It is getting pretty bad when the Washington Post Fact checkers are calling the President’s Accounting of the Auto Industry Bailout
With some of the economic indicators looking a bit dicey, President Obama traveled to Ohio last week to tout what the administration considers a good-news story: the rescue of the domestic automobile industry. In fact, he also made it the subject of his weekly radio address.
We take no view on whether the administration’s efforts on behalf of the automobile industry were a good or bad thing; that’s a matter for the editorial pages and eventually the historians. But we are interested in the facts the president cited to make his case.
What we found is one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk, just like the fine print in that too-good-to-be-true car loan.
Let’s look at the claims in the order in which the president said them.
“Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency — and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule. And this week, we reached a deal to sell our remaining stake. That means soon, Chrysler will be 100 percent in private hands.”Wow, “every dime and more” sounds like such a bargain. Not only did Chrysler pay back the loan, with interest — but the company paid back even more than they owed. Isn’t America great or what?
Not so fast. The president snuck in the weasel words “during my presidency” in his statement. What does that mean?
According to the White House, Obama is counting only the $8.5 billion loan that he made to Chrysler, not the $4 billion that President George W. Bush extended in his last month in office. However, Obama was not a disinterested observer at the time. According to The Washington Post article on the Bush loan, the incoming president called Bush’s action a “necessary step . . . to help avoid a collapse of our auto industry that would have had devastating consequences for our economy and our workers.”
Under the administration’s math, the U.S. government will receive $11.2 billion back from Chrysler, far more than the $8.5 billion Obama extended.
Through this sleight-of-hand accounting, the White House can conveniently ignore Bush’s loan, but even the Treasury Department admits that U.S. taxpayers will not recoup about $1.3 billion of the entire $12.5 billion investment when all is said and done.