White House touts 'resurgence' of auto industry in Midwest

The White House ramped up efforts Wednesday to try and turn the auto bailouts into a political winner for President Obama with a new report that heralds the industry's "resurgence" in Midwestern states that will be crucial to his reelection. 

The report acknowledges that not all of the money that was provided to the automakers will be returned, but says taxpayer losses will be less than previously thought. 

"While the government does not anticipate recovering all of the funds that it invested in the industry, the Treasury's loss estimates have consistently improved — from more than 60 percent in 2009 to less than 20 percent today," the report says.

The report says $40 billion of the $80 billion that taxpayers gave to the auto companies has been paid back so far.

The report credits President Obama for the good news emerging lately from Detroit. General Motors announced recently it was investing in a new plant, and Chrysler said it repaid its government loans six years ahead of schedule, though critics note the company did not pay back all of its original assistance.

None of that would have happened without Obama, according to the report, titled "The Resurgence of the American Automotive Industry." 

"When President Obama took office, the American automobile industry was on the brink of collapse," the White House report says. "The president, as part of a larger effort to combat an historic economic crisis, made a difficult decision to provide support to General Motors (GM) and Chrysler on the condition that they, and all of their stakeholders, make the sacrifices necessary to fundamentally restructure their businesses and commit to tough-minded plans to return to viability." 

The document casts the auto bailout in terms that appear designed to connect with voters in auto manufacturing states, saying "the president’s decision to save GM and Chrysler was about more than those two companies. 

"It was about standing behind the countless workers, communities, and businesses — large and small — that depend on the automotive industry," the report said. 

The turnaround is "part of a larger story about the positive momentum in the manufacturing sector for the first time in a decade," the report added. 

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"Manufacturing has quietly led the recovery, adding over 250,000 jobs since December 2009, the first time the manufacturing sector has added jobs since 1998," the report said. "Companies are actively talking about ‘in-sourcing’ their manufacturing production for the first time in recent memory. Whether those companies are headquartered in the U.S. or abroad, by investing in manufacturing capacity and new equipment, they are demonstrating the attractiveness of operating and producing goods here in the United States." 

The report singles out two Midwestern towns — Kokomo, Ind., and Sterling Heights, Mich. — as examples of communities that have been positively affected by the auto industry's growth.

The White House said it was making Obama's chief adviser for manufacturing policy, Ron Bloom, available to reporters Wednesday afternoon to talk about the auto industry. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner contributed to the messaging blitz Wednesday with an op-ed in The Washington Post that portrays Chrysler and GM as success stories. 

The full report on the auto bailouts can be read here.