For one of the few times in its macro economic policy thought and action, the federal government relies on a subtle analysis of "things not seen" to defend its apparent $10.5 billion loss on the General Motors bailout as a success, via USA Today:
U.S. taxpayers no longer own any of automaker General Motors. The Treasury sold the last of its remaining 31.1 million GM shares today.
The taxpayer loss on the GM bailout finishes at $10.5 billion. The Treasury department said it recovered $39 billion from selling its GM stock, and had put $49.5 billion of taxpayer money into the GM bailout....
The administration emphasizes that the loss it took on GM shares is far less constly than had GM been allowed to fail.
"Inaction could have cost the broader economy more than one million jobs, billions in lost personal savings, and significantly reduced economic production," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement announcing that Treasury had sold all its remaining shars.
What might have happened to that money, those resources, those skills, those people, if they had not been diverted by government action? No one knows, or will ever know, and the government would prefer you not think about it.
See "Illegal. Illiberal. Ill-Fated," our Aug/Sept. 2009 cover story on why Washington shouldn't have bailed out the auto industry.