At the very least, all of this has put Obama in a stronger position than he would have been otherwise in the heavily working-class electoral keystone of Ohio. In the end, the auto bailout may prove more potent for the Democrats than Medicare. Romney pushed back hard on the Medicare attacks throughout the campaign, but less so on the bailouts. Unanswered demagoguery is usually successful demagoguery.
The Obama campaign throws the headline of a 2008 op-ed Romney wrote for The New York Times back at him: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Yet Romney's point was unassailable: If the auto companies had gotten bailed out without the restructuring of bankruptcy, it would have been a disaster for the taxpayers and the companies. Romney was willing to provide government financing, but only in the context of a traditional bankruptcy proceeding, in contrast to the politicized process that prevailed.
The Romney campaign is now litigating the bailouts in Ted Strickland terms. A new ad points out that Chrysler, supposedly a crown jewel of patriotic economic policy, was handed over to the Italians, in the form of Fiat. It then darkly mentions that Jeep is beginning to manufacture in China.
The New York Times tsk-tsked that the ad left “the misleading impression that the move would come at the expense of jobs here.” Which is true enough, and could as easily be said of the entire concept of “economic patriotism.” It doesn't matter to those Chrysler employees that they work for an Italian company that is going to build Jeeps in China for the Chinese market. They have jobs, and the company will be presumably be stronger for its foray into China.
“Economic patriotism” is neither good economics nor good patriotism.
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