Mitt Romney's visit to Michigan has sparked a debate over his views on the federal bailouts of the auto industry.
Democrats have been working to make political hay out of statements Romney made prior to, and after the restructuring of GM and Chrysler under Chapter 11 bankruptcy - restructuring that was made possible with loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments.
On his Facebook page, Congressman John Dingell said he "hopes Governor Romney has answers for Michigan's working families he abandoned two years ago when the American auto industry was in its worst crisis ever."
Two and half years later, with Chrysler and GM rising from the ashes, the title of his opinion piece makes it look as though he was wrong.
The Democratic Party put out this video attacking Republicans, including Romney, for their stance on the auto industry bailouts. The title of Romney's opinion piece is heavily featured in the video - (the video includes a soundtrack with dark, foreboding music for the Republicans, and happy music for the Democrats).
It's your turn to chime in on the auto bailouts - online or on-air.
Today, in the second hour of the public radio call-in program Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan will ask the question "was the auto industry bail out worth it?"
It will air on Michigan Radio today at 3 p.m.
Here's how the show's producers phrase the question:
When taxpayers bailed out GM and Chrysler, many complained it was waste of money, and not the right role of government. Now, Chrysler pays off the last of its $10 billion loan with interest. After GM paid down billions that it borrowed from the US treasury. The auto industry bail out-- was it worth it? Next Talk of the Nation from NPR News.
Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently said the the government will most likely lose money on its investment in the domestic auto industry, but making money on the investments was never the main goal - Geithner said they had two objectives:
"One is to get these companies back in private hands as quickly as we can, it makes no sense for the government to be in there a day longer than is necessary, but we also want to recover as much of the taxpayers’ money as possible."
The automaker has repaid $5.1 billion in loans, as well as $1.8 billion in interest and other fees, releasing Chrysler from all monetary commitments to the governments less than two years after the bailouts kept them in business. Chrysler went to the capital market for lower-interest financing to get out from under the government loans that carried interest rates as high as 20 percent. The refinancing — which is much like refinancing a home mortgage — will save more than $300 million annually.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said:
Chrysler’s early repayment of its outstanding TARP loans is an important step in the turnaround of this company and the resurgence of the auto industry. Because President Obama made the tough decision to stand behind and restructure the auto industry, America’s automakers are growing stronger, making new investments, and creating new jobs today throughout our nation’s industrial heartland."
The U.S. Treasury gave a total of $12.5 billion to Chrysler under TARP’s Automotive Industry Financing Program. After today's payment, Treasury officials say "Chrysler has returned more than $10.6 billion of that amount to taxpayers through principal repayments, interest, and canceled commitments." The U.S. Treasury continues to hold a 6.6 percent stake in Chrysler. Those shares could be sold when Chrysler's stock goes public or if the Treasury decides to sell its shares to another investor. In their statement today, Treasury officials said the government is "unlikely to fully recover its remaining outstanding investment of $1.9 billion in Chrysler."
General Motors (or should I say General Motors Holding Company) is planning to hold a public stock sale in mid-November. It will be the first since the world's largest company emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last year.