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January 15, 2014

HOWEY: The historic auto payoff for Hoosiers

KOKOMO — Indiana is the “Crossroads of America.” We are the second ranking automobile manufacturer in the nation.

Five years ago, we just about lost much of the industry that helped forge the Hoosier middle class.

Our leadership from then-Gov. Mitch Daniels to Treasurer Richard Mourdock, were indifferent to whether General Motors and Chrysler survived as they teetered on the brink of oblivion. When the Bush43 and Obama administrations infused Toxic Asset Relief Program funds to help these two companies survive the Wall Street meltdown, the ensuing Great Recession, and their own mismanagement over the previous generation, the political reaction was the Tea Party, which opposed the “bailouts.” There was widespread skepticism from Indiana Republicans.

On Monday, General Motors announced that it was making a final payment on the $49.5 billion it borrowed from the U.S. government in 2008 and 2009 to keep it out of liquidation. Taxpayers lost $10.5 billion on that deal.

But of the $80 billion in TARP that went to automakers, about $93 million has been paid back. NBC News reported that of the $421.8 billion spent on bailouts, $432.7 billion have been recovered.

“With the final sale of G.M. stock, this important chapter in our nation’s history is now closed,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.

“It’s been a long, hard road with the label of ‘Government Motors’,” said GM North American Division President Mark L. Reuss.

“When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: The ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong,” President Obama said Monday. He and Vice President Biden made a rare joint trip to a Kokomo Chrysler transmission plant in November 2010, and the President said then, “We decided to make a stand. We made the decision because we had confidence in the American worker.”

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