So far, President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney — or at least their campaigns — aren’t missing a chance to take a shot at each other when it comes to the auto industry.
Romney says he would sell off the remaining U.S. shares in General Motors, which the Obama administration has held for more than three years. Taxpayers still own 26% of GM. If the U.S. Treasury sold its remaining stake at GM’s current share price, it would amount to a $16 billion loss on the $49.5 billion bailout.
“The president is delaying the sale of the shares to try and avoid the story that the taxpayer took another loss,” Romney told the Detroit News. He also added that the government’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) program, which will nearly double fuel-economy standards to 54.5 mpg (translating into the high 30s for window-sticker EPA figures), has the government pushing too many cars that the market doesn’t want, such as electric vehicles.
The Obama campaign fired back, saying Romney is “the last person who should be offering advice” about Detroit automakers. Romney wanted GM and Chrysler to finance their 2009 bankruptcies with minimal federal support, but opponents contend that at the time, no major private lender would offer terms.
Meanwhile, former president Bill Clinton appeared at a big fundraiser in New York for Obama. In introducing the president, Clinton pointed right at the auto industry bailout as proof of how the administration has taken action to create an economic turnaround:
“The automobile industry was headed for a calamity, and two of the great auto companies in America were saved by a financial agreement that had management, labor and government restructuring the company. There are 80,000 more people making cars today than there were when Barack Obama became President,” Clinton said, as recorded in a transcript by the Wall Street Journal, “and 1.5 million people had their jobs saved.”
Clinton also pointed to the coming changes in cars.
“Car mileage standards are going to be doubled because of an agreement between management and labor, and the environmental groups and government, and as we double those car mileage standards, 150,000 high-paying jobs will be created, creating the new technologies to make it possible,” Clinton said.