By Jennifer Granholm, POLITICO
No, he didn’t! Did Mitt Romney’s adviser Eric Fehrnstrom really say that President Barack Obama did “exactly” what Romney advised on the auto industry?
OK, I admit that I have a particular animus toward a guy that knifed us in the back when Michigan was on its knees. But let’s just look at the facts on the auto bailout. It’s straightforward.
Fact: In December 2008, the U.S. economy was in a free fall. There was no private bank or entity willing or able to loan the automakers the amount they needed to see them through the crisis. From former President George W. Bush to Steve Rattner, who led Obama’s auto rescue team, to financial experts and editorial pages across the nation, to Ford’s Alan Mulally just a few weeks ago — all have said that there was no other option than government assistance.
Sergio Marchionne, head of Chrysler, even quipped that anyone who said otherwise was “smoking illegal material.”
Fact: If the automakers had liquidated, the United States would have lost more than 1 million jobs. That’s according to the nonpartisan Center for Automotive Research, which studies such things. It would have cost the federal government more than $150 billion in tax revenue and it would have “set the GDP [gross domestic product] back hundreds of billions of dollars” — that’s according to Bush.
In Michigan alone, from December 2008 through June 2009, a whopping 1,018 Michigan companies announced mass layoffs in response to the economic collapse. Banks were not lending to companies, large or small — and they certainly weren’t willing or able to finance a massive industrywide bailout.
Here’s what’s most ironic: Bain Capital was reportedly one of the private-sector players approached to provide financing for the bankruptcy. They said “Hell no” like everyone else. At Bain, Romney did this kind of company “restructuring” for a living. He knows this stuff. And, of course, he knows better. He just hopes you’re too ignorant or lazy to follow the thread of his mendacity.
Fast-forward three years.
Fact: In 2011, the auto industry posted its biggest annual employment increase of any year since 1994. The industry has added 217,000 jobs since June 2009.
Fact: Chrysler, which faced the longest odds, continues to astound everyone. On Tuesday, it announced its April sales were up 20 percent from last year. It has paid back its loans early. In the first quarter of 2012, it recorded a $473 million profit — four times the amount of the previous year. Chrysler’s market share is up to 11.2 percent, from 9.2 percent a year earlier.
Fact: GM reclaimed its spot as the world’s No. 1 automaker in 2011. The company sold 9.03 million cars and trucks in 2011, up 7.6 percent from the year before. It also recorded its largest one-year profit ever — $7.6 billion.
Fact: 1.45 million people are working as a direct result of the $80 billion bailout, again according to the Center for Automotive Research, both at the carmakers and associated businesses large and small. More jobs are being added every day, and the unemployment rate is falling in states with a manufacturing and auto industry presence faster than the rest of the country.
Romney said in another op-ed in February, “I believe that without [Obama’s] intervention things there would be better.”
Now he wants it both ways: Appease the right by first saying that he would have “let Detroit go bankrupt” and now saying that it was all his idea to rescue the auto industry in the first place and Obama just followed his advice.
He’s a wily guy, that Romney — taking credit for one of Obama’s biggest successes.
Stocks rose Tuesday on the strong report that manufacturing continues to grow. The Dow is on pace for its highest level since 2007.
What’s next? Maybe, as the folks at The Final Edition suggested — if the economy keeps rebounding, Romney will simply claim he’s been president all along.