How much are you willing to pay for your neighbor’s new car?
GMAC, the financing arm of the mismanaged companies General Motors [GM] and Chrysler, are back after your wallet – for round three.
The auto industry has already received almost $80 billion from the U.S. Government -- a taxpayer subsidy of over $10,000 for each vehicle, or a gift of $800 from you, every taxpaying family, to your neighbor. And now, GMAC is rattling its tin cup again for another handout of up to $5.8 billion more.
And it looks as if the government is about to give it to them.
According to the Government Accountability Office, you, the taxpayer, are now an owner of General Motors, Chrysler and GMAC -- 61% of GM, 10% of Chrysler, and 35% of GMAC -- along with Canada and a few other, uh, investors, who own the rest.
GMAC not only provides home loans, refinancing, new home financing, insurance, GMAC mortgages, and taxpayer-assisted financing to GM and Chrysler to help them with dealerships and customers; it also operates a recently renamed, rebranded, taxpayer-assisted bank. “GMAC is now Ally Bank,” it states: “High Rates on FDIC, No Penalty CDs. Open a CD & Maximize Your Earnings!”
With this government subsidy from the Federal Deposit Insurance Plan [FDIC] (read: you), GMAC directly competes with private banks that do not have access to government guarantees and funding.
But if GMAC is not even a manufacturing company, you as its shareholder might ask, does it need yet another multi-billion-dollar bailout?
GMAC, it seems, would like to attract customers to transfer their accounts over to Ally from unsubsidized private banks, by offering better terms and interest rates – using your money in the process.
This, of course, stacks the deck in competing for customers and financing against private banks and other car companies that do not have the benefit of government subsidies or guarantees -- even though GMAC made terrible loans, and the private companies may have done everything right.
But perhaps, as a co-owner exercising your fiduciary responsibility, you might ask, Can’t we all get a nice return on our investment?
Not so fast. Although General Motors Co. just announced that it plans to begin paying back the $6.7 billion in loans that it owes the government, it plans to use other taxpayer money to do so. According to John D. Stoll of the Wall Street Journal, GM still has in an escrow account $13.4 billion, or more than twice what it needs to repay its loan that comes from – you guessed it – the last US bailout.
Further, according to a recent GAO report, $6.4 billion of the loans you made to the now bankrupt GM and Chrysler are not even legal obligations anymore, and “whether the reorganized Chrysler and GM will achieve long-term financial viability remains unclear.” Also, “Treasury’s own analysis that the circumstances necessary for the companies…to fully recover its equity investment are unlikely.”
In short, given how fragile our “investment” is, for the vehicles sold through the beginning of 2011, the taxpayer subsidy would amount to over $10,700 for each vehicle sold, as the National Taxpayers Union calculates.
Worse, in the case of GMAC, should defaults occur, you would be hit twice: once as a GMAC shareholder, and once again as a guarantor of GMAC debt.
When funds are squandered on sinkhole companies that slowly die, just to keep them from dying quickly, this not only diverts capital from being invested in companies with solid balance sheets, innovation and merit; it undermines confidence in the marketplace. Badly run companies are rewarded, well-run companies are punished; and management is encouraged to adopt ruinous business practices, as there is neither cost nor consequence for incompetence.
Finally, transparency, which is absent today, should be as available in the public sector as in the private sector: If you are a part owner of a company (or a healthcare plan), you should be able to see what is in it -- like any other shareholder. Thus, GM, GMAC, Chrysler, and other once-private, now bailed-out, companies should announce their quarterly results and make other filings and declarations, just as they did before they plunged into the taxpayers’ trough.