What Trump Doesn’t Know About Detroit

Aug 18, 2016 · 133 comments
dmanuta (Waverly, OH)
Mr. Rattner has conveniently ignored three (3) issues in his OP-ED.

The first issue is that the automobile companies were being run as de facto welfare states. In Ohio, at one time there were more than five (5) times as many retirees as active workers. The negotiated lifetime healthcare was bankrupting the automobile companies. As a result, the cost of retiree healthcare per vehicle sold exceeded the cost of steel per vehicle.

The second issue deals with the U-3 unemployment rate reported at the state level. The U-6 unemployment rate may be two to three times higher, since the workforce participation rate in the current administration is pushing against 40+ year lows. In short, the denominator in the fraction for employment is larger in the U-6 calculation, rendering the employed number lower. When subtracted from 100%, the actual unemployment rate is much higher than what Mr. Rattner has reported.

The third issue deals with the number of vehicles produced. Other than in places like Cuba, automobiles are not supposed to last forever. One of the ways that recessions end is that consumers bite the bullet and they purchase durable goods. This issue has practically nothing to do with Mr. Rattner's stewardship of the Obama Administration's wishes/dictates. The reality is that this issue can be explained by the existence of a more normal business cycle.

The Times needs to more careful with apparently disineguous OP-EDs like this one prior to publication.
M Novack (New York)
Trump is wrong about the auto industry bailout, cutting taxes for corporations & the wealthy, Muslims, adding more police officers in poor neighborhoods, women's issues, Putin, race relations, H1B visas, what he considers his expertise of the military, what to do about ISIS and so much more.
Looking forward to the debates so Hillary can demonstrate how wrong he is and how little he actually knows especially compared to her.
casual observer (Los angeles)
Trump is the kind of business person that all business people loath but suffer to tolerate for the sake of the potential gains. Unlike Trump, most business people have scruples and prefer to work with those who have scruples, and they manage their risks to avoid becoming so desperate that they have to cheat business partners or to seek bankruptcy court, ever. Look at Trump and you see a poor businessman who never would have become so rich without having inherited so much money because he does not know the difference between a blind gamble and a calculated risk. That is why he can maintain an attitude that the American automobile industry could have found it's way out without government support in 2009.
H E Pettit (St. Hedwig, Texas)
I find that the bailouts were complicated for everyone,but it was an asset to the economy. The fact is Trump & reactionary Republicans opposed it on principle ,which is an oxymoron in itself. Romney received a $120 million loan to save a company & paid out $80 million in executive bonuses. Then asked for more. Trump would abolish the minimum wage ,let alone pay a living wage. So have the bailouts helped America? Ask anyone if they are better now than 2009! Want to know where Trump stands "business ethics" , take a look at his tax returns, any tax returns. So while he is trying to pin the tail on the donkey, he demonstrates his business acumen. American business cannot afford Trump, a gold plated philanderer of public trust. He makes Hillary look like a saint. There needs to be a vision ,especially in business , of an America , that uplifts us all. Trump offers no vision, just division. Two Presidents understood that America needed to be saved from itself & acted upon it. In crisis , we can stand strong & create new opportunities, Trumps vision is to emulate China & Russia. Anyone for that?
jl (los angeles)
Mr Rattner's NYT profile states that he "is a Wall Street executive" which is true. It does not state that he has been barred from the Securities industry since 2010 by the SEC which is also true. I guess the combination qualifies him as ontributing writer to NYT .
I can wait (Westchester)
When I look back on those extremely dark days of 2008, when we as a nation were facing forces so beyond any single person’s control or for that matter, so beyond the control of even bed-rock corporations, there was only one entity that could possibly save United States of America … and that was the United States of America.

The banking industry, regardless of its shameless greed and excess, needed to be stabilized because our very way of life required it.

As for the auto industry, that was an easy and obvious choice too. Employing millions either directly or indirectly, not to mention the psychological implications of an industry toppling like dominos, not intervening and assisting auto manufacturers would have only fueled the fire burning the economy instead of helping to douse that fire out. At a time where the only tools that would work were brushes with really broad strokes, auto manufacturing was an industry well worth saving. Some of us knew it then. We still know it now.
Jp (Michigan)
"In 2012, Mr. Trump tweeted that Chrysler was going to move its Jeep production to China. Wrong again. Jeep is making vehicles
in China only for Asian markets"

Rattner is correct, FCA Jeep and truck production will remain in the US. All passenger car production will take place off-shore. Hey gas prices are relatively low and people are purchasing SUVs and trucks again in relatively large numbers so all is well, right...

Rattner should be ashamed of himself. He took part in a fraudulent bankruptcy for the sake of a political favor from Obama to the UAW. People died as a result of GM negligence but that was all covered up for the sake of the quick rinse bankruptcy.
The cascade effect? It's overstated, what would have cascaded were lost votes for Obama.
That Rattner even admits to his part in this is amazing.
Beatrice ('Sconset)
Well, perhaps those who advocated auto company bankruptcy (Mssrs. Romney, Trump & Pence) were cheering for insolvency so that they then could go in during the aftermath & buy at fire-sale prices.
The art of the deal ?
nkda2000 (Fort Worth, TX)
Mr. Rattner, one fact you forgot to mention that is especially important for all to remember. Although the US Government Bailout was only for GM and Chrysler, Ford also went to Congress in support of the Bailout. Although Ford did not need the Bailout, it knew that if GM and Chrysler went under, then all the parts suppliers, who also supply Ford would have gone under. The ripple effects would have been catastrophic taking down not just GM and Chrysler but also Ford in the aftermath.

Unfortunately the truth is irrelevant to Trump, his supporters, Pence, the GOP and even for Governor Kasich. They all rail against the Bailouts to their GOP base without being honest as to how it saved the entire Midwest from even greater economic disaster. I should note that most of the opposition to the Bailout came from Red State Southern Senators who had foreign car manufacturers in their states. They selfishly wanted Detroit to fail so their state factories would get more business. Unfortunately even Senator Hutchinson (R, TX) voted against it even though one of GM’s largest plants is located in Arlington, TX.
S.D.Keith (Birmigham, AL)
Yes, the bailout saved the domestic auto industry. At least in so far as GM and Chrysler make cars with domestic workers for the domestic car markets. What it didn't do is allow for the creative destruction--the downside risk of the fabulous wealth capitalism is capable of creating--that would have reformed the domestic auto industry. It just revivified the status quo.

But the status quo was unsustainable then, and soon enough, it will prove unsustainable in the now. What then? Throw more good money at bad?

In the financial crisis and Great Recession the US missed a grand opportunity to reform and reinvigorate its economic system by pouring massive amounts of money directed toward carrying on with the status quo, i.e., the thing that got us to the precipice in the first place. The next time around--and there will be a next time--we likely won't have the wherewithal to do the same. Thank goodness.
Another hit piece from the NY Times.
Look. Everyone knows, I've heard, that is, people all over are saying, Donald trump has never, ever filed for bankruptcy. Ever! Period.
Donald is a huge winner. Bankruptcy is for losers. Ergo, Donald has never filed for bankruptcy. It's common sense.

Sure. There have been attempts to lie about that in the "Main Stream Media."
But I don't believe them. Nothing they report is true. (see Global Warming, unemployment rate, lower crime statistics, the economy has improved since 2008. Obama is a Christian. Obama is an American citizen. Obama isn't the father of ISIS) They're TOTALLY corrupt. Liars. Owned by the establishment.

And the author of this OP-ed, "Lying" Steve Rattner? Low energy Steve? Doesn't have the judgement, physical or mental strength to comment on this or any other issue. He's a Washington insider, An elitist. Probably has more than one "College" degree. I'll bet he took money from the auto industry.

This is an example of satire, Mr. Trump. Not very good. But but try something in this vein the next time you backtrack from what you really mean.

I'd at least appreciate the laugh.
Occupy Government (Oakland)
Trump promised to bring back nasty steel mills and coal mines to Appalachia. He lost voted right there. Those families all have kids with asthma.
weneedhelp (NH)
Thanks Steve. You could've saved yourself a lot of work if you'd written a column called "What Trump knows about Detroit."
FT (San Francisco)
The headline says it all. He knows nothing.
I think we're being a little unfair, here. Obviously Trump and all Republicans are desperate to not give Obama credit for anything.

That said, when it comes to bankruptcy, this is a subject Trump knows a lot about so I woudn't be so quick to discpunt his expertise on this subject.
JT (Boston)
The actual cost was $9 billion, after the remainder was recovered. According to the chart in the article there were around 570000 jobs at stake in those states that would have simply gone away. That amounts to less than $16,000 per job, to keep a job that will go on for years, as opposed to disappearing completely.

So yes, it was the right way to invest in American jobs.
Independent Voter (Los Angeles)
Welcome to the Age of Lunacy. The Age of Reason now centuries behind us, we have grown tired of rationality and intellectual vigor and have entered a time where a Mad-Dog lunatic is running for the presidency. Spewing lies and innuendos and filth wherever he goes, he gleefully exhorts his broomstick and pitchfork wielding followers to storm the nation and lay waste to reason, integrity and American decency.

Now the Mad-Dog in Chief, red-faced and pink-haired and screaming invectives in every direction. has appointed an even loonier crackpot - a frothing, near-insane Conspiracist with the morals of a sewer rat - to run his campaign.

Bloated with self-importance and reeking of narcissism, the Mad-Dog in Chief has no real interest in being president, he is interested only in self-aggrandizement and money, and will say or do anything to get it. As outrageous and ravenous as a Batman villain, spreading fear and hatred wherever he goes, the Mad-Dog in Chief is not a real candidate, he is a disease. It is up to sane Americans to see that he and his newly appointed hatchet man do not infect the entire nation.
Nailadi (Connecticut)
The fundamental argument in all these types of government bailouts is being able to protect values, mostly at a social level, at the expense of creditors and shareholders. Letting the auto industry go through bankruptcy restructuring or even allowing them to fail because that is what Economic models tell us would be the optimal thing is to overlook one fairly big thing - The academic framework does not allow these models to take into account the cost of social upheaval. Economic models simply assume that any explicit or implicit social cost can be absorbed elsewhere.

There is not only a fundamental lack of understanding with these rhetoric driven arguments but also an explicit anger against the lower income group. On the one hand, Trump purports to stand up for the working class American. With the other side of his mouth, he is saying that they should have been sent to purgatory. Were the Republicans in the recent past, and Trump most recently, saying that about Detroit because it is a city with a sizeable African American population? These are bigots trying to create social imbalance in the name of efficiency.

There is also, the other small matter that Trump and most Republicans, in general, lack any understanding of the larger economy and social issues. Their agenda is based on what gets them air time with entities like Rush Limbaugh

Also, and ironically, shutting Detroit out might well have transferred the Auto industry jobs to Mexico or China ! Trump ?
Ivan Light (Inverness CA)
Rather than "bailing out" the automobile industry with loans that have not to date been fully repaid, the federal government might have permitted the automobile industry to bankrupt, then purchased the whole industry for pennies on the dollar, thereafter selling the industry back to private enterprise at a handsome profit. Had that been done, the federal government would have turned a nine billion dollar profit from the transaction, the cash going into the general fund. Instead, the federal government is happy that the automobile industry "only" owes nine billion dollars. That is not chickenfeed. For nine billion taxpayer dollars many state water systems could have been repaired before people began to drink lead.
Robert (NJ)
I think the Donald's end game is to get campaign contributions which he will retain after he losses the election. How they will be used afterward will be murky.
Reuben Ryder (Cornwall)
I do not know what to say. I have taken a liking to Mr. Rattner. He seems to speak the truth. I believe this because he uses facts that are supportable and not cherry picked. However, I am beginning to also feel sorry for him, since he seems to have taken it upon himself to explain history to people, who first of all do not believe in history, and secondly to not believe in facts, so it would seem that Mr. Ratner is tilting at windmills here. It seems, though, that nothing in this world is straight forward. There is always a story to the story. If we had allowed Detroit to go belly up, where would we be today. I buy Toyota. Better. Not bankrupt, but prices would have gone up, so I am happy that Detroit still in ball game.
Reality Chex (St. Louis)
Is this going to be a continuing series?

"Today, on what Donald Trump doesn't know about."
W in the Middle (New York State)
Yes, Steve - you were there...

And you re-wrote the rules of bankruptcy on the fly, and crushed senior debt-holders, while pandering to the unions...

Not shareholders...Debt-holders - and senior debt-holders...

And to all who think that's it great to take away money from someone who can afford (even a single) bond - and give free stuff to your voting constituency...May you be that fortunate - and then stolen from - in your life...

For clarity, I didn't hold senior GM paper - but several people close to me did...

None were rich...

All were considerably poorer, after you got through with them, Rattner...
mikecody (Buffalo NY)
Had there been no bailout, the demand for automobiles would have remained. These cars would have been manufactured somewhere, by someone. Many possible scenarios as to how this would have occurred exist; other organizations might have bought the production facilities and reopened them, after reorganization under bankruptcy the slimmed down companies might have re entered the markets, no one knows what would've happened.

What would not have happened is that millions of UAW workers, supporters of the Democrats in general and Obama in particular, would have had their contracts preserved and their pensions funded while the non union management, such as happened at Delphi, lost theirs (oddly enough, these people tended to be GOP supporters).
HSimon (VA)
"Had there been no bailout, the demand for automobiles would have remained."

This is such a ludicrous assumption. Getting incredibly sick of revisionist history on the recession, by amateur economists who've never cracked a book!. My goodness, even Toyota was posting huge losses!

People were afraid they would become one the 750k jobs we were hemorrhaging each month. In that atmosphere, how can anyone say with a straight face, that demand would have been the same as it ever was? The country was in an absolute free fall and there was no demand for anything. Most of us were just trying to hold on.

Businesses pulled back, consumers pulled back...the only thing left was the power of the government to borrow and spend. If we had tried to slash the deficit, as most Republicans wanted, we'd still be trying to dig ourselves out. Even now, we're barely holding ourselves above what's still crippling the Japanese economy...DEFLATION.

So sell Crazy somewhere else! With Trump's ongoing cluster of a campaign, we're definitely all full up here!
MiguelM (Fort Lauderdale, Fl.)
I Bet Mercedes Benz disagrees and Fiat agrees with you.
Jack (East Coast)
Trump sees no difference between running a company and running a country. As a four-time bankrupt, he is used to shafting creditors and walking away. But when it’s a country, there is no one else left to hold the bag. The bailout was one of the wisest investments made for the US. Bailing out AIG less so.
Jeff (Evanston, IL)
The positive impact of saving GM and Chrysler is even more than Mr. Rattner indicates. His graph shows only auto and auto parts employment figures. It should also include retail stores, restaurants, car dealerships, etc. In the towns that the auto industry dominated, such businesses would have failed. The real estate market would have tanked even more than it did. And unemployment in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio would be much higher today. It is comical that Gov. Pence of Indiana (and Gov. Kasich of Ohio, for that matter) take credit for the much improved economies in their states. Where would those states be today without the auto bailout?
MDCooks8 (West of the Hudson)
So why wasn't the full amount of the bailout paid back if record profits are being made?

Taxpayers should be demanding the $9 billion dollars still owed.
NYer (NYC)
“You could have let it go bankrupt, frankly, and rebuilt itself, and a lot of people felt it should happen"?

Trump is basically echoing his irresponsible approach in much of his MULTIPLE-BANKRUPTCY career--one which has made HIM rich while harming others!

Atlantic City is a classic case-in-point, as reported recently in the Times. Trump owed $MILLIONS in taxes and got the bill knocked way down, thanks to the efforts of Chris Christie, now one of his "pals"! This, after Trump's casinos defaulted on their financial obligations, leaving the state of NJ and Atlantic Country in the lurch!

And who got stiffed?
The Federal government, which lost needed revenue for things like infrastructure, and municipalities -- in particular Atlantic city and Atlantic County, and close to 10,000 workers who lost their jobs.

Who profited?
Trump and his pals!

Does any sane person want this "lesson" applied to the whole country?
D Mills (New York City)
To be fair, and in the interest of posterity, it should also be noted that Bernie Sanders voted against the financial rescue package which funded the auto bailout.
RJ (Londonderry, NH)
Hey Stevie, how'd the bondholders make out compared to the UAW members in the infamous "jobs bank"? What I thought...
Knotty (CT, USA)
My engineering job was saved by the auto bailout because as a supplier we had someone to supply. The auto bailout was the best money the government ever spent ('nother war anyone?).

With the collapse of credit markets due to the mortgage debacle, the country would've sunk to third world status if the auto industry had been allowed to fail. Even Ford who did not need the bailout would've buckled due to the loss of suppliers like my company who also supplies GM and Chrysler (and Honda, Toyota, etc.).

People who opposed the bailout are either ignorant or cold academics - only concerned about total shareholder value and not how it actually plays out in peoples lives and their communities.
Bud (McKinney, Texas)
I have seen previous Rattner interviews on the auto industry bailout. Taxpayers funded the bailouts and the major winners were the UAW and union workers.GM and Chrysler shareholders lost everything.Losing all your stock investments in GM and Chrysler doesn't encourage someone to reinvest in an auto company stock offering.Rattner is just another liberal economist from the Larry Summers mold.They are good from a theory viewpoint but fail when reality occurs.
Dectra (Washington, DC)
What Trump Doesn't Know......

Wow. You could fill an Encyclopedia Britannica with that opening line.
KHahn (Indiana)
Both the auto bailout AND the financial bailout were necessary and successful. This story captures well the value of the auto bailout. They event I remember was when Ford (who did not need a bailout) testified to Congress that GM and Chrysler SHOULD be bailed out. Even though they were a competitor they knew the whole supply chain would crumble if not.
Regarding the financial bailout ask yourself what you would have done if you opened your 401k statement and both your investments AND your cash position lost money. Money market accounts had broken the buck meaning even cash accounts were dropping. People would have panicked and cashed out 401ks and literally put the money under the mattress. Oh and TARP was actually profitable for the US meaning the bailout costed nothing. Congress at that time saved us from Great Depression 2 and they will never get credit for it.
EinT (Tampa)
But we lost $11.2 billion on the GM deal and 1.2 billion on Chrysler which is now an Italian company.
Chris Wildman (Alaska)
Trump, who knows a thing or two about bankruptcies, having undergone six of them, doesn't have a clue about businesses that employ millions of American workers. His businesses in construction, casino management, and his forays into airline and football team ownership and sales of Trump "products" are small potatoes in comparison to the auto industry, and his employee base is a mere fraction of that of the big three automakers in Detroit. American pride in creating world class cars and trucks, and the employment of those who build and sell them, create the parts for them, and transport them are interwoven, are crucial to our economy, not only in Detroit, which depends heavily upon the industry, but across the nation. Trump, once again, demonstrates his lack of critical thinking and his inability to see the big picture. Even more frightening is his stubborn belief that he knows all he needs to know to govern this country.
EinT (Tampa)
Big 2. Chrysler is an Italian company now.
ChesBay (Maryland)
But, he DOES know the ins and outs of organized crime, and the care and management of rogue countries.
Greeley (Cape Cod, MA)
I admit that I was in favor of the auto bailout. No doubt, there were many, many worthy businesses that would have benefitted from federal assistance, but I supported helping this most American industry. Not only is it's footprint broad, wide and deep in the nation's economy, especially from a human resources/employee perspective, but I believed it was a calculated judgement that the auto companies would rebuild their once proud heritage.

With that being said, I am quite certain that the entire employee base, including management and all service vendors and related businesses, being equally committed to the American auto industry, are prepared to show their gratitude to that part of the American population that had their backs at such a dire time. Right?

They ARE all supporting the Democratic Party, aren't they? The party that saw the imperative to keep their business alive? They wouldn't think of supporting Donald Trump, would they? I'm sure they are horrified at his view of a preferred bankrupt Detroit.

Why, today they may even be questioning his forked-tongue promises to "bring jobs back"! Looks like he was fully prepared to give them away a few years ago.

Just wondering about the white male support Trump may have in their ranks, and how they square this chapter with themselves.
tml (ny)
The pot calling the kettle black? Trump made such statements even as he had been forgiven a considerable portion of his tax debt by his buddy Christie- millions - one among many ways with which he takes advantage of other people and the government. The rest of us should be so lucky if we owed even a penny in taxes.

At least in the case of the car industry, the investment (as much I'd rather not have the government, hence taxpayers, be the ones to bail it out) brought it, and jobs, back to life.

Perhaps if Trump had been truly allowed to fail, as he should have after all his fiascos, we wouldn't have him running for president today
ChesBay (Maryland)
tml--So far as we know, Trump never paid the revised, lower amount. That's what the rich do. They whine about their taxes, but will always find a way to never pay even the least amount. We should tax the crap out of them! As far as giving away favors or public property--anyone who does such a thing, without taxpayer approval, should be immediately impeached or recalled.
Back to basics Rob (Nre York)
Trump and Pence would have supported the Chicago stockyards against Upton Sinclair when Sinclair exposed their horrific employee practices in 1906 in "The Jungle." They would have supported "freedom of contract." No matter what people in business do to employees in making a product, do to their customers in selling a product, or exposing a community to their waste products (smoke, pollution) in producing a product, Trump and Pence could care less. "Business is Business." Whether large or small, the community, acting through its government, should not intervene in how
one person affects a second person so long as the first one is trying to make money. In a nutshell, they position someone trying to make money as more powerful and more legitimate than the government of the community. They have the midset of the post civil war, American Wild West of the 1800's. Their time has come and gone, thank goodness.
Banicki (Michigan)
What nobody seems to know about Detroit is its chance of a turnaround was greatly hampered by the way in which its bankruptcy was handled by Governor Snyder. He needlessly gave away billions of dollars in assets for pennies on the dollar.

Much of these assets could have been used to fix the city's school system. Everyone who has followed Detroit's bankrutcy including the the bankruptcy judge, knows good schools are necessary for a sustainable turnaround.

Stephen Henderson, with the Detroit Free Press, and Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s Emergency Manager and now Partner with the law firm Jones Day, who was the law firm hired by the state, were guest on OnPoint Radio. Both Henderson and Orr stated the bankruptcy was a success. I agree the bankruptcy was needed but the way in which it was implemented and its success is in doubt. Success should be measured by more than how quick the municipality was removed from bankruptcy.

Henderson stated, " the bankruptcy saved us from a financial disaster and left more money for us to provide services".

Kevyn Orr stated the purpose of bankruptcy was to “preserve value, stabilize the patient and rationalize the balance sheet.”

Henderson and Orr are correct that putting Detroit into bankruptcy was the right thing to do. The route chosen was not the best alternative to “preserve value and rationalize the balance sheet.” Needlessly giving away billions of dollars of for pennies on the dollar saved the present by surrendering the future.
Jp (Michigan)
In a bankruptcy the objective is to get debts off the books and let the entity function again. To get those debts off the books something has to be given up.

It hurts, and it's meant to.
After living in the city for over 30 years, the actions required were not surprising.
ChesBay (Maryland)
I also supported the bailout of the auto industry, BUT NOT THE BANKS, who caused the crisis. NOW, as we approach a similar crisis in SUB-PRIME AUTO LOANS, I WILL blame the auto industry, especially GM, who doesn't seem particularly ethical on any level.
thehousedog (seattle, wa)
What's worse: A bankrupt and likely split or dissolved auto industry or millions of people without jobs? What, they would both happen at the same time? And all the while we are all complaining about the lack of jobs and the declining middle class? People get your priorities in order. Millions of Americans kept their jobs thanks to the bail out. Sorry it did not jibe with your personal dream of small government or keeping Wall Street out of government but this is how things often work when we come together for the greater good. Perhaps you remember that from our history as a growing and young nation.
casual observer (Los angeles)
If the auto industry had not been supported while reorganizing, they would have been replaced by the giant foreign auto corporations, entirely. Anyone who thinks otherwise simply is indulging in magical thinking.

Anyone who has ever been involved in business in the real economy knows that establishing, building, and maintaining a business is full of challenges and uncertainties as well as opportunities which makes the outcomes of any particular business venture risky. As in every activity in the real world having the resources, expertise, and the ability to apply them at the right time so crucial to the outcome that nobody can know what might have happened had not what happened been so. Conservatives want to believe that invisible forces control economies which require never allowing do-gooders to interfere if they are to perform properly. They also do not want any democratically elected government imposing constraints upon what they might to do under any circumstances and they certainly do not want to pay any taxes that they can avoid which would constrain, so the self regulating market hypothesis nicely fits with these desires, too. But what happens in a global economy is unequally distributed and can result in big problems for any particular business or community which they cannot hope to fix alone. That's where governments, national governments, have a crucial role in managing risks which otherwise would mean failed business ventures and depressed communities.
EinT (Tampa)
Chrysler WAS replaced by a giant foreign corporation.
PK2NYT (Sacramento, CA)
There is to be an adage that said; “What is good for the GM is good for the US.” In the contemporary US economy, the fate of US may not be as closely tied to the health of General Motors, yet problems at GM can have severe impacts on the certain Midwestern states and have ripple effects. The US government help for GM and Chrysler was indeed timely and helped recover from a major economic disaster. However, the car companies should not be led to believe that just like some major banks, they are too big to fail, and the government would continue to bail them out every time. On a side note, some CEOs of US car companies have become democrats after years of railing against meddlesome governments actions. Lee Iacocca of Chrysler turned a democrat after his company’s bailout in early 1980s. In Washington Post there is an article by Daniel Akerson, Ex CEO of GM, stating why he will not be voting Republican for the first time. He has made very cogent arguments as to why Trump fails all the leadership tests while Hillary meets all the criteria set for a good leader.
EinT (Tampa)
Why would Akerson vote for a Republican when he was given the CEO job at GM by a Democrat administration? And was paid millions.
Libaryan (NYC)
It would be helpful for the Times to note that aside from being a former Obama administration official, Ratner has been a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in the past.
1515732 (Wales,wi)
No surprise here!
Ken L (Atlanta)
Trump has leveraged the bankruptcy laws multiple times to engineer his own personal bailouts. Perhaps he should have been denied access to the bankruptcy court and left to fend for himself in the capital markets. I wonder how that would have worked out?
SMC (West Tisbury MA)
There was an interview of the mayor of Marysville Ohio where many Hondas are built. He said that the Japanese executives of Honda came to him to support the bailout as there would be no parts suppliers for Honda if GM and Chrysler went down. Without the bailout there would almost NO cars built in the US today.
Allan AH (Corrales, New Mexico)
There’s an overarching issue at work in Mr. Ratner’s excellent reprise of the auto industry recovery. It’s the tendency in contemporary America to fall into the black hole of obsessive, mindless ideology. Totally predictable reactions to the auto recovery emerge without the slightest nuance or second thought. Market forces and conventional policies (such as bankruptcies) work well in many cases and should always be an important part of our economy. But they often fail and we must have the common sense to employ hybrid strategies to meet new threats. America needs both vibrant, active private enterprise and a strong public sector. As the new book “American Amnesia” reminds us when we have had both of these vital forces, the greatest prosperity and wealth generation has occurred.
Commenters have every right to question the auto policy but the details of the history of public benefit are hard to refute.
John Henson (Mcminnville TN)
What Mr. Trump knows could easily fit on the head of a pin with several thousand angels sitting with it.
Armo (San Francisco)
Having tens of thousands of jobs shipped out of country is according to Rattner is " an unfortunate but not unusual byproduct of economic development"? Nice spin Mr. Free trader. You and your guy Clinton made darn sure those lost jobs would be a "byproduct of economic development" with your unbridled support of free trade agreements so the profiteers can laugh all the way to the bank while the tens of thousands without jobs have no where to turn. Thanks for your support. NAFTA was a great idea huh Steve? How much money do you need?
slightlycrazy (northern california)
surely you aren't expecting trump and his minions to pay attention to data and logic
DeeBee (Rochester, Michigan)
Steve, if you can stop patting yourself on the back for once, please explain the following:

- GM is importing a Buick SUV from China
- significant numbers of GM and Chrysler products are made in Mexico plus a lot of engineering and design work is done in India (buy American Steve?)
- Delphi salaried workers lost their pensions yet the UAW workers did not
- GM is benefiting from favorable tax treatment due to "special provisions" in their agreement

The Detroit automakers were horribly managed, but not saving them would have devastated the Rust Belt and no POTUS was willing to watch that happen.
northlander (michigan)
Ah, bankruptcy, Trump's solution for every debt, except perhaps to the Russians. Run Donny, run.
CarissaV (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Yet another example of Trump's fact-free campaign.
1515732 (Wales,wi)
Spoken like the true government bureaucrat that he is. They only "loss" 9 billion on the deal. Great! Lets invest more taxpayer money in the auto industry!
Joe S. (Harrisburg, PA)
It was a great investment! Take $9 billion, divide by the estimated 1 million jobs saved, and you get $9,000 per job.

Given that those jobs pay well more then $9,000 just for one year, and given the multiplier effect of the spending by those employees (employing people at grocery stores, restaurants, etc.), and it more than pays for the $9 billion outlay.

Then again, I'm one of those people who believe we're all in this together.
b fagan (Chicago)
How much in income taxes would have been paid by the three automakers, their suppliers and all affected employees if the companies had shut down?
Tim Fennell (Allentown PA)
The $9B would have been dwarfed by the loss of tax receipts and increased unemployment/welfare payouts if the American auto industry had collapsed.
will w (CT)
"but to develop new jobs requiring the higher skill levels of American workers." What? Thirteen words covering a very substantial idea involving a myriad of problems. This kind of writing would get an F in business school, too general, too pie in the sky with no detail analysis. And what makes you think the Mexican worker is not equally able to demonstrate the higher skills necessary to match anything the average American worker can muster? Do you think Mexican manufacturers are any less motivated to incorporate modern technological processes? If one looks closely at this statement of Mr. Rattner's one could form the conclusion that there's an air of superiority wafting about which smells a bit racist, not far removed from the subject of his article.
Reytheo (Montreal)
This piece speaks to one of Obama's quality that doesn't serve him well in a political arena: He doesn't brag and take credit enough for his successes. He is first and foremost a pragmatic problem solver and not your regular politician. He is the most underrated POTUS ever.
I would love to see a piece on the NYT on how the auto industry (or manufacturing in general) became more productive in the US by automating processes and the impact of automation on job creation. That is the real conversation that we should be having: How can we help the workforce to make those technological transitions and adapt.
The era of low skill/high wage jobs are gone. If you force companies like Carrier for example to stay in the US, you can bet that their new plant will be highly automated and will create less jobs than what they have in Mexico. It's either they move to countries with low wages or stay in the US and automate their processes. Just look at the Tesla manufacturing plant on YouTube.
As a business process analyst, I can tell you that there is no relent in the pressure for doing much more with less (embodied in lean manufacturing principles). Every economic downturn exacerbates this pressure as companies cease opportunities in those downturns to become even more efficient.
While I marvel at the productivity gain that technology brings, I'm also deeply concern for those who don't have the required skills to keep up with that pace.
We need to start thinking about this seriously.
Javafutter (Virginia)
I shudder to think of the state of our economy and employment if President Obama had not taken that bold stand to save our auto industry. Most likely about 1 million American jobs would have been affected.

I hope he brings it up so folks who work in the auto industry will remember who was on their side in a time of crisis and who was ready to desert them.
L (TN)
Facts, facts, facts. Trump supporters neither believe nor care about facts. The GOP has destroyed the credibility of news agencies to deliver truth, all the better to make claims, however outrageous. The battle for the soul of America rests on our ability to restore the reliability of data on which to base informed policy. Lacking that, America has no future. This is where the morality war, in which faith is manipulated to supplant fact for political gain, has brought us. No one can save the occupants of a sinking ship if the captain and the passengers do not trust the report that there is a 60 foot gash in the hull.
Deirdre Diamint (Randolph, NJ)
The elephant in the room is that 40 years of tax breaks for the wealthy have starved the country of needed tax dollars and causes our debt to explode

We have a revenue problem and exacerbating the problem is that the wealthy get too many tax breaks and the GOP wants to fix it by cutting entitlements

The first thing we need to do is eliminate the AMT and cap deductions including charities to 30%
Then tax all income at the same rates and eliminate the distinction between workers and investors. The rest is just semantics
EinT (Tampa)
So you complain about the too many tax breaks for the wealthy and then recommend the elimination of the AMT, 60% of which is paid by Americans who earn between 500K and 1 million?

And the impact of deductions on your taxable income declines as your income rises. So capping deductions at 30% will do little, if anything, to increase tax revenue.
Jim Davis (St. Louis)
I disagree with the Donald on just about everything he says or stands for. But the government bailout of the auto industry was wrong, for the same reasons the bailout of Wall Street by the government was wrong. As a capitalistic country, government's job is not to use public funds to pick winners and losers in a free market. The reasons are obvious: why do the jobs in Detroit or Manhattan matter more than the millions of other jobs that were lost around the country? They don't. Government shouldn't intervene in these situations for the same reasons we have separation of Church and State. Was an industry saved? We'll never know for sure.
George S. (Michigan)
The GOP governors in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio are certainly taking full credit for the big declines in unemployment rates made possible by saving the auto industry and restructuring the companies. There was no capital available to those companies to do their own restructuring. GM would certainly have shut down, at a time when we were already losing over 700,000 jobs per month. Can you spell D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N? What was most impressive were the changes forced by the government in management and structure to become more efficient and modernize their product offerings. Without that, the intervention would not have been nearly as successful. The GOP is simply opposed to giving the President credit for anything positive. That is GOP principle number 1. For principle number 2, see principle number 1.
Jonathan E. Grant (Silver Spring, Md.)
If a company has been producing garbage, and its workers are overpaid and have too generous a contract, why should the government bail them out? Same with US cities.

GM and Chrysler were producing garbage, made by vastly overpaid, sloppy workers. Both were bailed out, and Chrysler became an Italian company, at no cost to Fiat, but at a cost of billions to the American Taxpayer.

GM's first actions after coming out of bankruptcy were to lie or coverup faulty and dangerous ignition systems.

Ford did not need a bailout, but relied on the private sector instead.

Detroit was mismanaged for years. Why should there be a bailout for the city? Cities come and go, and Detroit should have died by now. That is how societies move forward from disasters.
SF (New York)
It was a good work.Saved an important American industry.Saved acumulative knowledge in equipment and knowledgable labor( who ever work in this kind of industry understand it pretty well).Kept a strategic industry in place and now the fruits are scattered around the society by better salaries and more employment.Kudos is what all this works deserves not the stupidity from the right wings who are the nest of negative ideas.The worst of them is Darwinism in every place in the society but not for the friends.Coal,steel,oil need to be protected and the very rich should pay lower taxes.What is more astonishing is they have the guts to say it.Shamless.
Activist Bill (Mount Vernon, NY)
The auto industry should NOT have been bailed out, but rather should have been allowed to collapse completely, and then rebuild again from the bottom up.
Obama's bailing out of GM was, in effect, rewarding incompetent and corrupt corporate management. The incompetence will continue, as has been shown over the past several years since the bailout.
The Union workers continue to be paid their unjustifiable wages and benefits too.
Joe From Boston (Massachusetts)
"Unjustifiable wages"? You mean the wages agreed to by both sides? Those wages?

Got it. You are jealous.
Gerhard (NY)
A very biased view from a Wall Street insider.

GM had an offer on table, ready to sign, to sell its German operation, in order to save its Detroit operation. It rejected the offer. It was more willing to dump Detroit. Plus, it was an open secret in the automotive industry that lots of Chinese money wanted to buy the US operations of GM to get access to the knowledge to meet the myriads of regulations by the US government on the car industry.

And how has GM repaid the US ?

First, it still has not returned all of the money.

Second, more appallingly, it decided to meet increased demand for Buicks and Cadillacs by importing them from its Chinese factories, made at Chinese wages. Without a sticker of origin.


That from a company that was bailed out by the US taxpayer.
Just Thinking (Montville, NJ)
For many years, my conscience drove me to buy American cars. I sampled each major supplier. They were uniformly terrible, uncomfortable, unreliable, and short lived.

Then I bought a Toyota. It was a revelation. It was comfortable, reliable and seemed to run forever. While US suppliers have improved, they still can't seem to fully compete in any of these areas.

When the crisis hit Detroit, I felt it was a Darwinian moment. The gods of the marketplace had spoken. The incompetence of the management, in their isolated towers, had finally come to roost.

However, the bailout was doubtless the right move for our economy, as it saved the jobs of innocents........
Lew (San Diego, CA)
"In 2013, he tweeted, “After Obama bailed out G.M. for $80 billion, 7 of 10 G.M. cars made in China!” Wrong on multiple counts. It wasn’t $80 billion; it was $49.5 billion for G.M., of which $13.4 billion was provided by the Bush administration. (Another $30 billion was allocated to Chrysler and the automobile finance companies.) Nor are most G.M. cars made in China; in fact, hardly any General Motors cars made in China are brought to the United States.

In 2012, Mr. Trump tweeted that Chrysler was going to move its Jeep production to China. Wrong again. Jeep is making vehicles in China only for Asian markets."

Another day, another recital of newly uncovered Trump lies and false statements. The quantity of falsehoods that have issued from this man's mouth and phone is truly mind boggling. One day in the future, an enterprising scholar will try to understand the alternate universe created by this sociopath and will decide that an ordinary book length treatment cannot do justice to the scale of Trump's mendacity.
EinT (Tampa)
So Chrysler did move Jeep production to China. It's an Italian company anyway, they can make cars wherever they want.
janet silenci (brooklyn)
Does anyone think that US bankruptcy laws are a kind of government assistance that shouldn't be offered to millionaires? I'm so grateful that these companies were allowed to rebuild and made good on their debt. But what about the Trump organizations? have they flourished and made good on debt from Trump's many bankruptcy's? we know he gained personally in his bank accounts. How many prongs are in this forked tongue?

And if Detroit should have gone bankrupt and let all its employees go to fend for themselves (according to Trump) why wouldn't he be recommending a similar fate for industries like coal that really have no choice but to go the way of the the typewriter, and plan for retraining employees that will lose jobs for the big replacement industries for energy?

The best performers, actors and entertainers read their audience well and please them. What this has to do with policy and planning? Nothing. But it does exhibit the amazing colors of this chameleon.
EinT (Tampa)
GM may have made good on their debt but you and I lost $11.2 billion on the deal. So, yes they made good but the American taxpayer paid for it.
Michael (Morris Township, NJ)
Utter, partisan claptrap.

What’s the difference between the “managed bankruptcy” GM went though, and a run of the mill bankruptcy? Answer: in the former, you can game the system to favor your UAW labor allies, and prevent them from suffering the consequences of the horrible contracts to which they were a party. All while clipping both other creditors and the taxpayers, the latter to the tune of $11 Billion. (The author says $9B)

Why is it that the left, which purports to be against corporate welfare, stuck the taxpayers with an $11 Billion tab to fund companies which are now extremely profitable? Even assuming the merits of the Big Labor protection racket, why not insist, now that the companies are making money hand over fist, that the taxpayers be made whole?

There was actually no legitimate possibility that GM would simply close. BHO intervened to bail out not the companies, but his union allies, and the taxpayers got clipped for billions.

Which, when you think about it, is just about what you’d expect from this administration.
MM (Canada)
Wow your statement: "There was actually no legitimate possibility that GM would simply close" - were you born yesterday? Yes, many big-shots did close including Lehman brothers. Yes, not only GM/Chrysler would close - so would their suppliers devastating the Rust Belt, possibly all of America. But I agree with you that UAW was overplaying its hand - but they too had to compromise on the new contracts.

Trump/Romney would like these people line up for food assistance (see some photos from 30s depression); have more women forced into prostitution out of poverty (then denied of abortion or contraception) and more children grow up to be slave laborers.

Economy was (and is still) bad for working class - but thanks God Obama was there, so Republican vision did not materialize. I say to those Trump supporters (but honest job seekers), Save America First, then Hilary will make America Greater.
herbie212 (New York, NY)
The creditor took a bath, the only thing saved was the pensions which were and are over promised as a former union member I know that the companies cave during negotiation and do not fully fund the benefits so in the end the tax payers pick up the tab.
Trumpit (L.A.)
I believe that Mr. Rattner is Monday morning quarterbacking. No one should look to Trump, or Clinton for economic forecasting brilliance. Personally, I'd trust Clinton to make better business decisions (based on advise), or any decision. Trump relies too much on himself in spite of his own business failures. He doesn't recognize his basic stupidity, either. Nor would I look to financier Mr. Rattner to know what was best in the midst of an economic crisis brought about by greed on wall st. and complicit, arrogant, know-nothing politicians. The after-the-fact graphics in this op-ed are lovely though. If is was clear cut to bail out the automotive sector, then why didn't Mr. Rattner and other multi-millionaires put up there own money and make a killing? Maybe the billions the government spent would have been better spent to save people for losing their homes. Many suicides were the end result. I would also say that murders were committed as well. Some people who lost there homes blamed others, and directed their anger on revenge. It is not all dollars and cents, Mr. Rattner. Lives were in the balance; they always are.
Joe M. (Los Gatos, CA.)
Perspective is everything. There is a side of me that has a bedrock tendency to agree with the Republicans on this issue. Let failing, mismanaged, businesses die. Shareholders can feel the pain. This is capitalism.

But the overarching theory in the liberal capitalist's mind, then, is that there are businesses other than the mortgage banking industry that are too-big-to-fail because of their importance to the human infrastructure of the country. Kicking to the curb thousands of workers destroys entire cities as completely as thermonuclear warfare.

So the question is: is the priority for American business to preserve the integrity of the system of shareholder fiscal risk/reward, or is the priority to keep whole society as we know it?

For the past 40 years we have been erring on the side of the shareholder by outsourcing jobs, automating factory floors, streamlining processes, improving productivity - all lowering costs. Ironically, the reason for doing those things will also to keep whole society as we know it, but only after the people at the bottom of the org chart suffer the consequences.

I don't see an easy solution to this. But one thing is certain - it is never a bad thing to err on the side of investing in your human capital. Keeping Americans healthy, productive, and happy, is what this nation is about - at least, that's what it says on those papers in the National Archives.

So perhaps we should take that as a fundamental tenet, for a change.
Jimmy (Jersey City, N J)
"It is never a bad thing to err on the side of investing in your human capital".

The best way to preserve good paying jobs is not to destroy them in the first place. As demand diminishes, certain jobs and even industries will disappear. The car industry needed to change, but to turn it over to vulture capitalists, to suck all the cash out of it, would not have been a beneficial change, except for those at the top. Nor would it benefit the large network of suppliers to the industry.

These are the kind of jobs that disgruntled Trump supporters want, yet the Republicans would've taken an ax to them.
stu freeman (brooklyn)
Yeah, The Donald is opposed to the auto industry bailout but he's all in favor of rescuing the collieries. Big tax breaks for Big Coal, our environment be damned. Perhaps he'll also use tax revenues to finance the issuance of gas masks to the entire population. The coal industry deserves to die although the miners should be provided with career retraining at government expense. As for Mike Pence, he never met a tax dollar he didn't want to hand over to an affluent CEO.
EinT (Tampa)
Like GM's former CEO Akerson who made $40 million after Treasury put him into the job?
David Underwood (Citrus Heights)
Well we see again evidence of the ignorance of finance and economic conditions.

Inability to understand the difference between Chapter 7, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The difference between reorganization and idolization.

Chapter 7, close the gates auction off everything, and when finalized, the creditors get what is left. All the small suppliers waiting to get some small amount back, they also closing the doors and laying off workers. Some three million jobs over and above the auto workers. Then the PBIC having to cover the pension plans at taxpayers expense, and no medical plans.

The banks needed capital to prevent runs, not to pay those rich bankers yo so hate. You would have lost more than a few dollars, the whole economy was on the verge of collapse. Credit had frozen, companies cold not make payroll. The foreign auto companies were also concerned they would lose their suppliers. The money has been paid back with interest, but the animosity will not go away. Steven Rattner knows what he is talking about, and you don't, you opinions are not facts.
Dectra (Washington, DC)
You'd think as many times as Trump has declared Bankruptcy (Three Times) for being a failure to run a Casino, he'd know the difference....
EinT (Tampa)
The loans have been paid back. But you and I also took equity stakes in GM and Chrysler. We lost $11 billion on GM and $1 billion on Chrysler which is now an Italian company.
Dectra (Washington, DC)
The goal of Treasury's investment in GM was never to make a profit, but to help save the American auto industry, and by any measure that effort was successful.

Additionally, 1.5 MILLION Jobs were saved....

But you don't seem to mention that, do you?

Mark Thomason (Clawson, Mich)
This author, Steven Rattner, is a financier based on Wall Street who writes frequent neoliberal columns.

As auto czar, he managed this in a way which benefited management and ultimately shareholders at the expense of labor and government, and especially retirees. Sure it was great to save the industry and all those jobs. But the real focus of protection was higher up.

Furthermore. the auto bailout was done in a way tied to a banking bailout, and that too was structured to fully protect the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. It was that part of it that caused Bernie to vote against the Bill as finally passed, and that Hillary claims credit for while blaming Bernie. It was roundly rejected as false during the primaries in Michigan and Indiana, the lie as seen by voters widely blamed for Hillary's poor showing in those elections.

A fuller explanation of how the program was twisted to benefit Rattner's friend and Hillary's donors is at http://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/election-2016-hillary-clinton-s...

Having been caught telling this lie, and suffering for it, her campaign just does it again.
Javafutter (Virginia)
Meanwhile if this emergency had not been taken care of at the time 1 million auto industry workers would have lost their jobs. Hillary was right to support it and President Obama was right to take this action.

Romney and Trump would have deserted these workers who would have lost everything if the gross mismanagement of the people running those companies would have been allowed to play out.

Good gracious.
Dan Styer (Wakeman, Ohio)
This commentator, Mark Thomason, says nothing about the arguments made in Mr. Rattner's essay and simply raises irrelevant ad hominems.
NJB (Seattle)
The bottom line is that the US auto industry was saved because of the bailout and, along with it, hundreds of thousands of jobs not only in GM and Chrysler but in the thousands of auto parts businesses that, by extension, were saved as well.

Your carping about the details, whether true or not, cannot disguise that fundamental fact. Had it not been for the auto bailout, the Midwest would be in a far worse shape economically than it is.
Diane Kropelnitski (Grand Blanc, MI)
I have to ask myself, "How does a world class corporation, once recognized as the most profitable company in the world, mismanage it's business to the point of bankrupting itself and so many families and communities throughout the United States?"
hen3ry (New York)
By manufacturing cars that are not well made, too expensive, and not what the public wants. By fighting every safety improvement tooth and nail. By overpaying its executives. By blaming unions for its problems in making cars Americans will buy.

Remember the Chevrolet Chevette? It was supposed to be one of the American answers to foreign small cars. Chevrolet cheapened it so much that it was a heap of junk rather than a competitive car in the field of compact and subcompact cars. Republicans can blame the unions all they want but the unions didn't decide to build junk. GM did.

While I'm glad we bailed out the auto industry I'm angry that this same industry gets away with murder. Since our tax dollars helped them survive the Great Recession and some other bad times, I would think that these companies would fall all over themselves manufacturing safe, good quality cars for us to buy. What Trump doesn't want to understand is the same thing that the Big Three didn't understand: we wanted cars that lasted and Toyotas, Hondas, Mercedes, Nissans, Subarus last. GM cars and trucks don't.
Tom Hill (North Carolina)
Pension commitments to retirees and escalating health care for those retired workers and current workers, were the biggest cost issues at GM. The leaders there were also slow to change and right size their approach in North America. The reluctance to shed brands, cancel vehicle programs, etc., the bankruptcy forced that and it was a good thing. Add in the higher cost of wages paid to UAW workers, vs. fair but lower wages/benefits paid by the transplants (Toyota, Honda, Hyundai) to their workers and you can see how it took shape.
jdoe212 (Florham Park NJ)
MORE LOANS THAN OWNS. When did car leasing start?
wen (ma)
Trump tweeted "...7 of 10 G.M. cars made in China."

Mr. Rattner writes "in fact, hardly any General Motors car made in China are brought to the United States".

Mr. Rattner's response doesn't refute Mr. Trump's claim in any way. Are 7 of 10 G.M. cars made worldwide made in China or not? If 7 of 10 G.M. cars made worldwide are made in China, then the answer would likely be yes, though I think it's probably unlikely.
KP (Virginia)
Mr. Trump's simplistic tweets fail to adhere to, let alone lay out the facts. Imagine that? Autos are made all over the world for many reasons, one of which is to attain market share in the country in which they're sold. Automotive manufacturing is more complex than most people know. Before jumping on Trump's faux China hook, take the time to look up why many foreign brands such as Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, and VW are made here in the U.S.
Charles (Long Island)
Both Ford and GM have vehicles that are built in (and for) the Asian and European markets. Those operations are very profitable. Small, inexpensive vehicles for those regions will never be produced in the U.S. and exported to those markets.
Jonathan E. Grant (Silver Spring, Md.)
When you look at all of the parts that go into a GM car, and realize that many parts are made in China, Trump is closer to the truth.
The criticism from Romney, Trump and other vulture capitalists, is sour grapes that the government came in with the resources needed to save an industry for the benefit of the country.

These vultures were drooling over the opportunity to pay less than tenths of a penny per dollar to buy the assets, fire the Union workers and rehire them at minimum wage - to maximize the benefit for themselves - and likely received tax subsidies to boot.

They resent the fact that a wider cross section of the industry, workers, suppliers, etc. benefited instead of them becoming fabulously wealthy as the economy recovered.
The union workers should have been fired and rehired according to their value. Auto manufacturers in the South do not pay minimum wage, nor do they suffer from bloated union contracts.
Catharine (Philadelphia)
While the economic outcomes can be significant, it's time to recognize that the future of automobiles must be addressed. Many younger people are foregoing drivers licenses altogether. Some urban planners say the car as we know it will be gone in the next 10 years. We just can't keep adding private vehicles. All over the world people pay a steep price in smog and accidents.

Detroit may need to switch gears to manufacture buses and light rail. We wouldn't subsidize a company that made typewriters, and that's the direction of the automobile.
Susan H (SC)
One thing most people ignore about the movement of some automobile manufacturing to Mexico, it keeps those workers there instead of them sneaking across the border to "steal, rape and rob" Americans! Think of all the money we would save by not having to build a wall.

Actually, just electing Trump as president would keep a lot of people from wanting to come here and would make lots of other jobs and housing available as people exited for other countries. Of course, those leaving would be taking as much money as possible with them to invest in their new country of residence. Web sites for information about living abroad have seen a major upsurge in visitors.
T3D (San Francisco)
All season long, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have, with varying degrees of obvious discomfort, mumbled lukewarm endorsements of Donald Trump. GOP party bosses hold the GOP ideology nearer and dearer than they do the country, with the actual needs of America at the bottom of their list. For decades their specious claim that conservatives are the only “True Patriots” have been a sham, a ruse, a sop to the foot soldiers, a reminder that their side of the ideological, social, and cultural wars was the only possible side for God-fearing Americans to be aligned with.

Trump is now the heavy downpour, potentially disastrous, that was seen on the dark, threatening horizon a year ago. The irresponsible media, thirsting for income from a freak show of a primary season, sold tickets to the empty show, filling the arena with a dangerous headline closer.

McConnell openly, brazenly, disrespected not only the president of the United States but also the very Constitution that he claims to be the ultimate baseline of Republican thought and action. Yet he refuses to perform the sworn responsibilities of his office by denying a Supreme Court nominee a hearing. This mutinous behavior found wild acclaim inside the GOP and further enabled Trump and his base in his reckless pursuit of the nomination he now owns. Ryan is a gerbil on a treadmill of indecision.
Tom (Deep in the heart of Texas)
Wow! Excellent piece, T3D. How much would you charge to teach me to write like this?

"Ryan is a gerbil on a treadmill of indecision." Priceless!
R. Law (Texas)
t3d - Clap, clap, clap; and not golf claps either !

McConnell, Ryan, and GOP'ers who have not utterly renounced Drumpf will never ever get the stench off themselves from not caring what damage Drumpf does to the country, to our public dialogue, and what damage he has already wrought with our allies and otherwise internationally - their naked power hungry cravenness is revealed to be their all consuming focus, obliterating anything else they say and do.
Troi (California)
Ryan is a gerbil on a treadmill of indecision.
Love it, will add to my bag of one liners in regards to our do nothing congress.
Laura (NY)
We need more examples of how Trump lies. His untruths about the auto industry are only one example.
Rebecca Rabinowitz (.)
As usual, Trump's rantings about bankruptcy have no purpose or logic, except that he has profited from it, while shafting thousands of small businesses, thousands of employees, and, of course, the financial institutions stupid enough to believe Trump's mendacious claims about his finances. Now that those institutions have caught on to his lies, albeit absurdly belatedly, it seems that he has turned to Russian banks instead - a fraught, disturbing development on every conceivable level. For the record, I write this as a happy owner of my 4th consecutive Buick: thanks, GM! Despite the GOTP's typical demagoguery and ideological insanity, this organized, structured bailout was incontrovertibly the right decision on every level. We, the people, made money; we, the people, retained jobs, and those states most directly impacted by the auto industry also reaped their rewards. This was not the usual Mitt Romney GOTP vulture capitalist bankruptcy - which entailed swooping in, grabbing all of the profits, and then shutting down and selling off a company carcass, leaving the workers and their communities in chaos while he pocketed millions of dollars. Let's not mince words: the GOTP never traffics in reality or even truth - they dwell in the ideological and fraudulent realm of voodoo economics, trickle down buffoonery, and soak everyone else in order to enrich the plutocrats. Thankfully, rational analysis prevailed here.
I believe the title of this article should have been “What Trump doesn’t know or care about Detroit”, which in my opinion would be more accurate. Mr. Trump seems to always see things through the eyes of a real-estate developer which is significantly different then manufacturing or for that matter running a country. What this article rightly points out that it’s not just the final product, which in this case is automobiles, it’s all the secondary and third tier suppliers that are also affected. These are the small businesses that are at the heart of our economy. Trump doesn’t seem to understand that there are many layers to our economy and there is no simple answer. Putting a high tariff on Chinese goods does not bring jobs back to the US, at least not in the short term.
The more Trump talks the less convincing he is to me that he’s even a savvy businessman. He may bully people into a contract that is in his favor or file for bankruptcy when market dynamics are against him, but his understanding of both micro and macroeconomics is very questionable. Even if Trump hires the best economists it’s doubtful he would even understand or listen to them.
I’m putting my faith in the American voters that Secretary Clinton will be the next President of the US. Even with all her faults she is heads above Trump.
Peter (Maryland)
By contrast, when General Motors and Chrysler entered bankruptcy, we insisted that the existing shareholders be wiped out as a condition of receiving government money.

Instead the Federal Govt wiped out the bond holders to fund union pensions.

It's a good thing Mr Rattner got this column in this year, as of early 2017 Chrysler will not make a single automobile in the US.
1515732 (Wales,wi)
Excellent point about Government Motors and at least the banks paid back all their debt plus interest for the bail out verses the Taxpayers are still owed 9 billion from the auto industry.
Tom Hill (North Carolina)
Jeep is manufactured in Toledo, Ohio.
John Binkley (North Carolina)
Where did you get such inaccurate "information." Chrysler has 19 plants in the US of which 6 are assembly plants. It's best selling auto models, the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, are assembled in Toledo and Detroit respectively -- in fact, Jefferson North Assembly in Detroit is the only remaining auto assembly plant located within in the city limits of Detroit. Fiat Chrysler has recently announced over $1 billion in new investments in US assembly plants for increased Jeep production. Chrysler has historically had plants in Canada and Mexico, where is also sells significant numbers of vehicles, but these were in place long before the so-called bail-out, and use large quantities of components sourced in the US.
Joe Barnett (Sacramento)
Donald Trump is another victim of affluenza. He inherited a fortune, it has given him power he didn't earn and now he thinks he can do anything: be rude on TV and in public, treat women like chattel, offer unbridled racist comments, cheat his contractors, customers and with his bevy of attorneys always have a "Get our of jail" card at his disposal.

He doesn't understand the economy, nor does he have the ability to hire the best and the brightest. The best and the brightest want nothing to do with him.

If a child's dictionary with pictures were published with the word Hubris, Donald Trump's photo could be used for the picture.
Dennis (CT)
Oh I'm sorry, Steve would know, he was there...

Then explain why the auto industry, out of all the other industries that have been allowed to reorganize, was able to receive gov't assistance while the others didn't. What about all the airlines for example - do they not employ 100,000s of people? Do they not serve a purpose in our economy? Are they not setting record profits themselves right now all without billions from the taxpayers? Each of the airlines wiped out shareholders, employees took massive cuts to their retirement benefits and management was changed...all items you claim could only happen at the autos with $80 billion!

The auto bailouts were 100% political because the gov't wants Americans believe in the 'U.S. manufacturing strength'. The idealistic image of burly men and women putting rivets in steel plating, yay! Sorry Steve, that doesn't happen anymore just like our country's farmers don't ride around on 1940 John Deere tractors slowing plowing in the Midwest.

Its a farce. This was political. There was absolutely no need for the gov't to step in.

Also glad you feel the $9 billion was 'money well spent' - somehow WE, the taxpayers, didn't in have a say in that.
liberal (LA, CA)
There are differences between airlines and auto makers.

One or several airlines can go under and there will still be many airlines carrying passengers, and the support industries for the airlines and the plane makers would not be severely hurt.

Autos are different. It is a much more concentrated industry. GM or Chrysler going under would badly hurt parts suplliers. But if GM AND Chrysler both went under, parts suppliers would crumble, and then Ford would have crumbled too. Then there would be no auto industry in the US, and no parts industry in the US, not until after a brutal Great Depression like period of recovery. Maybe worse.

Questions about exactly how shareholders, bond holders, workers, pensioners, and management were treated in the bailout are different. It is similar to the Wall St bail out. The terms could have been different. With Wall St they should definitely have been different.

But debating about the terms vs whether to intervene at all are very different subjects
Tom Hill (North Carolina)
To the Nay Sayers posting...Unless you have worked in the industry (I did for 7 years) and understand the supply chain and thousands suppliers involved, I don't believe you truly understand the damage that was avoided. Those thousands of Tier 1 suppliers, have their own supply chain. Logistics to move parts and material are also part of the supply chain. You also have suppliers that are indirect, providing companies like GM with material required to operate - this is everything that doesn't go on the vehicle, but is required to run a business. Like a stone thrown in a pond, the ripples would've touched too many lives in states all across the US. And as Rattner pointed out, many of these suppliers are shared by Ford and Toyota. They would've had to slow production and cut workers too. It was the right decision by both administrations (Bush/Obama) and should be lauded as a time when disaster was averted for the good of the US, not torn down by partisan politics all these years later.
wrbenner (Dallas TX)
Sgt Lucifer (Chicago, USA)
A presidential candidate from hell indeed.
... November 9th, where art thou?
Philip Greenspun (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
Mr. Rattner is impressed with what he was able to accomplish at GM for what he says was only $49.5 billion. Maybe something was accomplished. But he doesn't look at what else could have been done with $49.5 billion. That's more than double the total amount of venture capital invested in the U.S. in 2009 (see http://ssti.org/blog/useful-stats-venture-capital-investment-dollars-dea... ). The relevant question is not "Was it a complete waste of $49.5 billion?" but rather "Was it the best use of taxpayers' hard-earned $49.5 billion?"

[Separately, you have to be impressed by Ford. What other company could survive its competitors being handed $billions in government cash?]
PA Voter (Chester County,PA)
Philip, what you may not know is that Ford was also in bad shape around that time (or before). Ford needed capital to finance new product development. Ford was able to "re-capitalize" by mortgaging all (or nearly all) of their U.S. production plants to commercial lenders. Otherwise, TARP funds would have also been needed by Ford.
R. Law (Texas)
The bias of the GOP'ers was always evident in their claim that not only must the banks be bailed out, but the pay contracts of the banksters were sacrosanct and must be honored down to the last farthing, including bonuses for performance - the auto industry and autoworkers, not to mention all the industry suppliers, just jettison them all and let the vultures pick over the pieces.

Always such an odd position for Romney et al, since there are untold thousands upon thousands of banks, with duplicate services, yet only 3 car companies; such transparent in-group bias and situationalism like we see in so many other places and our highest institutions:

See also