Paul Ryan, who famously suggested that the General Motors plant in his hometown closed because of Obama administration policies when it actually closed under President Bush, is now going for an even bigger rewrite of history.
He is claiming that his austerity agenda—at least the part that makes tax cuts for the rich the supreme imperative—remains popular. Indeed, to hear Ryan tell it, those ideas almost prevailed.
In an ABC News interview a week after the election, Ryan was asked whether President Obama has a mandate to call for raising taxes on the rich. “I don’t think so,” said Ryan, who argued that, “This is a very close election.”
Ryan rejects the notion that his ideas lost. Indeed, he still claims he’s promoting “popular ideas.” And he says of the Republican ticket: “It was a well-run campaign. We made this campaign about big ideas and big issues, which is the kind of campaign we wanted to run, so we ran the kind of campaign we wanted to run.”
But Barack Obama also ran on big ideas. On the morning before the election, Obama appeared just a few miles up the road from Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.
“If we’re serious about the deficit, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We’ve also got to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was in office,” the Democratic president told a crowd that had just heard Bruce Springsteen sing and speak about the need to create a more equitable America. “And by the way, we can afford it. I haven’t talked to Bruce, but I know he can afford it. I can afford it. Mr. Romney can afford it.”
But Obama went further, in that speech in Madison, and in speeches in Columbus and Des Moines and communities across the country. He called, again and again, for raising taxes on the rich. “Because our budget reflects our values, it’s a reflection of our priorities, you know. And as long as I’m president, I’m not going to kick some poor kids off of Head Start to give me a tax cut,” said the president.
Ryan is claiming in his post-election interviews that: “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare — we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues.”
Yes they did.
In his closing argument, Obama focused—as did other winning Democrats—on “those budget issues.” One of the president’s biggest applause lines was: “I’m not gonna turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut.”
Obama and Vice President Biden ran on big ideas, just as Romney and Ryan did.
Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin and every swing state except North Carolina.
Ryan and Romney lost the Electoral College by an overwhelming 232-206 margin.
Ryan and Romney lost the popular vote by more than 3.4 million votes.
Obama and Biden won a mandate in a battle of ideas where the lines were clearly drawn.
Despite what Paul Ryan says, Obama won a mandate—a bigger mandate, in fact, than Presidents Kennedy in 1960, Nixon in 1968, Carter in 1976 or Bush in 2000 and 2004.
To say otherwise is to deny what just happened.
Paul Ryan can try if he wants.
But he should remember what happened when he tried to peddle a fantasy about the closing of that Janesville General Motors plant.
Well, Ryan lost his home precinct in Janesville—not just as a vice presidential candidate but as a candidate for reelection to his House seat.
Ryan lost Janesville, as a vice presidential candidate and a congressional candidate.
Ryan lost surrounding Rock County, as a vice presidential and a congressional candidate.
Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin—by such a resounding margin that Saturday Night Live was mocking the result on the weekend after the election.
When the rejection is so glaring that it becomes a punchline, it’s a stretch to talk about a “close election.”
And it’s absurd to suggest that your ideas are popular.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, November 14, 2012
Faced with the hard facts that “bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” as Vice President Biden always says, Mitt Romney has resorted to claiming that Obama followed his lead on the auto industry bailout. “I know [Obama] keeps saying, you wanted to take Detroit bankrupt,” he said during this week’s debate at Hofstra University. “Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt.” Romney’s right, in a way — both his plan and Obama’s plan envisioned the auto companies going through a period of bankruptcy restructuring. But there’s a key difference: Obama’s approach was to use government dollars to prop up the auto companies until they could stand on their own again — something that Romney, like other Republicans in the Tea Party’s anti-spending thrall, adamantly opposed as dangerous government intervention in private industry.
But it turns out that Romney should know firsthand that this kind of intervention can be successful, as a new report shows that he and his wife made at least $15.3 million courtesy of Obama’s auto bailout. According to a Greg Palast, who followed the paper trail for the Nation, Romney and his wife made the money via an investment in a hedge fund that saw astronomical returns on its investments in an auto parts maker that would have gone under absent the president’s rescue operation.
Delphi, the auto parts company, was once part of General Motors but was spun off in 1999. It foundered on its own and declared bankruptcy in 2005, at which point hedge funds came in and bought up the company’s old debt. Among them was Elliott Management, a giant in the industry run by GOP mega-donor Paul Singer. Romney was an investor. Elliott and the other hedge funds were able to buy Delphi’s toxic debt for a fraction of their face value, around 20 cents on the dollar. In 2009, as bailout negotiations were underway, Elliott used their bonds to buy large shares in the company, again for pennies (this time for about 67 cents per share). Not only would Delphi have gone out of business along with its largest customer, GM, but the parts maker got at least $2.8 billion directly from the taxpayer-funded Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In 2011, Elliott and the other hedge funds took Delphi public at $22 a share, making a whopping 3,000 percent return on their investment of less than 70 cents a share.
So how much did Romney make? His personal financial disclosure forms say he and Ann Romney had at least $1 million invested, but the disclosure rules are so vague that it could be far more. Palast sketches out the possible windfall:
It is reasonable to assume that Singer treated the Romneys the same as his other investors, with a third of their portfolio invested in Delphi by the time of the 2011 initial public offering. This means that with an investment of at least $1 million, their smallest possible gain when Delphi went public would have been $10.2 million, plus another $10.2 million for each million handed to Singer — all gains made possible by the auto bailout.
But that’s just the beginning. Since the November 2011 IPO, Delphi’s stock has roared upward, boosting the Romneys’ Delphi windfall from $10.2 million to $15.3 million for each million they invested with Singer… The Romneys’ exact gain, however, remains nearly invisible—and untaxed—because Singer cashed out only a fragment of the windfall in 2011.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 19, 2012
Mitt Romney is betraying his calling.
He brings to the presidential race a record of accomplishment to which few White House contenders can lay claim: W. Mitt Romney knows how to make money.
Some may argue that a money-making ability alone is no qualification to be president. I agree that having a high net worth is insufficient reason to be declared presidential timber.
But attaining a personal fortune of as much as $250 million, as Romney has done — and not through inheritance or grand theft — is a testament to creative abilities, a strong work ethic, a focused mind and keen understanding of the economic environment.
Romney, however, is blowing it by seeking to appeal to the average voter by selling himself as something he’s not. He also is running away from the opportunity to show voters that he, above all other candidates, knows how Americans can reap a better return on the investments they are making of time, energy and talent in our country.
For the record, and as regular readers of this column know, I regard the political and moral priorities of the current White House occupant to be more in tune with my own. That said, Romney, by reason of experience, has a legitimate claim on the presidency.
A year ago, I said on the TV program “Inside Washington” that Romney understands how the economy works and that he should use the campaign to explain the private sector’s critical role. That point didn’t go down well with some of my liberal friends. Maybe it’s because I was wearing my banker’s hat at the time. Ten years as a commercial banker and bank director were more than enough time to convince me that a thriving business sector is key to economic growth and expanding opportunity. Romney, I believed last year, was well suited to make that case.
Instead, he has made a mess of it, misrepresenting his history and shying away from the truth, apparently out of fear that by sticking up for the country’s privately owned enterprises he will be portrayed as a heartless, money-grubbing capitalist and scourge of the poor. Of course, in this political climate, that might happen anyway. Still, there’s no reason to dissemble.
That’s the only way to describe Romney’s suggestion that job creation was the motivating force behind his work in the private sector. Beyond the question of whether Romney created 100,000 jobs — as he has claimed — is his implicit buy-in to the argument that the private sector’s purpose is to produce jobs.
Romney knows better, even if his critics don’t. The private sector operates to make profits, not jobs.
True, a majority of Americans work in the private sector. But General Motors, Giant Food, the TV networks and others don’t exist in order to employ Americans.
General Motors sells cars, Giant sells food and the networks sell entertainment to make a profit for their owners and investors.
Without question, a payroll is a necessary ingredient in building and selling vehicles, groceries and entertainment.
But owners, regardless of industries, are obligated to control costs. The fewer workers they employ, the better.
Romney portraying himself as an entrepreneur who altruistically created employment opportunities is not only incorrect but also conveys a false picture of free enterprise. That, in turn, skews public understanding of what the private sector can and can’t do; creating a more equitable and just society is one of the things businesses don’t set out to do. Romney seems ashamed of touting financial performance as an essential factor in economic growth, choosing instead to come across as a one-man hiring hall.
The pander is apparent in other ways. Take the Obama campaign’s charge that the private equity firm co-founded by Romney, Bain Capital, “invested in companies that moved jobs overseas.” The Romney camp responds by touting the former governor’s “record of job creation in the private sector.”
What clumsiness, if not cowardice.
There is nothing wrong with a company legally outsourcing jobs domestically or even sending jobs offshore if the effort allows the company to reduce its costs and operate more economically.
In this globalized economy, America must adjust to competitive forces. Certainly there are costs and downsides that come with outsourcing and offshoring jobs. That is not at issue. Change is constant. Workforce adjustments must be made. Government has a role to play. But adapting to competition at home and abroad is mandatory if we are to survive economically.
Romney, more than most, knows better, and he won’t touch this reality.
He betrays his calling because he’s willing to say — and be — all things to become president.
By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 6, 2012
Over the weekend, a top GOP aide said President Obama got the idea from Romney. A look at his past positions shows that’s not true.
Over the weekend, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom made an audacious claim:
“[Romney's] position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that…. The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.”
As Fehrnstrom predicted, liberals are reacting with irritation and incredulity. They point out — not for the first time — that Romney published a New York Times op-ed in November 2008, even before Obama had taken office, headlined, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
The case is actually a little more complex than that, although Fehnstrom’s claim is still hard to take seriously. To understand how we got here, here’s a brief history of Romney’s statements on the car industry.
During the 2008 primary campaign, Romney won Michigan, a victory that was in part attributed to his promises to save the Motor City’s main industry. “If I am president, I will not rest until Michigan is back,” he said. “Michigan can once again lead the world’s automotive industry.” His campaign contrasted that with John McCain, who said, “I’ve gotta look you in the eye and tell you that some of those jobs aren’t coming back.” Romney’s main policy prescription was a series of federal spending for retraining and green tech, to be doled out in $20 billion chunks over five years. The McCain campaign derided thisas a “$100 billion bailout of the auto industry.”
By November 2008, shortly after Obama’s election, the economy was in free-fall. Here’s an excerpt from Romney’s now-infamous column:
If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed. Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself …. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.
Romney called for a “managed bankruptcy,” in which company’s executives would be replaced and union contracts would be renegotiated with more favorable terms. Reversing his position during the Republican primary, he said shedding excess workers was now essential. He wanted the government to oversee the bankruptcy but for it be paid for with private-sector funding. But as former Obama administration “car czar” Steven Rattner and others have pointed out, there did not appear to be any private money on the sidelines. Markets were in disarray and credit was drying up fast — and so, they argue, the federal government’s coffers were the only thing standing between GM and the company’s total demise.
In May 2009, Romney appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, who pressed him on the issue:
WALLACE: Wouldn’t that, at a time when we were in the depths of the recession, when we were really right in the midst of what looked like a financial crisis — wouldn’t that have been disastrous for the economy?
ROMNEY: It’d have been precisely the right thing to do for the economy. To help General Motors at that point, before it had received tens of billions of dollars from the government, go through a structured process either in court or out of court to rid itself of its excessive union contract obligations, would have been the right course, and at that point the government could have helped with warranty guarantees and so forth, with debtor possession financing …. We wouldn’t have closed the business down or liquidated it, we instead would have helped it restructure. It was the right course to take, it’s being taken now, too late unfortunately, and as a result the government ends up with more than 70 percent of GM.
Already, we can see Romney struggling with the issue. But the gist of his main answer is already in place: The government funding was wrong, but the restructuring was right.
In June 2011, he reprised this point on the CBS Early Show: “When I wrote that the auto industry was asking for a bailout, we are unwise to send billions of dollars [to companies], instead — finally — the president recognized I was right, and finally took the company, in the case at General Motors, the company finally went through bankruptcy and went through a managed bankruptcy, came out of bankruptcy and is now recovering.”
With the Michigan primary looming in late February 2012, and his numbers sagging as Rick Santorum surged, Romney was again on the defensive. On February 14, he wrote an op-ed in the Detroit News (now paywalled online), writing, “The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.” He appeared with Wallace a few days later, and the host again pressed him. Romney once again insisted that GM could have gone through a managed bankruptcy without federal bailout funds.
That brings us to the present day, and Fehrnstrom’s comments. There have been two important shifts in Romney’s position. The first is from pre-recession, 2008 campaign Romney, who supported a $100 billion government investment in maintaining Detroit jobs, to recession-era Romney, who adopted the idea that the automakers needed pain — including potentially significant job loss — to survive. The major questions here are (1) whether it was feasible for the companies to find private financing to restructure and (2) whether the associated job loss and economic ripple effects would have been acceptable. While Romney is correct that the restructuring was what he suggested, his idea at the time was hardly unique; there was a consensus that the companies needed to be significantly reshaped. The question was how to do it, and he said the answer was without federal funds.
The second shift is from the the stance Romney has taken since his op-ed to Fehrstrom’s comments on Sunday. Fehrnstrom is overreaching in claiming that Obama adopted “exactly” what Romney recommended, given his longstanding opposition to the bailouts. It’s understandable that Romney would want to align himself with the successful rescue of the auto industry: While the bailouts are still unpopular with Americans overall, a plurality agree that they helped the economy. Moreover, the move is comparatively popular in Rust Belt states and among working-class white voters with whom Obama is otherwise weak.
Romney’s position on how to handle the carmakers may not have been realistic, but it was far less cartoonish than his liberal critics have suggested. Trying to rewrite history, however, won’t answer their attack.
By: David A. Graham, Associate Editor, The Atlantic, April 30, 2012
One of Mitt Romney’s problems is that he lays it on too thick. He’s not just a conservative, he’s a “severe conservative”. He feels your pain because he too is ”unemployed”. And he understands America’s car industry because he’s a Tigers-cheering motorhead, a true “son of Detroit”.
That last assertion comes in an op-ed Mr Romney wrote for the Detroit News today. And it’s not untrue, per se. The candidate was born in Detroit, though he grew up in Bloomfield Hills, one of America’s wealthiest cities. He probably cheered for the Tigers as a kid, but his position has since evolved. And cars may really be “in my bones”, as he claims, but he advocated letting Detroit go bankrupt in 2008.
The purpose of Mr Romney’s op-ed is to clarify his position on the auto bail-out ahead of Michigan’s primary on February 28th. And the piece rivals Cirque du Soleil in its display of contortions. Mr Romney seems loth to gush about the success of the bail-out, noting only the good news that “Chrysler and General Motors are still in business”. He certainly doesn’t mention that 2011 was the best year for America’s carmakers since the financial crisis, with each of the big three turning a solid profit. But he does imply that this achievement is a result of his own advice. “The course I recommended was eventually followed”, Mr Romney writes.
As with much of Mr Romney’s excessive rhetoric, there is some truth to this statement. Following the bail-outs, the president eventually forced Chrysler and GM into bankruptcy, a step Mr Romney thought should occur naturally. And the government oversaw painful restructurings at both companies, which were largely in line with Mr Romney’s broad suggestions. But the course Mr Romney recommended in 2008 began with the government stepping back, and it is unlikely things would’ve turned out so well had this happened.
Free-marketeers that we are, The Economist agreed with Mr Romney at the time. But we later apologised for that position. “Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk”, we said. But “given the panic that gripped private purse-strings…it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended.” Even Ford, which avoided bankruptcy, feared the industry would collapse if GM went down. At the time that seemed like a real possibility. The credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history in claiming to have been right all along.
In other areas of his op-ed Mr Romney is more accurate. Unions did win some special favours in the bail-out deals, though they are not as egregious as the candidate claims. For example, a health fund for retired workers was unfairly favoured over secured bondholders at Chrysler. But an issue like that is unlikely to resonate in Detroit. So Mr Romney must find a way to re-write history, lest he fall further behind Rick Santorum in his state of birth. Mr Santorum didn’t support the auto bail-out either, but he evinces a genuine compassion for blue-collar workers. And he didn’t pen an op-ed predicting, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” That’s a difficult statement to walk back.
By: The Economist, Democracy in America, February 14, 2012