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Mitt Romney is now claiming paternity for President Obama's auto industry rescue that saved over a million jobs nationwide.  But while he most certainly isn't the father of a reborn Detroit, the successful 2006 health care reform law he signed in Boston has become Mitt Romney's bastard love child.

Americans should give credit where credit is due.  And on health care, as we'll see below, Mitt Romney deserves a lot.  But Barack Obama's efforts to save GM and Chrysler owe nothing to Romney and his Republican allies, who fought the President every step of the way.

Detroit, Who's Your Daddy? Not Mitt Romney

Today, Romney can say "I'll take a lot of credit" for the auto industry bailout, but his record shows otherwise.  It was President-Elect Obama who pressed George W. Bush in November 2008 to make necessary bridge loans which kept Chrysler and GM afloat.  (It's worth remembering that Vice President Dick Cheney who warned his GOP allies, "If we don't do this, we will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever.")  It was that very approach Mitt Romney decried in his infamous op-ed, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."  As Obama's auto czar Steven Rattner recently explained in "Delusions About the Detroit Bailout":
"Without government financing -- initiated by President George W. Bush in December 2008 -- the two companies would not have been able to pursue Chapter 11 reorganization. Instead they would have been forced to cease production, close their doors and lay off virtually all workers once their coffers ran dry."
Rattner wasn't alone in highlighting Romney's delusional belief in that a "managed bankruptcy" leading to an injection of capital from private markets could save Detroit without intervention from the federal government.  In admitting the success of President Obama's 2009 rescue of GM and Chrysler, USA Today concluded, "On what planet would the automakers have found private lenders willing to provide tens of billions of dollars in needed bankruptcy financing at the height of a financial panic?"  Governor Rick Snyder and Congressman Fred Upton, his highest profile Michigan primary endorsers, acknowledged that "there was no one that could have picked up those pieces other than the federal government."  In February, The Economist took Romney to task for his revisionist history:
Free-marketeers that we are, The Economist agreed with Mr Romney at the time. But we later apologised for that position. "Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk", we said. But "given the panic that gripped private purse-strings...it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended." Even Ford, which avoided bankruptcy, feared the industry would collapse if GM went down. At the time that seemed like a real possibility. The credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history in claiming to have been right all along.
Six months after crying that "If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout" their "demise will be virtually guaranteed," Mitt Romney warned in April 2009 that President Obama's proposed auto rescue would "would make GM the living dead."  Instead, GM once again became the world's number one auto company.  By December 2011, the Center for Automotive Research estimated that the bailouts saved more than 1.1 million jobs in 2009 and another 314,000 in 2010, while avoiding personal income losses of more than $96 billion.  By February 2012, Romney could only cough standard right-wing talking points about the successful rescue he opposed.  As McClatchy reported:
He's slamming the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors, calling it a corrupt bargain between Democrats and the United Auto Workers that gave the union more control in exchange for campaign donations.

 "I call it crony capitalism," Romney said this week. "I've taken on union bosses before. I'm happy to take them on again because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of the American taxpayers and you can protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give in to the UAW, and I sure won't."

Mitt Romney may love American cars, just not the people who make them.   And, as it turns out, he likes the truth even less.

MA, MA Where's Your Pa?

Mitt Romney deserves no applause for the salvation of auto industry, the cornerstone of the American manufacturing economy.  But as a reformer of the U.S. health care system, one who helped make real improvements in people's lives, Romney can rightly claim credit.  If only he would.

Discussing the Affordable Care Act with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt in March, Mitt Romney declared, "If I'm the godfather of this thing, then it gives me the right to kill it."  But the former Massachusetts governor isn't merely promising to "kill it dead" at the national level. As it turns out, Romney's plan for draconian cuts to Medicaid would strangle the popular and successful program he put in place in Massachusetts, the one he once touted as "a model for getting everybody insured."

By most measures, Governor Romney's signature 2006 health care law has been a tremendous success.  Enjoying the consistent support of Bay State residents by a 2 to 1 margin, the bill Governor Mitt Romney signed into law lowered the uninsured rate from 12.5 percent to a national low of two percent.  In March, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) showed that universal coverage in Massachusetts is indeed making people there healthier.  Meanwhile, the rate of growth for business and individual insurance premiums has slowed dramatically, a trend state regulators this week announced will result in only a 1.2% increase.

But as the Boston Globe reported last week, what Governor Romney giveth, President Romney would taketh away.

Like his new GOP twin in Congress Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has proposed steep cuts to Medicaid spending and pledged to hand-over the shrunken pool of funds as block grants to the states.  And it is precisely that formula that would smother his once-beloved Romneycare in its cradle.  As the Globe documented, President Romney "would probably cripple the Massachusetts health care law":

"It would have been impossible for Massachusetts to do what it did without increased federal Medicaid support,'' said John McDonough, a major architect of the state's health care overhaul law and now director of Harvard University's Center for Public Health Leadership.

"What he's proposing is in direct opposition to what he did as governor,'' said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, citing the Bay State's 98 percent coverage rate, the highest in the nation. "That kind of expansion would not have been possible under a block grant program,'' as Romney has proposed. Block grants give states more flexibility in spending federal money, but restrict funding increases.

As ThinkProgress explained, Romney in the past had been very up front about the crucial role federal funding - and flexibility - played in making his signature achievement possible:
"[F]rom the beginning the plan was a 50/50 deal between the federal government and the state government. The Feds fund half of it, they have from the very beginning." The Boston Globe notes that "approximately 56 percent of the gain in coverage was related to increased federal Medicaid support" in Massachusetts, and of the newly insured, "18 percent gained coverage through Medicaid, and another 38 percent gained coverage through Commonwealth Care, a program that federal Medicaid dollars pay half of."
But like the new insurance coverage for 30 million Americans nationwide under the Affordable Care Act, the gains in Massachusetts would be a thing of the past under a Romney administration in Washington.  Projections from the Congressional Budget Office suggest that 48 million more people would be uninsured under Paul Ryan's House GOP budget, a scheme similar to Romney's.  That figure would include hundreds of thousands in the state Romney once governed.

And where on the issue of health care reform at least, MIT professor and Obamacare/Romneycare designer Jonathan Gruber insisted in 2007, Romney governed well:

"He was incredibly impressive, with his intellect, his ability. If there is anything that qualifies him to be President of the United States, it is his leadership on this issue."
Four years later, Jonathan Gruber reached a much different conclusion about Mitt Romney, or at least this version of him.  As the NBER pointed out in a recent study, "the general strategies for obtaining nearly universal coverage in both the Massachusetts and federal laws involved the same three-pronged approach of non-group insurance market reforms, subsidies, and mandates, suggesting that the health effects should be broadly similar." The difference between Romney's own Boston bill and what he calls Obamacare?
"Zero difference," he said. "This is, to my mind, the most blatantly obvious case of politics trumping policy I've ever seen in my life. Because this is an idea, that four or five years ago, Republicans were touting. A guy from the Heritage Foundation spoke at the bill signing in Massachusetts about how good this bill was."

He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney's attempt to distinguish between Obama's bill and his own is disingenuous.

"The problem is there is no way to say that," Gruber said. "Because they're the same f--king bill. He just can't have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it's the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he's just lying. The only big difference is he didn't have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes."

Now in 2012, Romney has abandoned his Massachusetts "model" for America and threatens its slow death by his own hand.  If snuffing out his orphaned health care achievement doesn't make him a godfather of another kind, it does make Mitt Romney a deadbeat dad.

* Crossposted at Perrspectives *

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