An American success story

There are stark differences between Republicans and Democrats that have grown starker as, well, the Republican party has been taken over by its lunatic wing. On some issues, it can be difficult for ordinary Americans to judge the merits of each party’s policy prescriptions.

For instance, even though nearly every independent economic expert has determined the stimulus bill made a huge difference in the economy, turning around the Great Recession and staving off a genuine depression, most Americans probably believe the stimulus failed because unemployment was far worse than originally projected.

But in one case, there really should be no argument about who got it right: the rescue of the American auto industry.

Republicans were vociferously opposed to the bailout of GM and Chrysler. Mitt Romney, for instance, urged the nation to “Let Detroit go bankrupt” in a 2008 New York Times commentary. In that, he argued:

IF General MotorsFord and Chryslerget the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

Other conservatives argued that the federal government, which ended up with an ownership stake in GM – still derided as “Government Motors” in some arenas – would run the automaker into the ground.

They could not have been more wrong. All three American automakers are turning healthy profits. Analysts now argue about whether GM or Ford stock makes a better buy – a debate that would have seemed silly in 2009. And Chrysler just announced that it had paid off all of its government loans.

If Romney and other Republicans had won the argument, the story would be far different. GM and Chrysler would have failed, almost certainly taking down Ford with them as their common suppliers went out of business. Hundreds of thousands of Americans would have been laid off, making economic recovery impossible and very likely tipping the nation into a genuine economic depression. It would have been a disaster.

Instead, American automakers are adding jobs for the first time in years, leading to the first increase in American manufacturing jobs in a decade.

Conservatives still refuse to recognize this success. But to the rest of America, it should be clear.

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