Romney’s poorly-timed criticism of the auto rescue


Just two days ago, Mitt Romney published a lengthy condemnation of the Obama administration’s rescue of the American auto industry. With General Motors announcing its largest annual profit in company history this morning, the Republican presidential candidate’s timing clearly could have been better.

For all of 2011, G.M. earned $7.6 billion, nearly all of it from North America. That was 62 percent higher than the $4.7 billion it earned a year ago and more than G.M.’s previous record of $6.7 billion in 1997 (in today’s dollars, the 1997 profit would be about $9.4 billion).

As a result, G.M.’s 47,500 eligible hourly workers will receive profit-sharing checks in March of up to $7,000, an all-time high.

So, to recap, General Motors was on the verge of collapse; President Obama took a gamble to prevent a catastrophe; the policy worked; and now GM is not only starting to thrive, it’s sending out large profit-sharing checks to tens of thousands of American workers.

To put it mildly, this isn’t what Romney expected. In 2009, Mr. “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” was so certain Obama’s policy would fail, he said Americans could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if the administration’s policy was implemented. Indeed, at the time, Romney called the White House plan “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country.” He wrote an April 2009 piece in which he said Obama’s plan “would make GM the living dead.”

I have to say, Zombie GM is looking pretty spry.

What’s more, it’s also worth noting that this is the first year in nearly a decade in which all of the Big 3 American automakers are profitable. This wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the Obama administration’s rescue policy.

Romney took a risk in 2009, betting that GM would collapse and Obama would get the blame. Now, the former governor seems to be stuck, spinning a convoluted tale – Romney is trying to take credit for part of the president’s policy, while condemning the other part – that falls apart under scrutiny.

It’s tempting to think, given the circumstances, that Romney should just avoid this subject altogether, but at this point, I’m not sure which issue would be better for him.