Where I live, this is good news:
Taxpayers bailed out much of the U.S. auto industry. Now the carmakers might be what saves the nation’s economy from falling back into recession. After a massive restructuring and several high-profile bankruptcies, a leaner, more aggressive auto industry is making a comeback, hiring workers and ramping up manufacturing plants. From a trough two years ago, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Chrysler Group and other auto companies have added almost 90,000 manufacturing jobs, a 14% increase, according to federal employment data.
And it’s not just the Big Three American manufacturers that are thriving. Nissan, VW and other foreign-based firms are expanding in the United States, putting billions of dollars into building and refurbishing plants. Start-ups Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, Fisker Automotive in Anaheim and Coda Automotive in L.A. are hiring and spending hundreds of millions of dollars designing and launching electric and hybrid vehicles. Dealers are having a banner year, making more money per sale than they have in years and hiring back some workers shed during the recession.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for autos and auto parts jumped 11.5% in July, the most in eight years. That followed an earlier government report on industrial production that showed the auto industry was the strongest segment of the manufacturing economy last month.
This kind of expansion is important to the economy. Including factories, suppliers and dealers, the U.S. auto industry employs about 1.7 million workers and supports an additional 6.3 million private-sector jobs, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. The center said those positions represent more than $500 billion in annual compensation and more than $70 billion in personal tax revenue.
They were heading back into the 13-million range — helped by a wave of new models, low interest rates and improving consumer confidence — only to be upended by the Japanese earthquake in March. Shutdowns at Japanese-owned factories in Japan and the United States created inventory shortages that led to sharply higher car prices, lower demand and hundreds of thousands of lost sales for dealers. But with those disruptions now in the rearview mirror, the industry is looking for sales to improve over the rest of the year.
Back when millionaire media personalities and conservatives were hoping that the auto industry would fail I remember reading lobbyist/unelected lawmaker Grover Norquist opining on the pages of Politico.
Norquist was quoted during that period as (I guess) an expert on the auto industry. Baffling, to me. As far as I can tell the only thing Grover Norquist has ever done in his entire career is pressure elected lawmakers on behalf of moneyed interests. I have no idea why anyone would ask him anything about manufacturing. He’s a lobbyist. That’s what he does and that’s all he’s ever done.
I think if I were interviewing Norquist I’d ask him about the Abramoff Congressional scandal. He might know a lot about that, and his knowledge there might be interesting and informative to readers. But making and selling a tangible product? Nah. Norquist doesn’t know anything about that.
“This is somewhere in between Baghdad and fixing the flood in Louisiana,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said, comparing the GM decision to major stumbles by former President George W. Bush. Obama “has decided to take this over. He now owns it.”
Here’s now-majority leader John Boehner, another expert on lobbying and not much else, who, incredibly, represents a district in the rust-belt state of Ohio:
“The pattern here is pretty clear,” House Minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday. “Every time the president makes a so-called tough decision, it’s the American middle class that gets hit the hardest.”