Lianna Stroster, Columnist

Ideology:  Liberal Democrat | Writing from: Washington, D.C.

General Motors’ recent accomplishments have sent a message to this country: don’t count us out. Growing up in Southeast Michigan, I quickly learned about the state’s dependency on the Auto-Industry; Michigan’s successes and failures were contingent on the Big Three. Unarguably, Michigan has been the hardest hit state in this country in this recession. While I believed the Obama Administration was the right group to help rescue GM, I didn’t expect to see such a quick turn around. As a native Michiganian who refuses to change her permanent residence, I am proud to write about what GM’s initial public offering on Thursday really means.

On Thursday, November 18th, General Motors became a publicly traded company once again. General Motors, “the world’s largest car maker from 1931 to 2008,” began making a comeback since its fall in 2008.  GM “conducted what proved to be the largest initial public offering in history, raising 23.1 billion dollars with an opening stock price of $35 per share.” Two years ago, the Federal Government began bailing out General Motors, but it remained a public company until July 10th, 2009, when GM officially went bankrupt and was named a government-owned company. On Wednesday thanks to the U.S. Federal Government’s bailout, the U.S. Treasury owned 61 percent of GM. On Thursday, at the stock market’s close of business, the U.S. Treasury’s shares went down to only 26 percent. GM received over 50 billion dollars from the federal government, but plans on repaying 13.6 billion dollars because of its earnings on Thursday. Such success was unanticipated, even by experts.

For those who argued against the auto-industries’ bailout, I am happy to say, “I told you so.” It is estimated that the bailout saved more than one million American jobs.  While GM has not been able to completely bounce back–and it never will, GM is still in pretty good shape. “With GM raising more than 20 billion dollars from its initial public offering Thursday, the largest in history,” says NPR, Detroit–and Michigan–are on the up.  Opponents of the bailout argued that such action was socialistic and that the federal government could not properly save the company.  The monetary aid and recommendations made by the Obama Administration seem to show that the bailout really was a success, and the federal government can get things done. 

These sound-bites are much needed good news for the state of Michigan. However, like the rest of Michigan’s lawmakers, I am not ready to throw in the towel and say that we’ve made a full recovery. By no means am I claiming that GM and the Detroit Auto-Industry is out of the red yet—because they’re not. Michigan has lost millions of jobs, and after the 2010 Census it’s predicted to lose two Congressional seats because of population decrease. And, in April of 2010, Detroit was one of only two U.S. cities to be rated in Urban Planet’s Top Ten Most Dangerous Cities in the World. Regardless of these painful statistics, recent accomplishments such as GM’s return to the stock market are clear indications not to count out Michigan.

With General Motors’ success of returning to a publicly traded company, many began speculating about what it means for Michigan. In an interview on CNBC, when asked about the lessons learned from GM’s story, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said,

“I think its clear when you’re insulated, you end up hurting. Clearly labor, management, and Michigan too, we’ve got to realize that this global economy means we have to embrace fuel efficiency and not run from it, and we’ve got to make products that are excellent.  Michigan has been the hardest hit with the nation’s highest unemployment, but the state’s economy and unemployment has outperformed the national ratings over the past month.” 

This article may seem like a love letter to the state of Michigan while praising GM’s record-breaking IPO numbers, but it is meant to be a thank you to the American people for making this all possible. I want to emphasize that GM’s success would not have been possible without the support of the entire country and the U.S. Federal Government’s bailout. The 50 billion dollar bailout came from Americans across all 50 states, from Alabama to Wyoming, from teachers and students, from blacks and whites and everyone in between.

General Motors has been the backbone of Michigan, and its success is a message to this country, not to count out Michigan. Michigan, located in the heart of America and occupied by people of all races and cultures, has been the backbone of this country. This means that the whole world better not be counting out the United States of America. As President Obama said in regards to General Motors’ success this past week, “Just as I had faith in our autoworkers to persevere and succeed, I have faith in the American people’s ability to persevere and succeed.  And I have faith that America’s best days are still ahead of us.”