The Auto Industry, The Obama Administration, Clint Eastwood, And The Rest Of The Story

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Clint Eastwood has come under attack this week by those who believe he acted in support of the President and the White House  in the Super Bowl commercial he made for Chrysler — “Halftime in America” – or as right-wing blogger Michele Malkin put it, for “fronting an auto bailout ad.”

But while Eastwood’s advertisement was certainly a moving tribute to the auto industry, he is really not at all responsible for the political benefit the President has enjoyed from one of the  few truly successful actions undertaken by the administration – the auto bailouts.

Steven Rattner is.

Steven Rattner — also known as the Obama Administration’s Car Czar because of his role leading the restructuring of the auto industry in 2009 as Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury –  has played a critical a role in orchestrating America’s economic recovery and revitalizing the American economy.

At the end of 2008, the entire auto sector on the brink of collapse,  and in the absence of government intervention, both GM and Chrysler would have run out of cash, shut down and liquidated.

Under Steve Rattner’s leadership, the U.S. government took  a majority stake in GM in 2009, while Chrysler was placed under management of Italian automaker Fiat SpA, and was ultimately able to salvage the two auto giants.

And because of Rattner, the auto industry’s rebound has exceeded all expectations, and Detroit’s unemployment rate has declined considerably over the past two years.

Chrysler has repaid all but $1.3 billion of its $12.5 billion rescue package, while the U.S. government’s stake in GM fell to about one-third after the automaker’s initial public offering.

And both GM and Chrysler are now hiring workers and posting strong profits.

Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009 the auto industry has added 115,000 jobs – the fastest pace of job growth in the auto industry since 1998, and industry experts forecast that the Detroit Three will add as many as 35,000 jobs through 2015.

General Motors recorded its largest annual profit in 2011  since 1999, while Chrysler’s sales rose by 26 per cent last year, yielding the biggest increase in US market share of any automaker.


Sales of autos and light trucks rose last year by 10.3 per cent to 12.8m, compared to 10.4m in 2009, and  the Big Three auto companies are doing better because they are selling more cars.

The Obama Administration and the Democratic Party would do well to listen to Steve Rattner — who  is one of the big thinkers in American economic and political life.

Rattner has offered a sophisticated and articulate worldview and has proposed ideas for revitalizing the American economy, creating jobs, cutting the debt and deficit, learning from the successes of China and India,  and promoting economic growth and development.

White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer certainly wasted no time in seizing Eastwood’s star power — tweeting “Saving the American Auto Industry: Something Eminem and Clint Eastwood can agree on” shortly after Eastwood’s ad aired.

But the truth is that neither Eastwood nor Eminem is the Administration’s best asset in underscoring the success  of the government’s rescue of the Detroit-based auto companies.

Rather, the name they should have tweeted is Steve Rattner – who is as responsible for the political revitalization of the Obama Administration as he is  for the revitalization of a critically important American industry.