Americans’ desire to slow the alarming rise of the national debt.
At least GM seems to be back on its feet for now — though the same outcome might have been achieved if it had gone the bankruptcy rather than the bailout route.
Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs told USA Today: “There’s no doubt that General Motors is in a better position now than it was four or five years ago, and that’s all thanks to the government bailout with taxpayer money.”
But Ms. Krebs ominously added: “Still, even with GM buying back its shares, it will be years before we can fully assess the success of the auto bailout. The key is to watch and see if the company falls back into old bad habits.”
Meanwhile, Washington shouldn’t fall into the habit of granting massive bailouts to failing companies — in or out of the auto industry.
And if you’re still in the market — stock or otherwise — for a Christmas gift, maybe you should steer away from anything likely to require a high-priced fix.