Osama bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive

“Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive!” is a catchy campaign slogan coined by Vice President Joe Biden. It also summarizes the differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Although most of the money for the auto bailout came through the TARP bill signed by President Bush, Chrysler and GM still were headed for bankruptcy in 2009. Obama’s team refinanced and restructured the auto companies to avert bankruptcies and save American jobs (1). Mitt Romney wrote an editorial that the government should let the auto companies go bankrupt (2).

This incident, more than any other, illustrates the difference between the two candidates, writes Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic:

Credible estimates suggested that more than a million people would lose their jobs—at the very moment when, because of the very same financial crisis, hundreds of thousands of Americans were already losing jobs every month.

What would Romney have done? It’s impossible to know for sure—in part, because he’s made inconsistent and, at times, contradictory statements. … Like other critics of the rescue, Romney opposed government loans because he doubted that officials could run the auto industry in a way that was good for the carmakers, its workers, and the country as a whole. But that is precisely what has happened. Today, Chrysler and GM are making money. They are also making good cars. …

Looking back, the key disagreement between Obama and Romney wasn’t over whether the auto industry should survive. It was over whether the government should act to make the industry's survival possible—whether, facing an instance of market breakdown, the government should intervene in order to protect hundreds of thousands, and maybe more than a million, people from losing their jobs. 

Put it all together, and it’s possible to draw from the auto industry rescue a pretty good lesson about the real differences between Obama and Romney. Obama understands that the market doesn’t always work on its own—that sometimes government must intervene in order to protect Americans from economic harm. Romney doesn’t. Obama is also willing to act in the face of political peril. Romney isn’t. (3)

Republicans like Mitt Romney say that the government should not interfere with market forces. In 2011, as the housing markets struggled to recover, Romney said, “Don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” He said to the market would turn around when investors buy foreclosed homes and re-sell them (4).

While it may be true that the market will correct itself, Romney doesn’t consider the human misery of losing one’s home. Families who buy homes they can’t afford often do so because they want to live in safe neighborhoods where their children can go to good schools.

Romney doesn’t care that these families’ dreams would be shattered—as long as some investor makes money on the deal. This makes sense from the guy who says, “Corporations are people,” but that it’s not his job to worry about the poorest Americans (5).

But what about Osama bin Laden? Surely any president would have sent Navy SEALs into Pakistan after the world’s most wanted terrorist, right? Not exactly:

"And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority."
-Barack Obama, 2008

"I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours... I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort."
- Mitt Romney, quoted by Reuters in 2008, on the United States entering Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.

Time and again President Obama has risked his political career in defense of American lives and American jobs. Mitt Romney has never shown the leadership or the will to do either.

(4) Video (Romney on housing): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiFslD8QYg4
(5) Video (Romney’s comments on the poor): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnB0NZzl5HA    

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