First, the government is what is known as a “motivated seller.” By offering such a low stock price, the administration is essentially admitting that it has no place in running an auto company. While GM’s financial position is much better than it was when it should have gone bankrupt, the company’s finances are not great. A quick crunch of any of the numbers in the GM prospectus shows the company is not the healthy organization the politicos would have you believe. They have done a poor job running the company, even if they did save it from going under by ignoring the law and throwing billions of dollars at it. The sale prospectus even admits “our (that is, the government’s) disclosure controls and procedures and our internal control over financial reporting are currently not effective.” Hardly a ringing endorsement!

Second, they’re not the only ones in the game. The unusual bankruptcy settlement for GM granted a significant portion of the company to the United Auto Workers. The union is in this game too, even though it has no investment to recoup. The UAW is selling around 18 million shares, so it stands to gain about $500 million for its pension fund — at taxpayers’ expense.

Finally, just as with RailTrack, there is considerable political risk involved. If the feds could nationalize GM once, they can do it again.