Romney and Santorum Fade into Irrelevance in Contrast to Obama’s Success with Detroit by Thomas Martin Sobottke


The contrast could not have been clearer: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum clawing at each other over social issues and a desire to see a key American industry fail, and an increasingly effective President who bet on the American worker and won.

Even during the days leading up to the Michigan Primary, Mitt Romney tried to explain to Americans why General Motors, Chrysler, and perhaps even Ford should have been allowed to go into bankruptcy; something that would have added another million Americans to the ranks of the unemployed and destroyed a core industry. Now U.S. automakers are making record profits and expanding and adding hundreds of thousands of new jobs beyond those saved.

If the President sounded like he was crowing a little too loudly at Washington D.C.’s United Auto Worker’s Conference he can be forgiven for doing so. He took what George W. Bush had tentatively begun, and made a difficult and unpopular decision, and used Federal money to keep Detroit from sinking further into the abyss at a key moment. And it worked! The automakers are paying back what they borrowed, when no private lender would dare come forward to lend them cash to stay in business and a core American manufacturing industry has been resurrected right on Obama’s watch and largely because of his persistent belief in the American worker.

The President remarked yesterday, “some even said we should ‘let Detroit go bankrupt.’” He then went on to speak of his confidence in the much maligned American worker. “It wasn’t just because of anything the government did. It wasn’t just because of anything management did. It was because I believed in you. I placed my bet on the American worker (Applause) And I’ll make that bet any day of the week. (Applause) And now, three years later—three years later, that bet is paying off—not just paying off for you, it’s paying off for America. Three years later, the American auto industry is back.” (Applause)

A million American manufacturing jobs saved. A further 170,000 new jobs added on Obama’s watch and two hundred thousand more are coming within the year. The Chevy Volt will even be appearing on the streets of Seoul, South Korea too.

Contrast this with Republican policies that emphasize cutting spending, balancing the budget, and most incredibly of all, handing still more cash paid for by the American middle class to enrich those at the top one to two percent of the income ladder.

It was Bush and the Republican Party who handed Obama the greatest depression our nation has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, two unfunded wars a decade long apiece, and over a trillion dollars of deficit spending to further enrich the already wealthy. Instead of creating jobs all this wealth flowing to the top was used to further add to bank accounts maintained overseas or to disinvest in America and bring good jobs to China and elsewhere.

The little State of Wisconsin has already replicated what Republicans will do on the national level should they win this November. Scott Walker has balanced the Wisconsin State Budget and given hundreds of millions of dollars to wealthy friends and corporations that thus far have simply pocketed the money. When handed over $800 million of Federal stimulus money and 4,800 new jobs at the very start of his tenure in office he threw it back to Obama in derision and California got the money. All this has put Wisconsin 50th out of the fifty states in job creation. Why would we want to replicate this on the national level?

So in this context, what Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul do is becoming more and more irrelevant every day. An improving economy, a President who believes in American know how and work, and one who is quietly yet firmly ready to respond to conditions in Iran as a third U.S. carrier strike force quietly slid into the Gulf last month has to make any voter wonder why you would turn to any of the other guys?

The bailout of Detroit was not a free ride for either the industry or workers. The companies are paying back what they borrowed. 700,000 UAW Union retirees sacrificed a portion of their pensions and health benefits to make those companies more competitive. Workers on the lines agreed that in future they’d hire people at about half the wages they’d earned before. Rules that protected workers were cast aside. They experienced lay-offs or furloughs at some points in the past three years. Yes, GM workers got 17.5% of the company but over four-fifths of it is in the firm hands of the original owners. Now, the workers have a capitalistic stake in doing what is right for the continued health of that company.

Yesterday, I watched pundits all wonder what effect the speech would have on the outcome of the Michigan Primary and who, Romney or Santorum, would hold the advantage. The message from yesterday I got was much different. This President has the inside track to re-election and is opening up a lead and is not going to give it up through November. Obama even had an answer for the worry of rising gas prices: new Federal CAFÉ standards and for fuel efficiency in cars made in Detroit that are already in place and cars in just the next few years will get double the fuel efficiency they now do. And under the Obama Administration 84 new permits to drill in the Gulf of Mexico for oil were granted this past summer, and the Administration is looking at that oil shale pipeline and modernizing what are now state of the art refineries along the Gulf Coast to produce even more gasoline and fuel for a hungry economy. Of course these are short term measures. Oil supplies worldwide have peaked and demand will grow quickly as the worldwide depression eases with the United States in the lead.

Instead of bowing to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s worship of Ayn Rand’s individualism and “me first” mentality, Obama is showing he is a leader who wants Americans to turn to one another and lend a hand rather than shoving down the guy next to you to get to the top. All of this makes any of the Republican candidates we are being offered in 2012 increasingly irrelevant. My eyes were on Detroit and the success there and the story of a President whose persistent will to take action that was, at the time unpopular, paid off for all of us. So no, it does not matter what happened in the Republican Michigan Primary or what happens on Super Tuesday at all. A seasoned and visionary leader, however moderately liberal he is for those of us further on the political left will do in 2012.

Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
for Struggles for Justice

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