Maybe three’s the charm? After two bailouts and a politicized bankruptcy that ended up being a big payoff to the United Auto Workers, the credit arm of General Motors wants even more taxpayer money. Why? Because, silly geese, GMAC is just too big to fail:
It might seem like a lot of cash for one supersize clunker, a good-money-after-bad attempt to jump-start a broken-down giant of Detroit.
But as the Obama administration contemplates a third rescue of GMAC, the onetime finance arm of General Motors, federal officials, automotive executives and analysts all say the company is — just like the biggest Wall Street firms — too big to fail.
Despite two taxpayer-financed bailouts, GMAC is still struggling, even as its two biggest customers, General Motors and Chrysler, have put bankruptcy behind them.
While the collapse of GMAC probably would not send shock waves through the financial system the way the failure of a giant bank would, it would nonetheless deal a devastating blow to the auto industry, its suppliers and employees.
How much more does GM want to rescue its loan business? Another $5.6 billion, on top of the $12.5 billion it has already sucked out of the Treasury in its other welfare checks. GM apparently wants to sell the government even more of its business in exchange for the cash. At the moment, the government holds 35% of GM; after this “sale”, it would own a majority stake in the automaker.
At least there’s one piece of good news — the UAW won’t need Card Check after all. If the federal government owns a majority stake, then every negotiation will be federally arbitrated, right?
Why would the government even consider a third bailout for GM? In part, the thinking is that they have to rescue the funds already committed:
Why rescue GMAC again? The federal government has committed more than $60 billion to prop up G.M. and Chrysler, and letting GMAC fail, the thinking goes, would threaten a recovery in the broader car industry.
“We are in too deep for us to sensibly back out now,” said Douglas Elliott, a former investment banker who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “We will probably lose less money by putting in more now.”
This is the kind of thinking most often seen at craps tables and bookie joints. Betting on the Tennessee Titans will eventually pay off, and besides, bettors have gotten in too deep to stop now. The Titans have to win sometime, don’t they? The only real difference is that one gets better odds on craps, and for that matter, even the Tennessee Titans.
The best policy would be to let GM fail, which is what the government should have done in the bankruptcy. Instead, it put a wet-behind-the-ears campaign worker in charge of interfering with senior creditor rights to hand the UAW a sweetheart deal. Now we’re just throwing nonexistent money after crushing debt, all in the service of a company that hasn’t performed well in years. This is what happens when government puts its money on bad teams in a sport they have no business playing in the first place.