Americans sunk tens of billions of dollars into General Motors in 2008 and 2009, money which they won’t see any time soon, if at all. The Obama administration strongarmed senior creditors in an unprecedented politically-engineered bankruptcy to get taxpayers to eat the costs of old pension obligations and boost the UAW. All of this was done in the name of making GM a stronger company so that they could eventually pay back the bailout and make better decisions in the future.
So how did that work out? About as well as you’d imagine. As soon as GM had some cash, it decided to invest it — in another car company whose bonds had achieved le junk status:
Attention U.S. taxpayers: You now own a piece of a French car company that is drowning in red ink.
That’s right. In a move little noticed outside of the business pages, General Motors last week bought more than $400 million in shares of PSA Peugeot Citroen – a 7 percent stake in the company. …
Peugeot can undoubtedly use the cash. Last year, Peugeot’s auto making division lost $123 million. And on March 1 – just a day after the deal with GM was announced – Moody’s downgraded Peugeot’s credit rating to junk status with a negative outlook, citing “severe deterioration” of its finances.
In other words, General Motors essentially just dumped more than $400 million of taxpayer assets on junk bonds.
Oh, goody! Just what we US taxpayers need — another car company “drowning in red ink.” But there is some sort of secret synergy that the taxpayers who currently float GM must be missing … right? Right?
An analysis by auto industry consultants IHS said it is “somewhat baffling that GM is willing to get involved in an alliance that it frankly does not need for size or complexity, while still avoiding any public plan to rationalise its European production, cut costs, or deal with labour rates.”
So let’s get this straight. As soon as GM got freed up a little from its own irrational production costs and could deal a little more effectively with its own labor rates, it took cash that it still owes taxpayers and sunk it into a car company whose problems in the exact same areas are as bad or worse as GM’s was before the bailout. What a great investment! Why, that sounds amazingly like the kind of investment expertise that cost taxpayers $535 million in Solyndra.
ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes that while GM bought a big stake in Peugeot, the Peugeot family had an opportunity to buy a stake in GM. They passed on that “opportunity,” which just proves that the Peugeot family is smarter than GM.
This is what government bailouts buy. Instead of clearing the decks at GM and freeing their assets through normal bankruptcy so that more competent hands could put them to better use, the government intervention maintained the same status quo and funded it with taxpayer assets. It’s no great surprise, therefore, that the leadership at GM would toss away money owed to taxpayers to buy a stake in another failing enterprise.