“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” an economic primer for all voters.


Chevy Cruze Top GM Seller for 2011

Conservatives seem not to care that what they say or write publicly is available for instant replay moments later, and available for instant recall years later. Republican talking points are easily refuted by their own words aired live in an earlier interview on national television or radio, or written in an op-ed piece in a national newspaper, memorializing for all time what was really said.

Such is the case of the recent round of GOP campaign rhetoric attacking President Obama’s leadership and sound judgment on bailing out the auto industry. Since it was successful, Mitt Romney and his party are taking credit for it, despite Romney’s op-ed in the New York Times on Nov. 18, 2008, Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.

Every voter needs to pay close attention to Romney’s op-ed because it says what he would do to our economy were he elected president. Not once in his op-ed does Romney show he fully grasped what was at stake. He never mentions the loss of millions of jobs, and the loss of small businesses (dealerships, vendors, suppliers, tool makers, truckers and logistic companies, and much more) that service the industry around the country and not just in Detroit. Moreover, Romney wrote he would cut down wages, benefits and pensions, and cut jobs, even at the cost of a quality product. Producing an inferior product would kill our chances of becoming competitive, which he referred to as “inevitable.”

So instead of promoting a vision of a revitalized American industry and ideal, Romney suggested American automakers model themselves after foreign corporations, ignoring quality and our ability to compete. When I read this, I wondered whether Romney was arguing for American workers and our economy, or for foreign corporations that might lead to profits for a few at the cost of millions of workers.

First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.

That extra burden is estimated to be more than $2,000 per car. Think what that means: Ford, for example, needs to cut $2,000 worth of features and quality out of its Taurus to compete with Toyota’s Avalon. Of course the Avalon feels like a better product — it has $2,000 more put into it. Considering this disadvantage, Detroit has done a remarkable job of designing and engineering its cars. But if this cost penalty persists, any bailout will only delay the inevitable. [....]

In stark contrast, President Obama’s decisions and leadership throughout the auto industry’s rebirth was on point at every turn, including when he got tough on the industry in March 2009, and rejected auto companies initial restructuring plans. He sent them back to the table with a vision of what could be accomplished by focusing on revitalizing American pride in becoming a global leader in the industry.

I am confident that if each are willing to do their part… then this restructuring, as painful as it will be in the short-term, will mark not an end, but a new beginning for a great American industry; an auto industry that is once more out-competing the world; a 21st century auto industry that is creating new jobs, unleashing new prosperity, and manufacturing the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us towards an energy independent future. I am absolutely committed to working with Congress and the auto companies to meet one goal: the United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars. [....]

This is what’s missing, among other things, from Romney the presidential candidate. His vision is flawed. We don’t want to model our business practices like our foreign competitors. That suggests that American businesses and manufacturers have no vision, no innovation and, ultimately no place in a global economy. Fortunately for all Americans, Romney wasn’t president in 2009.

In January 2012, due to President Obama’s solid leadership and vision for a rebirth of a great American industry and ideal, coupled with unprecedented hard work and innovation of the workers and management, GM announced that it sold “9.025 million vehicles in 2011.” In 17 months, GM came out on top, has paid back more than half of what it owes the government and is continuing to grow, building new plants and adding thousands of American jobs. Chrysler and Ford show similar results.

Voters need to pay close attention to the war of political rhetoric that is being waged on us through misleading political ads and self-contradicting commentary. A simple Google search will expose them as either truth or a lie. We all know the Republican playbook, turn your opponent’s accomplishments into flaws and those of particular success, claim them as your own. Thanks to Mitt Romney’s own words written on Nov. 18, 2008, we all know who saved the auto industry.

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