Two weeks from today, voters in Michigan will hit the polls for the state’s Republican presidential primary, where native son and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — once thought of as the GOP’s inevitable nominee — is now trailing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Romney’s father, George Romney, is a former governor of Michigan and was the CEO of the now-defunct American Motor Company, a Detroit-based automaker that was once one of the biggest in the world.
Romney has often played up those ties on the campaign trail — he won Michigan’s primary in 2008 — and attempted to use them to his advantage three years ago when he penned a New York Times editorial titled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” The editorial was a response to President Obama’s plan to rescue the American auto industry, and as evidence has emerged that Obama’s rescue plan worked, Romney had attempted to claim that he came up with the idea first.
Ahead of the primary, though, Romney published another editorial on the rescue, this time in the Detroit News, in which he renewed the “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” call he first made in 2009:
My view at the time — and I set it out plainly in an op-ed in the New York Times — was that “the American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. Instead of a bailout, I favored “managed bankruptcy” as the way forward.
Managed bankruptcy may sound like a death knell. But in fact, it is a way for a troubled company to restructure itself rapidly, entering and leaving the courtroom sometimes in weeks or months instead of years, and then returning to profitable operation. [...]
By the spring of 2009, instead of the free market doing what it does best, we got a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style.
In the editorial, Romney, whose former company profited from a government bailout, called on the government to sell its shares in GM and return the profits to taxpayers. In other words, Romney is fine with destroying the company when it isn’t succeeding, but then wants to seize its profits if it turns around.
Meanwhile, he continues to ignore the success of the rescue plan he criticizes. Chrysler posted its first profit more than a decade in last year and expects those profits to continue growing in 2012. It has added 9,400 jobs since its rescue and plans to add 1,600 more at a plant in Illinois this year, and the success of Chrysler and General Motors has helped American automakers control more than half of the industry’s market share. The industry has hired enough workers to make up for all those laid off during the recession, and American and foreign automakers plan to add 167,000 jobs at American plants this year.
Romney isn’t just ignoring facts — he’s also ignoring a Republican who is close to the situation. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has warned candidates against criticizing the bailout and touted its success. “I would have had some differences on how they did it, but I’m not going to second-guess it,” Snyder told the New York Times. “The more important thing is the results. And the auto industry is doing very well today.”