Taxpayer losses tied to auto bailout rise

In campaign stops through swing and auto industry states, President Obama repeatedly has touted his $85 billion auto bailout.

"The American auto industry has come roaring back, making us number one again," he told a cheering crowd in Pueblo, Colo., last Thursday.

But all the while, General Motors' stock has been nose-diving. It has fallen 39 percent since its initial public offering in November 2010. And on Friday, the Treasury Department announced that expected losses to taxpayers from the bailout would increase more than $3.3 billion to $25.1 billion -- up from $21.7 billion last quarter.

John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute argues the stock decline reflects the liability of the federal government picking winners.

"They're making the environmentally correct cars. The government, the Obama administration wanted them to make the Chevy Volt rather than some of their better-selling products like some of the GM trucks," Berlau said.

Berlau adds that GM's buy-out and bankruptcy broke with legal precedent. "In a standard bankruptcy, the court will give priority to lenders and then to bond holders and then to stockholders," he said. "Here, the United Auto Workers got priority not only over other bond holders, they got a higher stake in the new company than other bond holders that had the same unsecured status."

In a statement to Fox News Tuesday, Treasury Department spokesman Matt Anderson defended the bailout.

"The auto industry rescue helped save more than one million jobs throughout our nation's industrial heartland and is expected to cost far less than many had feared during the height of the crisis," he said.

Berlau questions those numbers. "I think there's some real fuzzy math going on there. At the same time, (Obama) put 100,000 jobs on the chopping block by closing more than 2,000 dealers in a matter of months."

Indeed, 2,200 dealerships were shut down as a part of the bailout -- a point Mitt Romney, who pushed for a managed bankruptcy of the auto industry,  drove home in a recent TV ad that aired in the important swing and auto industry state of Ohio. The ad features the voice of former GM car deal Al Zarzour, interspersed with shots of an empty, locked showroom.

"I received a letter from General Motors. They were suspending my credit line. We had thirty-some employees that were out of work. My wife and I were the last ones there," Zarzour's voice-over says.

On Tuesday, GM's stock closed down at 20.20 on the NYSE.  With the government still owning 500 million shares of GM stock, it would have to sell at $53 a share to break even -- more than double Tuesday's price.

Complicating GM's future is the bleak sales picture in Europe, where GM owns the Opel and Vauxhall brands. The sovereign debt crisis, high unemployment and a lack of consumer confidence there  led to a 4.9 percent drop in GM sales in the first half of this year.