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How GM Proves the Tea Party Wrong

Stocks in this article: GM

GM/Tea Party story updated with more information on the government's shares.

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- What could have happened is that today, General Motors would be in the 15th month of its bankruptcy, no end in sight, with consumers shying away from its products and tens of thousands of automobile industry workers either laid off or despairing for their futures.

Instead we have an IPO that is the talk of Wall Street, loans being repaid with stock sale proceeds, an auto company that makes money at the bottom of a cycle and new products that are widely applauded.

GM

So it's a simple call. The Tea Party and its predecessors, who eschewed federal loans to GM, simply got it wrong, failing to perceive that a "bailout" can just as easily be called an "investment."

What we have is not perfect, but it's far better than what might have been.

It's not hard to find critics, though. One is Texas governor Rick Perry, elected this month to a third term, who said in a recent interview with Newsweek that the Troubled Asset Relief Program, used to fund GM, was a mistake.

"I think you allow the market to work its way through it," Perry said. "The idea that we own an automobile company today is staggering in its proportions." When his interviewer suggested that TARP saved jobs and the banking system, Perry responded: "I don't necessarily buy into the premise that somehow or another, those measures saved jobs."

His predecessor, the one who actually had to make a decision on this question, saw it differently. In his new book "Decision Points," former President George Bush writes that he decided to save GM and Chrysler because he "had to safeguard American workers and families," according to The Detroit News.

Bush said he wanted to avoid the massive economic impact of a collapse of the auto industry and did not want to saddle President-elect Barack Obama with a "mess," the newspaper reported.

In December 2008, Bush agreed to a $17.4 billion bailout for the two companies using TARP.

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