Given our sour national mood, I know it’s very uncool to highlight an Obama success story (actually, it’s an Obama-Bush success story). But let’s live dangerously, if only for a day.
Let’s take a look at what has happened to the domestic auto industry since the federal government stepped in with bailout bucks and strict directives – and compare today’s realities with the prognostications that were circulated by the naysayers.
GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy; both are now operating at a profit. GM repaid its government loans back in April, five years ahead of the loan maturity date. Its board has been restructured, at the Obama regime’s insistence but with minimal White House guidance; even conservative talking head Steve Forbes admits he’s pleased: “GM’s management is using solid, conservative, free-market management principles to get the company back back to long-term profitability.” Most importantly, this crucial element of the Rustbelt economy has added 76,000 jobs during the past 13 months. The automakers have posted roughly half the gains; the suppliers, who are dependent on the automakers, posted the rest.
The threatened loss of a core domestic manufacturing sector was enough to propel President Bush to action in late 2008, despite his free-market tenets. He championed the initial bailout; President Obama upped the ante in ’09, with new money and scared-straight restructuring requirements. Given the results of their efforts, who today can persuasively argue that it would have been preferable to practice laissez faire and allow the industry and its jobs to die?
Federal interventions of this kind should indeed be rare. But if a similar national economy emergency does occur in the future, and the two parties engage in the usual debate about “big government,” it may be worth remembering what the obstructionist chorus was singing in late 2008 and 2009, when the federal rescue efforts were underway. Before these lyrics slip down the memory hole forever, let us behold the Republicans in full cry.
Senator Richard Shelby: “I wouldn’t loan them any money…It’s a General Motors that is headed down this road to oblivion. Should we intervene to slow it down, knowing it’s going to happen? I say no, not for the American taxpayer.”
Senator Jim DeMint: If we rescue the automakers, “we’re going to have riots. There are already people rioting because they’re losing their jobs when somebody else is being bailed out.”
House GOP leader John Boehner: The rescue effort “guarantees failure at taxpayer expense. It will keep the industry dependent on taxpayer money instead of giving auto workers the security of a viable industry that is back on its feet and ready to compete.”
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell: “A government big enough to give us everything we want is a government big enough to take everything we have…We simply cannot ask the American taxpayer to subsidize failure.”
House GOP Whip Eric Cantor: “The bailout of a failed model is not what we owe the taxpayers…I know that I don’t want Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid designing the car that I drive, and I don’t think any American does, either. Washington, the president, Congress – none has any business running that car company. They’ll run it into the ground.”
John Kyl: The auto rescue effort “doesn’t change anything. It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning.”
Ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, predicting that young people will rise up against the rescue effort: If “those 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds start to figure out they’re going to pay the (bailout) taxes, I think you might find a lot of dissatisfaction by next summer.”
GOP chairman Michael Steele: The GM rescue effort is “further proof that President Obama’s economic experiments are wrong for America.”
Top Republican activist Grover Norquist: On the scale of disasters, Obama’s decision to force a restructuring at GM “is somewhere in between Baghdad and fixing the flood in Louisiana. Obama has decided to take this over. He now owns it.”
Indeed, he does – happily so. But Republicans have yet to own up to their doomsday rhetoric. Will they cede error, perchance? Or will they take refuge in the fact that anything uttered beyond yesterday is generally forgotten? We know the answer already.
I’ll be away tomorrow, but the brass will be a posting a message of welcome to all blog readers – with lots of information about the commenting process and some guidelines that are designed to ensure that everybody makes nice. Have a great weekend and see you on the flip side.