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Q&A:

Billions for auto bailout

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In your paper last week, there was this sentence: "The Obama administration, which spent $82 billion to save the U.S. auto industry, is spending additional billions for cities to create new bike lanes, streetcars, light-rail systems and other nonautomotive infrastructure." Is this true? That number seems high.

That sentence was included in the April 18 edition, in an information box accompanying Times columnist Robert Trigaux's observations about mass transit in the Tampa Bay area. The source for the statement was the e-book Curbing Cars: America's Independence from the Auto Industry, by Micheline Maynard.

The exact total spent on the auto bailout varies slightly from source to source, we've found, but the number quoted is either correct or very close.

On matters pertaining to the bailout, we like to rely on ProPublica, which describes itself as "an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest."

The organization has kept track of spending for the bailout since it began in 2008. According to its figures, the amount promised by the Bush and Obama administrations to General Motors and Chrysler was $81.34 billion, and $79.28 billion was invested, loaned or spent. All but about $12.7 billion of that was recouped by the U.S. government.

You can see the breakdowns for the auto bailout and the entire economic stimulus at https://projects.propublica.org/bailout.

Hobby Lobby's holdings

Is it true that Hobby Lobby, which recently protested to the Supreme Court that it shouldn't have to pay for employee health insurance that covers contraceptives, has invested $73 million in companies that make contraceptives?

Hobby Lobby's retirement plan has $73 million in overall holdings that include many other companies, according to published reports. A review of U.S. Department of Labor documents and fund portfolios shows that the pharmaceutical companies make up a small amount of the company's total holdings, the Associated Press reported.

Hobby Lobby, a privately held company owned by the Green family of Oklahoma City, has a 401(k) plan that has invested in pharmaceutical companies that make an assortment of contraceptive devices. They include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pfizer and Forest Laboratories, which produce intrauterine birth control devices, emergency contraceptive pills and drugs used in abortion procedures.

Hobby Lobby has sued the Obama administration because the Affordable Care Act stipulates employers cover forms of contraceptives at no cost and the company's "religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception."

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email answers@tampabay.com.

Q&A: 04/24/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 4:02pm]
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