General Motors takes $15.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to push off an increasingly likely reckoning with bankruptcy. It announces plans to close 16 U.S. factories and put tens of thousands more Americans out of work. It presses employees and bondholders for the concessions it says are needed to keep it afloat. And it says it intends to import vehicles made in China starting in 2011. Huh?

How’s this for a “go figure” moment?

General Motors takes $15.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to push off an increasingly likely reckoning with bankruptcy. It announces plans to close 16 U.S. factories and put tens of thousands more Americans out of work.

It presses employees and bondholders for the concessions it says are needed to keep it afloat. And it says it intends to import vehicles made in China starting in 2011.

Huh?

Sounds like a dumb PR move. Not unlike car company CEOs flying to Washington on corporate jets to beg for federal money.

Except this is worse. That corporate jet caper back in November riled up Congress and lots of Americans because the symbolism was all wrong.

But, substantively, flying corporate rather than coach — Chrysler and Ford execs committed the same boo-boo — didn’t amount to much.

Taking our money and putting Americans out of work while enriching Chinese workers ... now that’s got some substance.

GM’s plan, according to reports in the automotive trade press and mainstream newspapers, is to import 17,335 cars the first year and increase that number to 51,546 in 2014.

The plan has become a sticking point between the company and the United Auto Workers union representing GM employees in both the U.S. and Canada.

But this is more than a management-vs.-union issue. It’s about fairness. It’s, to use the language of business, about getting a return on investment — the taxpayers’ investment.

We’re inclined to agree with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

“Given the number of auto manufacturing layoffs in my state, and the sacrifices autoworkers and their families continue to make to facilitate the restructuring of GM,” Brown wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, “I do not see how the American people can be expected to provide taxpayer funds to the company while GM is offshoring production of its vehicles.”

Don’t misunderstand. We’re not suggesting that General Motors doesn’t need to remake itself radically, or that its employees, bondholders and shareholders — and, yes, we taxpayers — won’t have to share in the pain.

But come on! That $15.4 billion ought to count for something.

Canton Repository