The federal government is giving another $30 billion in taxpayer money to General Motors to allow it to operate without having to cut excessive union wages. The Obama Administration is “gambling” on its ability to turn around the company under government control.
The Obama Administration has said it will now interfere not just with the “selection of the company’s board of directors,” but also in “fundamental corporate decisions,” and “major corporate events and transactions.” For example, Obama recently pressured GM to keep its headquarters in crime-ridden, economically-collapsing Detroit.
The $30 billion is excessive even if the Administration’s wildest hopes come true. Even if federal money were the only way to keep GM afloat (which it isn’t — GM could be made competitive simply by cutting its excessively high employee wages to lower levels that still exceed average American wages), and even if the bailout saved not only GM jobs but also the jobs of “related suppliers and dealers,” “the price of the U.S. government bailout comes to about $125,000 per employee, including those working for related suppliers and dealers,” according to the Washington Post.
If GM had rejected a federal bailout and takeover, and simply filed for bankruptcy in December, it would be recovering on its own right now, since it could have used bankruptcy proceedings to tear up the collective bargaining agreements with the United Auto Workers that saddle it with excessive wage and benefits and rigid work rules, and it would also be benefiting from the recent collapse of oil prices. It was record-high gas prices that forced consumers to buy smaller cars last year, battering GM’s finances, which were based around selling big cars. But gas prices have fallen from over $4 a gallon last year to $2.50 now. So the bailout is saving no jobs, it’s just allowing GM to keep union wages high at taxpayer expense, while keeping it from becoming competitive in the long run. (The recent drop in gas prices will also mask the effects of incompetent management of GM by the Obama Administration. On the other hand, the Administration’s CAFE and global warming regulations, which GM opposed before it was taken over by the Administration, will destroy tens of thousands of autoworker jobs).
The bailout is neither necessary nor likely to be successful in the long run. In its failed auto bailout in the 1970s, Britain did the same things that Obama is doing, like propping up high union wages and promoting the production of little “green” cars consumers may not want. Its bailout failed miserably, destroying the British auto industry’s chance of survival.
“‘Countries . . . protect ailing auto companies on the theory that they need to protect jobs,’ said Maryann N. Keller, an independent auto analyst. ‘But it’s not clear that protecting companies leads to the revival of those companies.’ As for the jobs, Keller said ‘a lot of that is bunk’ because Americans would buy the same number of cars no matter who the maker is. ‘Somebody would still make the parts,’ she said. ‘They would just be made for a different customer.'”
Why is the Obama Administration doing something so wasteful? Politics. The UAW is one of the biggest sources of money and manpower for the Democratic Party and Obama, and the UAW is now calling the shots. (The UAW spent millions electing Obama).
While taxpayers have spent tens of billions of dollars bailing out the Detroit automakers, the UAW has made little in the way of sacrifices, refusing to accept cuts in pay that could keep the automakers able to compete with lower-cost competitors. As even the liberal Washington Post lamented, “the union can boast that it has been promised no loss in ‘base hourly pay, no reduction in . . . health care, and no reduction in pensions,'” even though excessive union wages and benefits helped sink the company. Meanwhile, the government has ripped off pension funds and bondholders who loaned the car companies money.
The bailouts aren’t the only outrageous waste of taxpayer money taking place right now. Even bigger is the wasteful $800 billion stimulus package, which is harming the economy, both by triggering foolish trade wars that have backfired and cost at least 40,000 jobs, and by driving up interest rates for businesses that need to borrow money to expand or create jobs. (The government is keeping down interest rates on its own debt by printing vast sums of money to buy its own bonds, in order to finance the exploding national debt, which will result in massively higher taxes).