Romney to Retired Auto Workers: Screw You, I’m With the Bankers

Mitt Romney has a work of revisionist history–a nice way of saying a heaping pile of steaming hot bullshit–in this morning’s Detroit News, a once-mighty paper now read by about 17 people. Greg Sargent points out that Romney’s retelling of the Obama Administration’s rescue of the U.S. auto industry has many problems, in particular Romney’s prediction that not only wouldn’t the bailout work, but that it would destroy the auto industry.

I can understand why Romney and his team would want to try to recast his opposition to an Obama decision that saved Michigan. But I’m astonished that they saw a reason to make this argument directly to Michiganders:

The Chrysler timeline was similarly swift. But something else happened along the way that was truly egregious. Before the companies were allowed to enter and exit bankruptcy, the U.S. government swept in with an $85 billion sweetheart deal disguised as a rescue plan.

By the spring of 2009, instead of the free market doing what it does best, we got a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style.

Thus, the outcome of the managed bankruptcy proceedings was dictated by the terms of the bailout. Chrysler’s “secured creditors,” who in the normal course of affairs should have been first in line for compensation, were given short shrift, while at the same time, the UAWs’ union-boss-controlled trust fund received a 55 percent stake in the firm.

The pensions of union workers and retirees at Delphi, GM’s parts supplier, were left untouched, while some 21,000 non-union salaried employees saw their pensions slashed and lost their life and health insurance. And so on and so forth across the industry.

Nobody should be surprised that Romney would be upset that those schleps with union-negotiated pensions were able to keep their pensions. And nobody should be surprised that Romney doesn’t mention that while the auto support plan was being worked out that Chrysler’s Wall St banks–who themselves had been bailed out–might have scuttled the deal by demanding too great a payment on the bad loans they had given Chrysler. (“Who knew that bailing out the banks would mean that they could kill the auto industry” said Michigan’s then-governor, Jennifer Granholm.)

It’s unsurprising that Mitt Romney sympathizes not with retirees who worked thirty or more years on assembly lines, but instead with Wall St bankers. But who the hell thought it would be a good idea to express this in a Michigan paper, two weeks before the Michigan primary?

Sure, it’s not likely that Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich will hit Romney on the auto bailout; they’re both on record as opposing it. And according to PPP, even in Michigan 62% of Republicans oppose the auto bailout. But I’ll bet that 62% opposition is lower than anywhere in the country, and means that probably a third of Michigan Republicans disagree with all the Republicans on this issue; why remind them of it? Furthermore, in the general election this position is lethal in Michigan. Only 36% overall oppose the bailout, which is about the floor of Republican support in Michigan.

Sometimes when a politician has screwed something up, they’re best served by accepting the consequences, moving on and trying to change the subject. I can’t figure out why Mitt Romney would make such a concerted effort to remind people he was wrong about saving the U.S. auto industry.  And I sure as hell can’t figure out why he decided to demonstrate that if his choice is between retired auto workers and Wall St bankers that he’ll side with the bankers every time.

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