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Mitt Romney Must Be in the Holiday Spirit « The Washington Independent

Because he just gave 2012 oppo researchers an early Christmas present, particularly if any of the Big Three automakers collapses before then.

In an op/ed in The New York Times titled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Romney prescribes tough love for the ailing auto industry, rather than a federal bailout.

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. With it, the automakers will stay the course – the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

Instead of the federal government giving Detroit $25 billion, Romney — whose father was an auto executive before becoming governor of Michigan — argues the industry requires new management, across-the-board belt tightening, investment and innovation. Federal dollars, Romney writes, could be better spent on research and development that would ultimately benefit the industry, such as alternative fuels and energy efficient technology.

Romney’s plan appears to make a lot of sense, but it’s hard not to view the piece as the work of someone with prior, and in all likelihood, future, presidential ambitions. Romney’s views are perfectly in line with those of many conservative Republicans in Congress, with whom a Detroit bailout is wildly unpopular.

Romney’s position is also a gamble. This piece will undoubtedly resurface if Romney makes another presidential bid in 2012. If Detroit is allowed to go bankrupt and fails to recover, Romney will likely have a hard time explaining his position, and he could probably write off his chances in Michigan, obviously, but also in Ohio, where GM maintains a heavy industrial presence. And as goes Ohio…

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