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Auto bailout all but forgotten

By From page A10 | December 13, 2013

The issue: Turnaround of U.S. automakers is true recovery

When President Obama orchestrated the multibillion-dollar bailout of the U.S. auto industry in 2009 — GM and Chrysler were headed into bankruptcy, Ford was struggling — his many critics derided it as either a nefarious socialist plot or an attempt to buy the votes of autoworkers about to lose their jobs.

IN ANY EVENT, the government made out like a capitalist when it began to sell its ownership shares in GM and Chrysler and Obama did indeed win, with the exception of Indiana, the industrial belt. That included Michigan, the home state of Mitt Romney, who despite being the scion of an auto company president, favored letting GM and Chrysler go bankrupt.

USA Today, in its dissection of the 2012 presidential election, said, “In the end, there is no overestimating how large of a role that the auto industry bailout played in President Obama’s re-election.”

And, also in 2012, CNNMoney said of the bailout, “The U.S. auto industry’s recovery is one of the biggest success stories of the last four years.”

The Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research believes the massive infusion of taxpayer funds — as much as $60 million on the two companies alone — saved 1.5 million jobs and stopped a wave of bankruptcies from sweeping through the industry’s suppliers.

THE AMERICAN auto industry was caught in a triple whammy — a global economic downturn; a mix of products that ran heavily to high-fuel-consumption pickups and SUVs just as gas prices began to soar; and crippling legacy costs from previous union contracts that gave foreign makes, even those produced in the United States, a cost advantage of $350 to $500 a vehicle.

Thanks in no small part to that bailout and the economic recovery, November auto sales were 9 percent above a year ago with sales running at an annual pace of 16.4 million vehicles for the year, the strongest since February, 2007.

It is perhaps worth noting that major news outlets reporting the robust auto industry figures — The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, the Associated Press — made no mention of Obama or, for that matter, socialism.

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