Through today, GMAC has received government bailout funds totaling $12.5 billion. The company is asking the Obama administration for $5.6 billion more. One might say that in a true democracy, GMAC would need to ask permission from each taxpayer whose funds would go towards shoring up the company’s balance sheet, a move that would make GMAC appear more stable on paper. But we have a representative democracy, where Congress makes decisions that occasionally reflect the will of the members’ constituents.
GMAC might receive their third bailout. Industry analysts agree that the failure of GMAC would have a devastating ripple effect throughout the rest of the economy. If GMAC fails, so would the companies who depend on GMAC to offer loans to customers, General Motors and Chrysler. The failure of these companies in turn would result in the failures of suppliers and dealers. The government has already pumped so much taxpayer money into these companies that their failure would signal a broader failure of the entire bailout process. Also, GMAC’s total bailout is still less than the financial injections Citigroup and Bank of America have received.
In personal finance, an additional bailout for a failing company would be similar to throwing good money after bad. For example, if one makes a poor purchasing decision while buying a car, costly repairs might be necessary. Rather than cutting the losses and getting rid of the car, one might continue putting money into the black hole, and after time, the money that you spent on the purchase and repairs could have purchased a nicer car that ran without problems.
There is no guarantee that another bailout will save GMAC in the long run.
GMAC is the parent company of Ally Bank, formerly known as GMAC Bank, an online bank that has drawn in more customers with a savvy advertising campaign and high interest rates. The American Bankers Association forced the FDIC to request Ally Bank to lower its rates because other banks couldn’t compete with Ally’s new strength acquired with the help of taxpayers.
If GMAC were to fail, Ally Bank depositors should be safe as long as they have stayed within FDIC’s coverage limits.
I think it may be time to start allowing companies like GMAC, those who require funding from taxpayers to improve their balance sheets and who have little prospect for paying taxpayers back, to fail. There are signs the economy is recovering. Maybe it is time to let the market and capitalism work itself out. Those companies who remained conservative will survive and those who chased bad loans and complex derivatives without sufficiently considering risk will step aside.
Do you think GMAC should receive another bailout?
Updated June 16, 2011 and originally published October 29, 2009.