The television ad launched by the Romney campaign this week about the auto rescue is accurate — at least technically. President Obama did take General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy. Fiat did buy Chrysler, and Chrysler does plan to build Jeeps in China. Missing is the helpful context, the component that exposes just how misleading the Romney campaign has been in the way it has chosen to arrange its three facts.
That context has been provided in recent days by media fact-checkers, editorial pages, even executives at GM and Chrysler. Worth emphasizing is that Romney himself (at other turns in the race) has embraced the bankruptcy route, arguing it was his idea in the first place. In early 2009, the Obama White House weighed whether even to rescue Chrysler, its finances in such deep trouble. The conclusion was: Let’s proceed — if favorable terms can be reached to make a sale to Fiat.
Chrysler will build in China, reflecting, if anything, the company gaining strength in the wake of the rescue, and more, a global firm doing the logical thing, building in markets where it sells. As the company stressed, that will not affect American operations, including Jeep production here, which has nearly tripled since the rescue.
The past three years, Chrysler has added more than 11,000 American jobs. General Motors reports that it has “brought nearly 19,000 back to work.” Remember, the Center for Automotive Research projected in November 2008 the loss of nearly 2.5 million jobs, many in Ohio, if one or more of the American automakers failed.
And that was a real prospect, GM and Chrysler running out of money, unable to secure private financing to keep operating in bankruptcy. Then, the Obama White House stepped up, the money coming as long as the automakers developed a credible plan for restructuring.
The barrage of criticism hardly caused the Romney team to flinch. It upped the ante with a radio ad suggesting the auto rescue helped China at the expense of auto workers here. The argument is as lame as its earlier contention that the bailout was all about favoring the United Auto Workers, a form of “crony capitalism.”
Actually, the auto workers joined others in getting a haircut, losing wages, benefits and job security. An independent trust fund with the job of managing the health benefits of auto worker retirees received a stake in both GM and Chrysler because the companies were broke and couldn’t meet their contractual obligation.
In other words, the trust took a risk. So did the president, and it has paid off for Ohio and other states heavily invested in making autos.