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“Wealth-Tainted Asides”: Mitt, Michigan And A Couple Of Cadillacs

Mitt Romney just can’t stop wealth allusions from creeping into the conversation.

He did it again on Friday. At the end of a speech about his economic plan before the Detroit Economic Club, when it felt as though he was just winging it, he said: “I love this country. I actually love this state. This feels good being back in Michigan. Um, you know the trees are the right height. The, uh, the streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”

Two Cadillacs?

That’s rich, literally.

That’s not what you want to say when you are in Detroit, which, as I pointed out last week, has the highest poverty rate of any big city in America.

That’s not what you want to say in a city where Megan Owens of the Detroit-based advocacy organization Transportation Riders United said on Friday that roughly half of its bus service has been eliminated in the past five or so years.

That’s not what you want to say when discussing a tax-cut plan that, according to models prepared by the Tax Policy Center, would heavily weight the benefits toward the top of the income spectrum.

That’s not what you want to say when, as David Cay Johnston of Reuters pointed out this week, Romney’s plan would:

“Raise taxes on poor families with children at home and those going to college. Romney does this by reducing benefits from the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit and by ending the American Opportunity tax credit for college education.”

That’s probably not the thing to say in Detroit after arguing in a now-famous New York Times Op-Ed article against the auto bailouts, saying: “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 was probably not the thing to say on the day after Steven Rattner, the lead adviser on the Obama administration’s auto task force in 2009, smacked you down in a New York Times Op-Ed article for suggesting that the government “should have stayed on the sidelines” and allowed the companies to go through “ ‘managed bankruptcies’ financed by private capital.”

As Rattner put it:

“That sounds like a wonderfully sensible approach — except that it’s utter fantasy. In late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines. I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms. If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.”

Ouch. I need to catch my breath after that one.

O.K., carrying on.

The “couple of Cadillacs” comment probably wasn’t the thing to say the day after the Pew Research Center found that most Americans now support the bailouts, with 56 percent saying “the loans the government made to G.M. and Chrysler were mostly good for the economy.”

That probably wasn’t the thing to say in a city where you published an op-ed in The Detroit News on Valentine’s Day continuing to argue against the bailout, saying:

“This was crony capitalism on a grand scale. 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.”

That probably wasn’t the thing to say the week that your campaign felt the need to remove this lovely little passage from The Detroit News’s endorsement of you before sending it to reporters:

“We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan — his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the G.O.P. primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.”

The Detroit Free Press’s endorsement this week echoed the complaint about Romney’s opposition on the bailouts, calling him “dead wrong” and saying that in the past year he has been “refashioning himself as something other than what his record suggests. He has made gestures toward economic and social radicalism, and eschewed the common sense of cooperative governing that made him a success in Massachusetts.”

But what is likely more telling about Romney’s ineloquence and continued wealth-tainted asides that draw attention away from his message onto his wallet is this gem from his Friday endorsement by The Arizona Republic:

“There are better orators in American politics. Indeed, the Democrats appear to have one. And certainly there are Republicans who better project the passion for the office they seek. Steady, unflappable Romney would not a ‘passion president’ make.”

So, poor oratory, anemic passion, possessed of “utter fantasy,” and gestures toward radicalism while cruising in a couple of Caddies: That’s probably not the image you want going into a make-or-break primary.

By: Charles Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 24, 2012

February 25, 2012 - Posted by | Auto Industry, Election 2012 | , , , , , ,

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