Any real hope that Republicans may have had of carrying Michigan in November has probably disappeared thanks to the hard-fought GOP primary battle in that state, with Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney bidding for votes among the Republican base by trying to condemn the auto-industry rescue plan more harshly than his opponent.
But just in case, President Obama chose today, as Republican voters were going to the polls, to speak to the United Auto Workers convention and look back at recent history, when it seemed likely that both Chrysler and General Motors would go into liquidation.
Here’s part of what he had to say (full prepared text here):
“With the economy in complete freefall, there weren’t any private companies or investors willing to take a chance on the auto industry. Anyone in the financial sector could tell you that. So we could have kept giving billions of taxpayer dollars to the automakers without demanding real change or accountability in return. But that wouldn’t have solved anything. It would have just kicked the problem further on down the road. The other option we had was to do nothing, and allow these companies to fail. In fact, some politicians said we should. Some even said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Think about what that choice would have meant for this country. If we had turned our backs on you; if America had thrown in the towel; GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today. The suppliers and distributors that get their business from those companies would have died off, too. Then even Ford could have gone down as well. Production: shut down. Factories: shuttered. Once proud companies chopped up and sold off for scraps. And all of you – the men and women who built these companies with your own hands – would’ve been hung out to dry.
More than one million Americans across the country would have lost their jobs in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
As Obama went on to note:
“About 700,000 retirees saw a reduction in the health care benefits they had earned. Many of you saw hours reduced, or pay and wages scaled back. You gave up some of your rights as workers. Promises were made to you over the years that you gave up for the sake and survival of this industry, its workers, and their families. You want to talk about values? Hard work – that’s a value. Looking out for one another – that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together – that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper – that is a value.
But they’re still talking about you as if you’re some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten. Since when are hardworking men and women special interests? Since when is the idea that we look out for each other a bad thing?”
Given the success of the bailout, Republicans could have played the issue in one of two ways. They could acknowledge that it worked, applaud its success and move on, thus minimizing the political damage. Or they could continue to argue against all evidence that the bailout was a mistake, that they were right to oppose it and that the Americans involved didn’t deserve the help they got in keeping their jobs, their homes, their careers and their dreams.
They have chosen the second course, which frankly is pretty damn foolish.
– Jay Bookman