It is a matter of conventional wisdom among media pundits that whichever candidate wins Ohio in this year’s presidential race will also emerge triumphant nationwide on November 6. The consensus view may or may not be correct. Regardless, it is driving much of the 2012 presidential campaign coverage.
And President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and its media boosters insist he can’t lose in Ohio because the Buckeye State economy is heavily dependent on the automotive industry, and residents owe the Obama Administration a debt of gratitude for bailing out United Autoworkers (UAW) union-dominated GM and Chrysler in 2009. As rabidly pro-forced unionism pundit Jon Cohn put it in a blog post on Sunday, it’s “fair to say” that thousands of Ohio employees who assemble cars and trucks and manufacture supplies for them “owe their jobs to President Obama, who in 2009 rescued Chrysler and General Motors from likely liquidation.” In contrast, say Cohn and other Big Labor partisans, GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney favored, effectively, the liquidation of GM and Chrysler. How could anyone expect a majority of Ohioans to vote for Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan under the circumstances?
Unfortunately for the Obama campaign and the union hierarchy, very little of this story about the GM/Chrysler/UAW bailout is true. Another problem for Obama and company: a couple of recent polls suggesting that Ohio citizens aren’t nearly so easily deceived as they had supposed.
The fact is, regardless of whether or not you think it was a good idea for the federal government to lavish tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on GM and Chrysler in order to ensure that these two money-losing unionized firms didn’t go about of business, the bailout was initiated by Republican George W. Bush’s Administration. Moreover, from the beginning, Mitt Romney publicly supported a major federal intervention to keep the two automakers from going out of business.
In short, Obama, Bush and Romney were all pro-bailout. But the Obama Administration’s goal in 2009, as economist and Forbes contributor Paul Roderick Gregory explains in the first article linked above, was not merely to resuscitate GM and Chrysler. It was to pay off UAW kingpins specifically and Big Labor generally for serving as the Obama campaign’s political army in 2008.
As a reward for its enormous, forced dues-fueled “in-kind” contributions to team Obama, the union hierarchy did not demand that autoworkers jobs be preserved. As Gregory points out, “The Obama bankruptcy reduced GM’s [U.S.] employment by twenty-five percent in its immediate aftermath.” In Ohio alone, GM employment has fallen from 12,300 in March 2008 to 9533 today, “equal the average GM job loss in U.S. operations.”
The structured bankruptcies advocated by Romney would likely have resulted in job losses no more severe, and would also have enabled GM and Chrysler (or their successor owners) to renegotiate counterproductive Big Labor work rules and costly early-retirement packages that are now keeping GM and the new, Fiat-owned Chrysler from regaining their competitive footing, even after having all their bond debt wiped out and receiving tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.
Clearly, as Gregory writes, President Obama “believes he can take Ohio voters for fools.” Of course, he knows he can count on get-out-the-vote and door-to-door propaganda help from thousands of paid union officials in the Buckeye State as he seeks to pull off his snow job. As the U.K. Guardian reported the other day (see the second link above), the “United Steelworkers alone is deploying 600 of its full-time staff” this fall to help the Obama campaign in any way it can.
But Gregory predicts Obama and his allies’ efforts to make Ohioans “overlook his gross mishandling of the economy” and other fiascoes “in return for the 9533 GM jobs he claims he ‘gave’ them won’t work.” Ohioans are sensible enough to understand, he suggests, that their automotive industry “is rebounding not because ‘Obama saved Detroit’ but because” the state has a “skilled labor force and a receptive investment climate for those who can do business without government bailouts.”