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DAVID KRUSE

By Staff | Mar 9, 2012

When Clint Eastwood walked out of the shadows and growled that it was halftime in America, voicing the optimism that all would soon hear the roar of our engines, he fired me up as much as any other moment during the Super Bowl. I loved it.

America is still the best country in the world by a far measure and my Dodge pickup is the best truck in the world thanks to Chrysler. My buddy, Carl Rove saw the Chrysler commercial differently. By touting the strong recovery occurring in Detroit, Rove saw the commercial as pay back to Obama for the bailout.

I guess the chips will fall where they may, but Rove’s reaction was one of fear that the economic recovery that is occurring will re-elect the President.

The all-time record $7.6 billion profit just announced by GM was the exclamation mark to the Chrysler ad. Would they rather have Detroit fail to help them politically?

I believe that some Republicans will put off buying a new car until after the election because they hate Obama and somehow equate that to love of country and, like Rove, obviously believe that the recovery in Detroit helps the President politically. That is how far the polarization has taken us.

I have a picture of Carl Rove and myself in my office. For those who don’t remember, Rove got George W. elected twice, which was no small accomplishment.

Rove may not be running the GOP campaign this time, but the levers he discovered to get the base to the polls will still be used by the GOP candidate.

I was riding an escalator at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on my way to Norfolk, Va., to join the Theodore Roosevelt Association on board the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, wearing my blue TR hat, when someone behind me yelled out, “Hey, you been on the big stick?”

I turned and looked back and it was Carl Rove. I waited for him, shook hands, introduced myself and explained what I was doing. He said that he was a member of the TR Association too, and had been on the carrier twice. My wife took our picture.

I certainly strongly disagree with Rove’s take on the Eastwood “Halftime in America” assertion. I thought that it was spot on.

They can pick their nose and snort that the Detroit bailout wasn’t done the way they would have attempted it but they disingenuously make assumptions for conditions then that are not consistent with the reality of the options available at the time.

Even George W. responded to the GOP criticism of the auto-makers bailout with the perspective that had they not done it, that “unemployment would have hit 21 percent.

That was not hyperbole. W was right. Not to have done what they did would have taken the whole supply chain down and reverberated around the world. It would have been an unnecessary financial disaster on multiple levels that by choice would have deepened the Great Recession and hamstrung the recovery.

Could it have been done differently so as to better fit GOP ideology? I don’t think so and still be as nearly successful as it appears to be. Detroit would not only not be doing as well as it is today had it been done Mitt Romney’s way, but would have shed hundreds of thousands more workers and made millions fewer vehicles which would have destroyed market share for U.S. auto manufacturing that would never have been recovered.

A few individuals may have gotten richer his way, but the auto industry and the country would not have benefited as much.

I take issue also that there was anything wrong with converting some of the liability owed by GM and Chrysler to union pension funds to equity. The legacy costs were what had made Detroit uncompetitive and had to be eliminated.

Once accomplished, any businessman knew that Detroit’s engines would roar again. The Unions took huge concessions and by committing their skin to the game their interests were aligned with management and the company.

When that happens, good things occur.

Congress should take note of what can be accomplished when everyone works together.

Congress hasn’t worked with aligned interests in a long time and that is why it’s so dysfunctional. One result of the positive outcome of the company’s financial success was that 47,500 blue collar workers each earned $7,000 profit-sharing checks that they will pay ordinary income tax rates on rather than the 15 percent or less tax rate paid by Romney cronies.

The auto-makers overhaul was not just the government sticking in money but shared pain. Plants were closed, brands like Pontiac and Saturn were ended, workers did get fired along with some executives, stockholders got wiped out, bondholders took haircuts, some dealers lost their franchises, unions lost their protective restrictive work rules and were forced to accept equity in the bankrupt companies in lieu of cash in pension funds.

In other words, if GM and Chrysler were not successful, union workers would lose their jobs and their pensions.The government orchestrated the creative destruction that delivered the competitive industry that we have now proven exists today.

It is now adding shifts, hiring new workers and selling great vehicles that consumers want.

I think that Mitt Romney’s take on the auto-industry turnaround shows how little respect that he has for working people. His plan would have cost a million more jobs before any new hiring began.

America loves the comeback story where the home team is down by 25 at the half and comes back to tear down the field and score touchdowns to win the game or in Detroit’s language to “roar” across the finish line.

That is what Clint Eastwood and his “Half Time in America” Chrysler ad was all about. Just ask him.

I love my Dodge truck and I am glad that with the government’s help that Chrysler is still around to make them.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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