“Nothing,” said a General Motors spokesman last week, “has changed relative to the GM board’s support for the GM management team during this historically difficult economic period for the U.S. auto industry.” Nothing? Not even the evaporation of almost all shareholder value?
By George F. Will
The Washington Post
GM’s statement comes as the mendicant company is threatening to collapse and make a mess unless Washington, which has already voted $25 billion for GM, Ford and Chrysler, provides up to $50 billion more — the last subsidy until the next one. The statement uses the 11 words after “team” to suggest that the company’s parlous condition has been caused by events since mid-September. That is as ludicrous as the mantra that GM is “too big to fail.” It has failed; the question is what to do about that.
The answer? Do nothing that will delay bankrupt companies from filing for bankruptcy protection….
Read the rest:
The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 18, 2008; Page A27
The Big Three U.S. automakers need more than an injection of $25 billion from the federal government. Because of their ongoing losses, they would burn through that money in less than a year and would soon be back for more.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler can make excellent cars, but they cannot sell them at prices that are competitive with the prices of cars produced in the United States by Toyota and others or with the prices of cars imported from Europe and Asia. The basic reason is the labor costs imposed by union contracts.
The Big Three pay much higher wages than production workers are paid in the nonunion auto firms and in the general economy. And the health-care costs of current workers and retired union members are an enormous additional burden.
The simplest solution is to allow GM and the others to file for bankruptcy. If the companies file under Chapter 11, they would be able to continue producing cars, and the workforce would remain employed while the firms reorganized. The firms would also be able to get short-term credit under bankruptcy protection.
The bankruptcy court could require the unions to rewrite contracts, bringing wages down to levels that would allow the firms to compete and therefore to maintain employment. Scaling back employee and retiree health benefits would further improve price competitiveness and allow better cash wages. The firms’ bondholders and other creditors would have to take losses. Shareholders’ fate would depend on how firms responded to this restructuring.