WaPo fact checker: Obama's auto-bailout speech "one of the most misleading collections of assertions"

Specious accounting, overblown claims, and dishonest representations — sounds like a short description of Obamanomics, doesn’t it?  As the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler concludes, it also describes Barack Obama’s attempt to defend his policy on further intervention into the auto industry.  Kessler rates his recent speech as a three-Pinocchio affair, thanks to a series of parsed claims at which Anthony Weiner can only marvel:

We take no view on whether the administration’s efforts on behalf of the automobile industry were a good or bad thing; that’s a matter for the editorial pages and eventually the historians. But we are interested in the facts the president cited to make his case.

What we found is one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk, just like the fine print in that too-good-to-be-true car loan.

Kessler actually finds one misleading statement for each of the three Pinocchios he awards Obama for the speech.  First, Obama claimed that “Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency — and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule,” but that relies very much on the bolded qualifying phrase (emphasis mine).  Kessler looks into the numbers and discovers that Obama is only discussing the $8.5 billion his administration loaned Chrysler.  Obama conveniently excludes the $4 billion that George Bush loaned Chrysler, an action Kessler notes that Obama supported at the time.  Taxpayers will lose more than $1.3 billion on loans to Chrysler, not break even or the “and more” that Obama claims.

Next, Obama claims that GM plans to rehire all of the laid-off workers that they let go “during the recession,” but this is even more deceptive.  Since the recession’s start in late 2007, GM has let go over 68,000 workers.  Obama’s statement refers to just 9600 let go in the fourth quarter of 2008, almost half (4100) of whom were only temporarily furloughed anyway.  The rest were put on indefinite leave, and all but 1000 have returned already to their jobs, with the rest expected back by the end of the year.

Finally, Obama once again trotted out the canard that Republicans wanted to do nothing in 2009 but stand by and watch GM and Chrysler fail.  Kessler doesn’t mention the fact that Republicans intervened in 2008 with bailout loans during the Bush administration, but he does note that even those opposed to the second round of loans weren’t advocating doing nothing at all.  Kessler also doesn’t mention the fact that Ford refused the bailout money and managed to survive without government intervention, while taxpayers spent tens of billions of dollars floating two corporations that have spent decades digging their own financial graves.  In the end, Chrysler disappeared as an American automaker, getting bought by Fiat, and taxpayers ended up carrying the weight of GM and Chrysler pension plans, thanks to the politically-engineered bankruptcies imposed on stakeholders of both firms.

Kessler finishes with this devastating critique:

If the auto industry bailout is really a success, there should be no need to resort to trumped-up rhetoric and phony accounting to make your case.

The fact that the White House offers nothing else is all we need to know about the “success” of Obama’s bailouts.