Political hot buttons don't get much more inflammatory in Michigan than opposing federal help for automakers. That doesn't stop Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney from pressing his criticism of lifelines that helped General Motors and Chrysler – "crony capitalism on a grand scale," in his view.
"Three years ago, in the midst of an economic crisis, a newly elected President Barack Obama stepped in with a bailout for the auto industry," Romney writes today in a Detroit News commentary. "All the defects in President Obama's management of the American economy are evident in what he did."
Romney, born in Detroit and raised in Bloomfield Hills as an auto executive's son, earlier shared that belief in a 2008 New York Times guest column headlined Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.
Now he restates that provocative stance exactly two weeks before Michigan Republicans vote , the first in an industrial Midwestern state.
The candidate, a former Massachusetts governor whose father George was chairman and president of American Motors from 1954-62, expresses gratitude "that Chrysler and General Motors are still in business." But he feels "that without his [Obama's] intervention things there [in Detroit] would be better."
Romney doesn't mention that the Republican Bush administration gave money to the automakers a month before Obama took office.
Romney favors a court-supervised bankruptcy reorganization as the best "way for a troubled company to restructure itself rapidly."
Chrysler last May finished repayments, with interest, of $12.5 billion in support. The federal government has a 26.5 percent stake in GM as part of that company's $49.5 billion in assistance.
A local Democratic congressman, in a statement today, calls Romney "willfully ignorant of the facts when it comes to the auto rescue."
“The fact is that there was no source of private capital to restructure GM and Chrysler," said U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, whose district includes Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills. "Had President Obama not acted, GM and Chrysler would be in the rearview mirror rather than helping to lead our economic recovery."