President Barack Obama (C) hugs an assembly line worker as he tours through the Chrysler Auto Plant in Detroit, Mich., July 30, 2010. 
Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Obama’s auto-industry rescue continues to pay dividends

In 2015, American consumers broke a record for domestic auto sales. As the Washington Post reported, in 2016, consumers did it again.
U.S. drivers bought more new cars and trucks in 2016 than they ever have, edging out the record set just one year earlier to give the auto industry an unprecedented seventh consecutive year of sales growth. […]

U.S. automakers, in particular, were able to match or exceed last year’s sales totals.
From time to time, it’s worth revisiting the political context for stories like these, because the recent history doesn’t come up in political conversations anymore.

As regular readers know, in 2009, the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. At the time, the Great Recession was already ravaging the economy and the jobs crisis was intensifying, and without an effective plan, hundreds of thousands of Americans – employees of storied American companies – were headed for the unemployment line.

President Obama took a gamble on an unpopular plan, which fortunately worked like a charm. As he prepares to exit the stage, the success of his industry rescue clearly belongs among his most notable accomplishments.

It also represents one of the Republicans’ most obvious failures. GOP leaders were absolutely certain the White House policy would fail miserably, and they were hilariously wrong.

Consider some of the predictions Republicans made at the time, as pulled together by ThinkProgress.

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?” [6/1/09]

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “It’s basically going to be a government-owned, government-run company…. It’s the road toward socialism.” [5/29/09]

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?” [6/2/09]

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): “Unfortunately, this is just another sad chapter in President Obama’s eager campaign to interject his administration in the private sector’s business dealings.” [6/2/09]

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” [7/22/09]

And then there’s Donald Trump, who was asked in 2015 about his position on Obama’s industry rescue. His answer meandered incoherently for a while, suggesting he didn’t know anything about the substance of the policy, and hadn’t bothered to read up on it in advance of a campaign swing through Michigan.

This week, Trump made matters just a little worse with comments that suggest he still isn’t up to speed on the industry.

And while the president-elect is constantly trying to claim credit for economic successes that exist largely in his imagination, it’s Obama who usually doesn’t get the credit he deserves for rescuing American auto companies.