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Published: Sunday, 10/28/2012

Auto czar protests Romney plan for auto industry

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

FINDLAY - Steven Rattner, former head of the auto industry task force that ushered through an $80 billion rescue of the auto industry in 2009, today attacked Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's stance on the bailout, saying the companies would have been liquidated, had Mr. Romney's advice been followed.

Mr. Rattner spoke at a news conference in Findlay today along with workers from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. before the start of a Romney rally at the University of Findlay.

"There is a stark difference between what President Obama did on autos and what would have happened if Governor Romney's plans for autos would have come true. It would have led to these companies shutting their doors, liquidating, would have cost a million jobs, and would have been a disaster for manufacturing in the United States," Mr. Rattner said. "I think it is utterly misleading and false for Mr. Romney to say his plan would have saved the auto companies."

With the Obama campaign basing much of its Ohio appeal on the success of the auto bailout, Mr. Romney has pushed back hard, contending that he would have supported federal aid to the auto companies, despite the headline placed on a column he authored in 2008, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

In the last few days, Mr. Romney has seized on a report that Chrysler owner Fiat is planning to resume making Jeeps in China. Initially, Mr. Romney voiced an erroneous report that the company planned to move all its production to China - including those Jeep Wranglers made in Toledo.

A report by Bloomberg News said Fiat is in discussions to build all of its models in China.

Mr. Rattner, once known as the "auto czar," said he spoke to Chrysler officials this weekend and they have no plans to curtail production in Toledo.

"The latest Romney ad, I will grant you, is a clever play on words to avoid saying things that are utterly false," Mr. Rattner said, referring to a new Romney ad out today. But he said the implication of the ad is "just not true. Chrysler is adding people. It's made major investments in the Toledo Wrangler plant."

The Romney campaign has argued that Mr. Romney's solution to the threatened collapse of the auto industry in late 2008 was to let them go through a "managed bankruptcy" with the federal government guaranteeing loans.

U.S. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who is traveling around with Mr. Romney today and speaking at his rallies and encouraging supporters to vote early, told The Blade that federal loan guarantees would have loosened up private credit.

"If you listen to the ads you would think President Obama did not take the companies through bankruptcy and in fact he did," Mr. Portman said. "[Mr. Romney] did believe there ought to be federal help.

"When you provide a government guarantee for after a company has filed for bankruptcy then what happens is private loans become available because the government is there to back them up in a process that involves clearing up old debt," Mr. Portman said

Mr. Rattner said the companies would have folded due to the lack of operating cash before they would have gotten to the federally guaranteed loans available after a managed bankruptcy.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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