U.S. Treasury Sells Its GM Shares at a Loss, Claims Taxpayer Victory

By:  Bob Adelmann
U.S. Treasury Sells Its GM Shares at a Loss, Claims Taxpayer Victory

The bailout of General Motors served many purposes, but it most decidedly was no victory for American citizens or taxpayers, despite claims by the president and those in his administration.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced on Monday afternoon that his department had sold the remaining shares of GM that it acquired following the forced bankruptcy of the auto giant in 2009, and made the $10.5 billion loss sound like it was a victory:

The President’s leadership in responding to the financial crisis helped stabilize the auto industry and prevent another Great Depression. With the final sale of GM stock, this important chapter in our nation’s history is now closed.

The President understood that inaction could have cost the broader economy more than one million jobs, billions in lost personal savings, and significantly reduced economic production.

As a result of his efforts, which built on those of the previous [Bush] administration, more than 370,000 new auto jobs have been created, and all three U.S. automakers are profitable, competitive and growing.

The president was only too happy to accept the applause and the responsibility for single-handedly returning the entire auto industry to profitability. He said:

I refused to walk away from American workers and an iconic American industry. But in exchange for rescuing and retooling GM and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars, we demanded responsibility and results.

In 2011 we marked the end of an important chapter as Chrysler repaid every dime and more of what it owed the American taxpayers from the investment we made under my administration’s watch. Today we’re closing the book by selling the remaining shares of the federal government’s investment in General Motors.

History records things differently. First of all, the president initially refused to bail out GM in March 2009 but relented only when the company reported that it was weeks away from running out of cash and would be forced to shut down operations. Second, the president had little to do with any retooling that GM did, with the exception of unilaterally firing GM Chairman Rick Waggoner on March 29.

Third, GM was in desperate financial shape long before the start of the Great Recession, having rung up huge losses of $10.6 billion in 2005 and another $38.7 billion in 2007.

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