President Obama visited GM and Chrysler factories in Detroit yesterday. He spoke at both plants. Here is the text of his remarks at GM’s Hamtramck plant; here is the text of his remarks at Chrysler’s Jefferson North assembly plant. Henry Payne’s critique of Obama’s remarks at the Jefferson North assembly plant — “a fog of contradictions and half-truths” — applies equally to his remarks at Hamtramck.
Obama’s remarks at the GM and Chrysler plants are predicated in part on the proposition that the companies would have been liquidated without the taxpayers’ billions. I don’t think that’s true of General Motors, at least, but assets don’t disappear when they are sold to the highest bidder, i.e., liquidated, in bankruptcy. And of course Obama spares his audience any cost/benefit analysis of the billions of taxpayer money sunk in those two companies.
At the Hamtramck plant, Obama took the wheel of a Chevy Volt for a few feet. He didn’t look as uncomfortable as Dukakis in the tank. For a mere $41,000, you too can take the wheel of a Volt.
According to Obama, the Volt is the car of the future. That might be true if we apply the model of Obamacare to the automobile industry. I doubt it otherwise. Edward Niedermeyer’s New York Times op-ed column declared the Volt an electric lemon. (The Times even supplied a sarcastic illustration depicting the theme of Niedermeyer’s column. What’s happening here?) Niedermeyer introduces information necessary for the kind of analysis that is warranted, but which Obama spared his audience:
Quantifying just how much taxpayer money will have been wasted on the hastily developed Volt is no easy feat. Start with the $50 billion bailout (without which none of this would have been necessary), add $240 million in Energy Department grants doled out to G.M. last summer, $150 million in federal money to the Volt’s Korean battery supplier, up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives, and some significant portion of the $14 billion loan G.M. got in 2008 for “retooling” its plants, and you’ve got some idea of how much taxpayer cash is built into every Volt.
At the Chrysler’s Jefferson North assembly plant, Obama shilled for the Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee. If the Volt is the car of the future, as Obama asserted at GM’s Hamtramck plant, what does that make the Jeep Grand Cherokee?
Obama wasn’t saying expressly, but in his remarks he did place the vehicle precisely in his past. The first new car he ever bought, he says, was a Grand Cherokee. Obama testified to the improvements wrought by Fiat in the 2011 Grand Cherokee model: “I’ve got to tell you when I sat in this car, this is a better car. This is a state-of-the-art car. This is a world-class car right here.”
The adage that politics makes strange bedfellows must be due for an update.