Reporting Jeff Gilbert
DETROIT — (WWJ) Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked taxes, trade and his history as a “car guy” to the Detroit Economic Club, while nearby UAW leaders were focused on Romney’s opposition to the auto industry bailout.
Romney said the tax cut plan that he laid out earlier this week would help make Michigan’s auto industry more competitive. He avoided any mention of the bailout, and wasn’t asked about it, but did say why he thought the auto industry needed help.
“In my view, the industry got in trouble because the UAW asked for too much, management gave too much and made other mistakes, and the government CAFE standards hurt domestic automakers and provided a benefit to some of the foreign automakers.”
Romney has said that he supported a managed bailout of GM and Chrysler, and has said that the market would have worked. Others, including GM’s CEO and the president’s former “auto czar” have said there wasn’t private money available at that time.
The last vestige of the bailout is the one-third share of GM that the government owns, and doesn’t plan to sell until the company’s stock price rises. Romney says they shouldn’t wait.
“We should get the government out of General Motors, so the future of that company is determined by the demands of the marketplace, not by the preferences of bureaucrats in Washington,” he told the audience of about 1200 people.
General Motors recently posted a record profit. Romney made only a fleeting reference to the recent successes of the auto industry.
“It’s important that the UAW takes care not to impair the long term future of the industry,” he said.
Shortly before Romney spoke inside Ford Field, several hundred UAW members rallied on the roof of a nearby parking garage.
“I hope the American public, and I hope that people like Romney wake up,” said UAW President Bob King. “Workers made tremendous sacrifices to save these companies.”
King said workers made sacrifices of between seven and thirty thousand dollars to help the auto companies, and gave up pay raises in their recent contract to keep the industry healthy.
He called the bailout a bi-partisan effort that started with President Bush and concluded with President Obama.
“General Motors and Chrysler and Ford are succeeding today because of the working together between labor and management,” he said.
Several of the workers at the rally said they believe they wouldn’t have jobs if GM and Chrysler hadn’t been helped by the government.
“My plant, Sterling Heights Assembly, was closing,” said Stacy Stewart, a member of UAW Local 1700. “That plant has not invested almost a billion dollars. We’ve got a new body shop.”
Romney saying that research and development would create a better future for the auto industry, as well as emerging markets in Russia, China, India and Brazil.
“Detroit shouldn’t just be the motor city of America, it’s gotta be the motor city of the entire world.”