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Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm Headshot

Look at the Facts: Romney's Record on Auto Industry Doesn't Match Rhetoric

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"The Motor City" is more than just a nickname. It's who we are. It's not just a source of pride for the millions of us who know Michigan and our history. It's a source of pride for America, because vehicles across the globe are designed and built right here in Michigan.

Just a short time ago, the auto industry melted down and all of that almost went away. It was a brutal time for so many in Michigan. But now Mitt Romney -- someone who says he "understands the economy" -- claims that what he did when he was in the private sector at Bain Capital is the same as what President Obama did to rescue the American auto industry.

That's absurd. With the Michigan Republican Primary approaching, let's look at the facts:
When President Obama walked into the White House, our economy was losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month, our financial system was in ruin and our automakers were on the verge of collapse. He faced a crucial decision that would end up becoming a defining moment in his presidency: whether to take bold and decisive action to save the auto industry, even though it was politically unpopular at the time.

President Obama refused to let the American auto industry disappear. He knew he couldn't let more than 1.4 million Americans lose their jobs or abandon an icon of American manufacturing.
He courageously made the right call, and because he did, our city, our state, and the domestic auto industry are being reborn. The Big Three are making profits, gaining market share for the first time since 1988, opening new plants and are leading the way in designing the next generation of fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.

Mitt Romney's goal -- indeed the goal of private equity companies -- has nothing to do with saving jobs: it's simply to make money for investors. And Mitt Romney was very adept at making his investors rich. But to trumpet his private equity experience as his main credential for job creation if he were president is illogical. The goals of private equity companies and the goals of a president of the United States are fundamentally different.

Indeed, one of Mitt Romney's old partners at Bain, Marc B. Walpow, recently said just that. Romney and his partners would buy a company, pump up profits in the short term by firing longtime workers, often shipping their jobs overseas and then cutting the remaining workers' wages, pensions and benefits.

After loading the companies down with debt and shuttering stores and factories, in some cases, Romney and his associates drove the companies into bankruptcy and cashed-in, selling the remains of the companies while offloading pension liabilities on taxpayers through the federal government's Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

Romney too has Michigan heritage, but rather than embrace it, he advocated to "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." To pander to a national audience, he advocated allowing the private sector to step in as the debtor-in-possession of the Detroit automakers, when he knows very well that in the midst of the crisis, no private sector player was willing to step up. Government was the actor of last resort, and without that intervention, Michigan would have been devastated.

The president succeeded in keeping plants open and saving jobs; Mitt Romney closed factory after factory and now he wants you to believe that the two are equivalent. But the record is clear. The president had one goal: jobs. He saved 1.4 million of them when he stepped in and stood up for the auto industry, and voters here in Michigan will remember it.

Jennifer M. Granholm is the former governor of Michigan and is the host of "The War Room with Jennifer Granholm" on Current TV. Granholm teaches law and public policy at UC Berkeley and recently co-authored the bestselling political book, A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future.