Democratic Platform Says: We (Re)built This Auto Industry

September 4, 2012

Last week, the GOP issued its official Republican Party platform, and in that long, winding document were several items of interest for drivers -- namely, a statement against pay-as-you-drive taxes for motorists and harsh criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency. Hopefully, you had the chance to digest it all over the holiday weekend.

Now, as all eyes turn to Charlotte, North Carolina, Democrats have issued their own party platform. What does it say? The biggest findings for auto fans are undoubtedly its praise of the Detroit auto bailout, its take on environmental regulations, and its discussion of America's transportation infrastructure.

We'll go through each of the three topics, looking at what Democrats say, then grading them for accuracy.

We (re)built this

Under the section entitled "An Economy Built to Last", Democrats spill a fair amount of ink talking about the auto industry bailout. Rather than summarizing the platform's talking points, we're going to quote two key paragraphs:

President Obama and the Democrats boldly rescued America’s auto industry, saving more than one million jobs, preventing the collapse of the industry’s supply chain, and shoring up countless communities, while revitalizing the backbone of America’s manufacturing sector. Mitt Romney thought the government’s action would destroy the auto industry; he and Republican leaders opposed the support President Obama extended to rescue an iconic industry.

All three of America’s biggest auto manufacturers – Chrysler, GM, and Ford – are stronger today because of President Obama’s decisive leadership. GM and Chrysler have repaid their outstanding loans years ahead of schedule, new American cars are inspiring pride, and the auto industry added more than 200,000 jobs in the last three years.

Grade: B. Democrats are correct in taking credit for spearheading the bulk of the auto bailout. And although we have no way of knowing what might've happened if the bailout hadn't been approved, it's clear that Romney was adamantly opposed to it (well, until he decided to take "a lot of credit" for it). We're not 100% sure where Dems get their job numbers, but there's no arguing that Detroit's auto industry is doing very brisk business nowadays.

On the downside, while the Democrats are truthful in saying that Chrysler and General Motors have repaid their bailout loans, that statement conveniently overlooks the fact that much of the money invested in GM was converted to equity in the company. Thanks largely to GM's downward-drifting stock price, the federal government now stands to lose about $25.1 billion on the bailout (though in fairness, that's still far, far better than the $44 billion loss that the Obama administration initially projected). 

One other sin of omission we should note: while many Republican leaders did oppose the bailout, President Obama received occasional help from others across the aisle -- including one Paul Ryan. And lets not forget that the seeds for the Detroit bailout were sown by Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, who bypassed Congress and issued $17.4 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler during the lame-duck month of December 2008.

Our last quibble: while it's clear that Chrysler and General Motors owe Democrats a debt of gratitude, we're not sure that Ford should be included in that number, since it didn't receive bailout funds at all.

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