Cheney opposed Bush decision to save GM

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Dick Cheney (AP photo)
Dick Cheney (AP photo)

David Shepardson, Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he opposed the decision to save General Motors Corp. from collapse in December 2008.

In a new memoir "In My Time" published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster, Cheney says he disagreed with President George W. Bush's decision to rescue GM with a $13.4 billion bailout in the final days of his term.

"The president decided that he did not want to pull the plug on General Motors as we were headed out the door," Cheney wrote. "Although I understood the reasoning, I would have preferred that the government not get involved and was disappointed — but not surprised — when the Obama administration significantly increased the government intervention in the automobile industry shortly after taking office."

Bush wanted "to give the incoming team time to decide on their policy options and therefore came up with a short-term package to keep GM afloat."

Cheney makes no mention of Bush's decision to also rescue Chrysler LLC with a $4 billion bailout — though Cheney notes he had voted against the 1979 $1.5 billion loan guarantee for Chrysler Corp. in the House. "I had continued throughout my career to be philosophically opposed to bailing out specific companies or industries," he wrote.

Cheney supported the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program initially designed to help struggling banks. "Providing sufficient support to avoid the collapse of our banking system was something only the federal government could do. But, all things considered, companies in the private sector should be judged in the marketplace. Having the government intervene was not, in my opinion, a good idea."

In late December, Bush agreed to a $17.4 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler. He also agreed to invest about $7.5 billion in GMAC and Chrysler Financial LLC before leaving office.

Last November, Bush defended his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler in the waning days of his term, saying he "had to safeguard American workers and families from a widespread collapse."

Bush cited the significant economic toll of the collapse of GM and Chrysler in explaining his decision

Bush said the "the economy was extremely fragile and my economic advisers had warned that the immediate bankruptcy of the Big Three could cost more than a million jobs, decrease tax revenues by $150 billion and set back America's GDP by hundreds of billions of dollars."

Cheney didn't address any of these arguments in his memoir.

Bush made no mention of Cheney's opposition in his memoir.

Obama ultimately agreed to another $60 billion bailout of the auto industry, and placed both GM and Chrysler in bankruptcy to restructure them.

This month, the Treasury Department raised the government's estimate of taxpayer losses due to the auto bailout by more than $400 million to $14.33 billion.

Earlier this summer, the Treasury had pared its loss estimate to $13.91 billion on its $85 billion bailout of GM, Chrysler and auto finance companies.

Overall, the Treasury Department hiked its estimates that it will lose $36.7 billion on its $700 billion TARP including the value of some AIG shares.