President Obama heads to Detroit today to try to drum up some PR for his role in the resurgence of Chrysler and General Motors.
He’s not getting much credit for it, according to Bloomberg, which reports that a recent poll it conducted shows the auto bailout becoming less popular.
Obama deserves more applause than he’s getting, and he’s rightly going to trumpet his success.
The bailout, a strategic decision by the government that these companies were too important to fail, helped save the industry and preserve thousands of jobs. While I and others enjoy mocking the government as America’s new carmaker, the intervention is an Obama policy that has worked and provably “saved or created” thousands of jobs.
It was Bush who first put us on a path toward bailing out the automakers. Obama has continued the policy and steered it successfully.
An editorial in today’s Detroit News, a paper that knows cars, acknowledges the benefits of Obama’s polices. But the newspaper rightly points out that the government needs to know when to get out. The White House is forcing Detroit to make the kinds of tiny – and ideally, electric-powered cars – that Washington think tank denizens with lots of disposal income and a mission to save the earth love, not consumers.
As the editorial points out, the final verdict of Obama’s policies is not clear. If the government ruins the project by thinking it can do autos, then the policy will end up a failure. But right now it’s working.
And the precedent is terrible. Government as a rule needs to stay out of the private sector and let bad businesses fail. But the collapse of the U.S. auto industry and the ruin of hundreds of thousands of workers was unthinkable. And Obama should get a nice pat on the ass for helping avoid the unthinkable.