Explaining Southern California's economy

FAQ: Was the General Motors bailout really worth it?

General Motors Offers Stocks At $33 A Share For Initial Public Offering

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Signs stand in front of the General Motors world headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The U.S. Treasury will sell its remaining stake in the company over the next year or so.

The day has finally arrived. The U.S. Treasury will sell off its stake in General Motors, the automaker that, along with Chrysler, was bailed out in 2009 before it declared bankruptcy and  returned to the public markets via a massive $20 billion IPO in 2010.

The government put $50 million into GM and has gotten back about $30 billion. That figure includes a pre-loaded GM buyback of 200 million of its own shares from the Treasury at $27.50 a pop, a modest premium on Tuesday's closing price that amounts to $5.5 billion.

The remaining $2o billion (more or less) and the government's 300 remaining shares will be dealt with in slow motion fashion over the next 15 months, to avert a big dump of shares on the market. To make back the $20 billion, GM's stock price would have to rise to $72, a highly unlikely event. So the Treasury is admitting that it will "lose" money on the deal.

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Nate Silver says Romney has a less than 10 percent chance of winning — but that doesn't mean he won't

GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Campaigns Day After Final Debate

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. Nate Silver says he probably won't win. Emphasis on the "probably."

In recent weeks, everyone — even casual political observers — has scrutinized the numbers at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times. Silver, if you've been living under a rock with no media for the past few years, is a 34-year-old rising star in the world of data journalism. He made a name for himself in baseball statistics and neatly transferred that fame over to politics. He basically called the 2008 election. When the New York Times absorbed his once-anonymous blog, he was a made man. (Watch him in uber-nerdy action on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" in the video below.)

The political right isn't happy about Nate Silver because, as of Tuesday morning, FiveThirtyEight indicates that Mitt Romney has a less than 10 percent possibility of winning the election. Indirectly, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan tried to discredit Silver in the Wall Street Journal on Monday with heartfelt rhetoric and a hodgepodge of theories, the most ridiculed of which was the idea that Romney is surging toward victory because across America he's winning the war of the yard signs.

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Big Bird doesn't need PBS — he has Kickstarter!

Waves of support and concern for the large iconic yellow Muppet have washed toward Sesame Street since Wednesday night's first Presidential debate, when Mitt Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer that although he loves both him and Big Bird, if he were in the Oval Office, they'd be...

Fired!

So let's say Romney wins and gets his way. Big Bird is out of a job, along with the rest of the Muppets. They might do okay, because as we learned earlier this year, the Muppets are clients of Goldman Sachs, the very investment bank that has been accused of using the term "muppets" to refer derisively to clients.

Meanwhile, Big Bird might not really have anything to worry about. 

Why?

Crowdfunding.

As it turns out, "I Am Big Bird," a proposed feature-length documentary about the life and times of Carroll Spinney, the man behind the feathers — actually, inside the feathers — since 1969 successfully raised $124,114 on Kickstarter. An outfit called Copper Pot Pictures is behind the project.

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Does Mitt Romney have a Bitcoin problem?

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Republican nominee Mitt Romney, shown speaking in Colorado. Were his tax returns really hacked? And how is he going to get $1 million in Bitcoin?

There hasn't been much movement on last week's news that Mitt Romney's tax returns were hacked and that the hackers have demanded a $1-million ransom to not release them to the media — a ransom payable in the peer-to-peer cybercurrency Bitcoin, about which I have been frequently writing for the past few months.

Matthew Elias and James Woods have an excellent piece at American Banker detailing the caper and offering what I think is a good explanation for why the hackers, if they're for real, have done this:

It is...plausible that these actions are motivated by a desire to manipulate the market price of bitcoins, regardless of whether this is a hoax. Someone holding a large position in bitcoins would have a strong incentive to create demand for the large number of coins needed to meet the $1 million ultimatum. The Bitcoin/U.S. dollar exchange rate has historically been very volatile, and an influx of $1 million could drive up the price by as much as 25%...

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Romney's turnaround plan for America and the GT Bikes story

Mitt-Business-Online

Romney/Ryan 2012

The Romney/Ryan campaign has rolled a new website that promotes Romney's business achievements.

The Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan campaign has added an entire subsection to its website: business.mittromney.com. It's essentially a shrine to Romney's record — the successful part — at Bain Capital, the buyout/private-equity firm he started out of Bain & Co., a consultancy. 

The sub-site features a number of turnaround and investment tales (more turnaround than investment, actually), including Staples — which obviously has a strong L.A. presence — and Santa Ana-based GT Bicycles

The GT Bikes part of the story is interesting. On the Romney campaign's website, former CEO Mike Haynes appears in a video (see below) explaining how much good Bain Capital did for the business. Haynes, then the company's CFO, ascended to the CEO chair after GT's co-founder, Richard Long, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1996. He was joined by Geoffrey Rehnert, who took on the Chairman's job. Rehnert was a co-founder, with Romney, at Bain.

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