GM: Still $42B in the Hole

Taxpayers on the hook for billions despite Obama’s claims to the contrary

July 26, 2012

Despite President Barack Obama’s stories about a resurgent GM ready to repay its bailout tab, the automaker and its former bank still owe taxpayers nearly $42 billion, according to an inspector general’s report.

GM owes $27 billion on the nearly $50 billion it received from the auto bailout and Ally Bank, the company’s lending arm, owes $14.7 billion of the $17.2 billion taxpayer-funded bailout it received.

Obama has promoted the auto bailout as a success story, highlighting the manufacturing jobs it may have saved in swing states such as Ohio and Michigan.

"I refused to turn my back on a great industry and American workers. I bet on American workers. I bet on American manufacturing," he said at a campaign rally in Oakland. "Three years later, the American auto industry has come roaring back."

GM’s stock has plummeted in recent months after stagnant development in overseas markets. It hit a new low on Wednesday, falling to $18.80, a 52 percent drop from its January 2011 high of $38.90.

The rapid decline of the stock price has kept taxpayers on the hook for billions in unpaid bailout dollars. The stock would need to make a quick—and meteoric—turnaround for taxpayers to break even.

"In order to recoup its total investment in GM, Treasury will need to recover an additional $27 billion in proceeds. This translates to an average of $53.98 per share on its remaining common shares in New GM," the IG report concluded.

The federal government has maintained a 32 percent ownership interest in GM, despite promises to sell off its shares after the November 2010 IPO. The administration has also maintained a controlling interest in Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC.

The administration lost $2.9 billion on the Chrysler bailout, a black eye to Obama’s initial promise that all taxpayer dollars would be recovered. Selling shares in GM and Ally would lead to a multi-billion dollar loss for taxpayers and could damage the Obama campaign’s claim in a March campaign video that the ailing automaker had repaid its loans.

"Because of the tough choices the president made, the stage was set for a resurgent U.S. auto industry," Tom Hanks said, narrating the 17-minute campaign video titled The Road We’ve Traveled. "With business booming, (GM and Chrysler) repaid their loans."

Financial experts see the election-year creeping into the decision to hold on to the falling stock.

"Geithner and the rest of Treasury doesn’t want to admit that it is a mess and they’ve been lying to us for three years," Christopher Whalen, cofounder of Institutional Risk Analytics, told the Washington Free Beacon in April. "They’re waiting until after the election."