News coverage of General Motors over the past few weeks has painted an increasingly glowing picture, but here's a dose of reality: GM still has not repaid taxpayers for the bailout and it's looking less and less like taxpayers will ever be made whole.
General Motors' stock hit an all-time low today of $31 and change. That's right, "all-time." Today's GM is a new company that did not exist two years ago. In an effort to shed liabilities and force sacrifices from creditors while protecting the UAW, GM emerged from bankruptcy as a totally new company. The media inaccurately reported that GM had its best earnings since 1999, but it has not given a clear picture of the situation at GM. Biased media coverage is a story in itself, but let's look at why GM has not done as well as the pundits predicted, and why it is likely to continue to struggle.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is supposed to be an objective finder of fact for the U.S. Congress. Last year it weighed in on the controversy over aid to students attending for-profit colleges with a critical study which appeared to cast aspersions on the practices of some 15 for-profit colleges. The study was ballyhooed by the Obama Department of Education that supported a double standard of regulations: one for taxpayer-supported community colleges and a much tougher one for the for-profit schools.
BP Plc, whose Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history last year, co-owns the well that was granted the first deepwater drilling permit since the disaster.
BP is Noble Energy Inc's partner in the well, holding a 46.5 percent interest, BP said.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appears today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He will hopefully answer questions about his refusal to allow deepwater drilling to resume in the Gulf of Mexico, despite a federal judge twice ruling that the moratorium is illegal.
The BP oil spill was a disaster, but not as big of a disaster as the moratorium that followed. The granting of exactly one drilling permit to Noble Energy this week underscores just how cynical and politicized Salazar's response has been. Last week, Salazar said that he would not bow to "political pressure" to restart drilling, standing reality on its head.
The media may want to take a break from its rooting for General Motors, not to mention its hype surrounding the Chevy Volt. USA Today recently summarized Consumer Reports' ranking of automakers based on performance and reliability. Of the 13 automakers receiving report cards, GM and Chrysler received the worst rankings.
The number one performer according to CR was Honda, followed by Subaru. Strong reliability contributed to the high overall scores. GM was number 12 on the list with only Chrysler receiving a lower score. It should not come as a surprise that the bottom two performers were the automakers that ended up bankrupt and receiving taxpayer funded bailouts.
Under extremely unusual circumstances, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently granted a company called LightSquared the right to use wireless spectrum to build out a national 4G wireless network. LightSquared will get the spectrum for a song, while its competitors have to spend billions.
Although the technical implications of the FCC action are complicated, how it came about is not. LightSquared is owned by the Harbinger Capital hedge fund, headed by billionaire investor Phil Falcone, in photo. Falcone visited the White House and made large donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
General Motors reported less than stellar fourth quarter earnings last week, and announced that bonuses paid to its UAW workers will average $4,300. The earnings report disappointed Wall Street as GM shares fell about 4% on the news.
Some media sources attributed the drop in GM's share price to rising oil prices. Considering that oil prices went down on the day that GM shares fell, this explanation does not hold water. Rather, there are some specific issues relating to the earnings announcement that are causing concern on Wall Street.