General Motors is now approaching its fifth year of existence since emerging as a new entity as a result of the 2009 auto bailouts which saw taxpayers fund a bankruptcy process to the tune of $50 billion. Much has been debated about the "success" of GM since the controversial government-orchestrated restructuring. While GM management recently announced a dividend in an attempt to ensure investors of financial stability, a more telling indicator of the likelihood of future profitability may be found through an analysis of how competitive the company's vehicles are.
The internet was ablaze Tuesday evening with stories presenting a perceived positive move by General Motors' outgoing government-appointed management. All hail! "General Motors to pay first dividend since 2008," trumpeted the headlines. GM shares immediately spiked up in after-hours trading with shares rising about $1.60 or 4% on the news. Unfortunately for those duped by the proclamation, GM followed the story hours later with a profit warning. For the time being, the bad news outweighed the good with GM shares reversing course and ending the day Wednesday with a loss of over one and a half percent on a day that the market rallied.
General Motors seems to be really good at winning awards for its vehicles. The Chevy Silverado just took home the North American Truck of the Year Award at the Detroit Auto Show. The truck also was just embarrassingly recalled due to a potential fire hazard. Unfortunately for GM, the bad news outweighs the good as awards do not always result in increased sales. Just look at the award-winning Chevy Volt as an example.
As a Democratic North Carolina congressman, Melvin Watt had a hand in creating the mortgage meltdown. Now he’s the new head of an agency charged with helping to reverse the meltdown. Irony is well and alive in Washington, D.C. Yesterday former Rep. Watt (in photo) was sworn in to a five-year term as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), created in 2008 to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two companies now hold or guarantee roughly $5.5 trillion in assets. The Democratic-majority Senate had confirmed Watt on December 10 by 57-41 following a failed effort in October to block a Republican filibuster.
A recent study by fleetcarma.com unveils yet another drawback of General Motors' much-hyped Chevy Volt. It appears that the environmentally-conscientious, affluent owners of the vehicles who drive in cold weather will get about half of the electric range, on average, of those who drive in warmer climates.
While the Obama Administration is still pumping resources and taxpayer money into the implementation of Obamacare, the initial disbursement of pork included in the bill was successfully doled out almost a full two years ago. And the main recipient of taxpayer largess was, once again, the UAW.
Yesterday, I confronted outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, the speaker at a National Press Club luncheon. At a press conference beforehand, and through the first question at the conclusion of his remarks, I requested that GM repay taxpayers the $10 billion in direct GM bailout costs.
Akerson's refusal dominated much of the media coverage of the event. This was clearly not the story line that Akerson intended. In short, we happily stepped all over his message that the bailout is a success and that GM is back.
Financial bailouts have become a fact of American life. Yet the biggest bailout of all may be in an unexpected place. Welcome to the island of Puerto Rico, home of photogenic beaches, lush forests, chic nightclubs, and less happily, at least $70 billion in public debt, more than double the sum from 2004. The U.S. mainland is yoked to this debt. Well over 50 domestic municipal bond funds have at least 10 percent of their assets invested in Puerto Rico. Worse, the island economy is in a prolonged recession. Unemployment has been running at around 15 percent. A third of residents are on food stamps. And migration to our shores is accelerating. Puerto Ricans for nearly a century have been U.S. citizens.
I made these remarks today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC before the luncheon speech of outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson:
President Obama justified the auto bailout by predicting it would make money for the taxpayer. With Treasury now selling its remaining shares, the direct loss is about $10 billion. So on its most fundamental level, the auto bailout is a failure.
But that $10 billion figure dramatically understates the true cost. There were separate multibillion dollar bailouts of Ally Financial, formerly know as GMAC, and Delphi and other suppliers. There was cash for clunkers, the government guarantee of warrantees, accelerated fleet purchases, etc., etc.