After years of suspense, the bankruptcy that surprises nobody is finally official. One of America’s largest and proudest corporations, GM, has filed for Chapter 11 protection in what is being billed as the fourth-largest bankruptcy in American history and the largest ever for an industrial corporation. The failing auto company claims $82.29 billion in assets against almost $173 billion in debt — this, be it duly noted, after billions in federal government bailout monies were shoveled GM’s way.
In order to meet government out-of-court restructuring demands and to be eligible for more government financing, Chrysler agreed last week to a deal that gave the United Auto Workers union 55 percent ownership and a seat on the board of directors of the restructured company. The UAW stands to exercise major influence on the U.S. government during the impending bankruptcy proceedings.
The handwriting has been on the wall for Chrysler for many, many years, but it appears that the storied 84-year-old automotive corporation, almost three decades after its last government bailout under CEO Lee Iacocca, has reached the end of the line. After the swift breakdown of last-ditch negotiations yesterday, Chrysler Corporation and its creditors are in court today to begin proceedings for the first-ever bankruptcy filing by a major U.S. auto corporation. For the moment, the White House and Chrysler officials are still chirping about a well-ordered bankruptcy that would allow a leaner, retooled Chrysler to emerge from receivership in 30 days or so. But that won’t happen.
The Obama administration is still thinking bank nationalization. In the latest twist to the saga of troubled American megabanks, the New York Times reported on April 19 that administration officials are considering converting bailout loans to the 19 biggest U.S. banks into shares of common stock, allowing them to stretch further the estimated $134.5 billion remaining of the $700 billion bank bailout fund passed by Congress last October.
There's something fundamentally wrong with the world when a country known for being the very embodiment of Old World socialism — Sweden — serves up an object lesson in capitalism to the United States. Amid all the global furor surrounding government bailouts, rescue packages for corporations deemed "too large to fail," and scandalous executive bonuses shelled out with taxpayer dollars, tiny Sweden has been quietly doing the right thing where its own pivotal domestic automaker, Saab, is concerned.