I know it's tempting to dwell on whatever is downbeat, but has anyone noticed the upward trajectory of the two car companies we bailed out in '09?
Funny how the Republican doomsayers refuse to admit they were wrong, or to concede that sometimes the government needs to step in to save capitalism from its worst Darwinian excesses.
GM and Chrysler, having both emerged from bankruptcy last year, are now posting profits. Chrysler has recorded nine straight months of sales increases, compared with the same months in 2009, and it's poised this year to introduce 16 new car models. GM went back on the stock market several months ago, and earlier this week it briefly passed its chief rival, Ford, in market value. GM has a stronger balance sheet than Ford, and stronger sales overseas.
Perhaps most important, President Obama's intervention saved many livelihoods. As the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research recently concluded, "Once Chrysler and GM emerged from their orderly bankruptcies, the growth of automotive-sector employment has been strong, with 52,900 workers added since July 2009. Had GM and Chrysler not successfully emerged, those jobs would have been permanently lost." Meanwhile, Chrysler says it's hiring again.
Given these welcome realities, let us revisit the hue and cry that emanated from the conservative chorus in late '08 and well into '09, when Obama was building on former President George W. Bush's initial bailout efforts and talking up the necessity of governmental triage. The market value of this rhetoric has certainly plummeted. It took a while for me to compile these gems, but it was a labor of love.
Sen. John McCain, in his normal role as Grumpy Old Man: "Anybody believes that Chrysler is going to survive, I'd like to meet them."
Rep. Eric Cantor, now the House majority leader: "I don't want Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid designing the car that I drive, and I don't think any American does, either. Washington, the president, Congress - none has any business running [GM]. They'll run it into the ground."
Sen. Jon Kyl: The auto-rescue effort "doesn't change anything. It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell: "We simply cannot ask the American taxpayer to subsidize failure."
Sen. Jim DeMint, the tea party's top inside player: "The government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability."
Republican chairman Michael Steele, since dumped by his own party: Obama's rescue effort is "further proof that President Obama's economic experiments are wrong for America."
House Republican leader (and now Speaker) John A. Boehner: Obama's rescue effort "guarantees failure at taxpayer expense."
Sen. Richard C. Shelby: "I wouldn't loan them any money. . . . General Motors . . . is headed down this road to oblivion. Should we intervene to slow it down, knowing it's going to happen? I say no."
Conservative leader Grover Norquist: On the scale of disasters, Obama's rescue effort ranks "somewhere in between Baghdad and fixing the flood in Louisiana."
Rep. Paul Broun: "It's totally against freedom, it's exactly the same thing that Hugo Chavez is doing down in Venezuela."
Rep. Trent Franks: When the government intervenes in this fashion, "the disaster that follows is predictable."
Rep. Lamar Smith: The rescue effort is "the leading edge of the Obama administration's war on capitalism."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (of course): "We have a gangster government."
And Newt Gingrich, the potential 2012 presidential candidate who is widely heralded as one of the party's big thinkers, wrote off GM and Chrysler as "failing companies" unworthy of aid. Late in 2008, he even predicted that young people would rise up and protest the car-rescue effort once they "start to figure out they're going to pay the taxes. . . . I think you might find a lot of dissatisfaction by next summer."
Well, I remember the summer of 2009, and not once do I recall any young person taking to the streets and saying: "Dude. Whoa. I am, like, so dissatisfied about paying those Chrysler taxes."
The point is, I have yet to hear any of these prognosticators cede error. Their aim is to win the next news cycle, not to revisit their old mistakes. Their stock in trade is assertion, not self-reflection. The inconvenient past vanishes down the memory hole.
And undoubtedly, in some future crisis, they will begin anew, arguing on principle that we should practice laissez-faire and permit a key industry to die. How fortunate for them that it won't be their jobs on the line.