Mitt Romney has an ad airing in Ohio with a remarkably sympathetic car dealer complaining that the Obama bailout of the auto industry led to the closure of his dealership. The emotional takeaway: Romney would never be so coldhearted as to require job losses as part of a rescue plan.
Where to start with the utter hypocrisy of this ad?
First, the raw baseline facts: Romney opposed the bailout, preferring bankruptcy for Chrysler and GM. The Romney bankruptcy plan would have led to the loss of over 1 million jobs. The bailout under Obama led to the revival of the industry and added more than a quarter of a million jobs. Those facts are pretty indisputable. For Romney now to try to assert that he was somehow the more sympathetic, understanding voice is simply a distortion of fact and history.
Second, the requirement that automakers reorganize at many levels — work rules, pensions, speed of design, dealership structure — was accepted by everybody who examined the business, and it would have been irresponsible to simply throw money at car companies without demanding these painful sacrifices. These changes successfully eliminated much of the waste and left a leaner, more efficient industry.
But Mr. Romney knows this. It’s precisely what Bain claims it did. Mr. Romney knows this is the essence of creative destruction, which rebuilds a more competitive industry. Pretending that anyone would, could or should have invested huge sums in the auto industry without demanding this restructuring is simply irresponsible.
Which brings me to my third point: I wish the Obama administration would add another element to its discussion of Bain. Simply put, the White House could claim, “We do it better.”
Their auto sector investment is a paradigm of success. Rather than let an industry fail or simply move the jobs overseas — as Bain often seems to have done — they negotiated with all parties to restructure, share the sacrifice and rebuild. The public’s return on investment will be real, and we saved an entire sector.
Don’t attack the notion of private equity investment that retools an industry — claim the mantle that we know how to do it better. The argument puts us on the right side of economic growth, has the virtue of truth and denies Romney what he has pretended is his calling card: the ability and know-how to rebuild the economy.
That’s “My View.”