Romney Must Clarify Positions on Auto Bailouts and Energy Subsidies

A couple of stories surfaced recently that should be of concern to voters that are analyzing how a Romney presidency would differ from the current administration. President Obama has a track record that can be examined to get a grasp of his agenda, but Governor Romney needs to further explain his positions on two key areas that many voters would expect to see a divergence with our present leader. The reports bring in to question whether or not Romney would be any different from the administrations over the past 12 years when it comes to dumping billions of taxpayer dollars into subsidies and bailouts.

The first of the issues revolves around the auto bailouts, which many of us feel were orchestrated with a goal of protecting favored political classes like the UAW rather than to assure that America’s auto industry returned to health with an eye on profitability and reduced costs. The manner in which the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcy processes played out saw an overturning of over 200 years of contract law when classes of creditors were ranked by political clout rather than legal covenants as UAW claims went to the head of the list and bondholders to the bottom. Taxpayer losses are estimated to be over $20 billion. And now, a Romney adviser states that this debacle was the Republican candidate’s idea! quotes Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom as saying, “‘[Romney’s] position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that.’ And, “The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.'” If this is truly Romney’s position, he will anger many who do not agree with the position that the auto bailouts were a “success.” More importantly, it seems like we could expect both Romney and Obama to proceed in the same fashion if we are ever in a similar situation, taxpayers and creditors be damned.

I don’t understand why Romney would want to take credit for the unpopular auto bailouts and manipulated bankruptcy processes that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Recent polls confirm the unpopularity, yet for some reason Romney seems to want to appease supporters of GM and the bailouts. This appeasement will result in lost votes for Romney as anyone wanting change from the current regime is not going to be highly motivated to vote for someone who takes credit for that regime’s shadiest actions that resulted in a $20 billion plus loss to taxpayers.

The second area of concern for potential Romney voters revolves around the wasteful subsidies, particularly in the energy sector, that have been trademarks of the last two administrations. Whether it is ethanol, oil or other green energy initiatives, the subsidies continue to see money flow from taxpayer coffers to cronies, lobbyists and the rich. Republicans have been no better than Democrats as they view any reduction in wasteful subsidies, like the billions of dollars slated to go to wealthy purchasers of plug-in vehicles like the Chevy Volt, as a tax hike. A piece by Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute exposes that Romney is being advised by some of the biggest offenders.

Michaels gives a list of energy advisers for Romney that bilked taxpayers during the Bush Administration. He summarizes by rightfully stating, “We can’t expect Romney to have particular expertise on climate change, but we can expect that his advisers will help shape his policies and programs, which, given this group, is very scary.”

America can not continue to print money to pay its bills as both Republicans and Democrats refuse to cooperate in any meaningful fashion to end the reckless spending. Those that hope for change continue to see administration after administration with the same old wasteful habits. The dollar amounts of handouts have climbed to the tens of billions of dollars and only appear to be getting worse. And if Romney’s “position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed,” there is no chance that things will improve with a new administration, particularly if you throw in a team of former Bush energy advisers who helped architect many of the current energy subsidies. Romney may want to consider flipping his position on the auto bailouts and subsidies; we can do without any subsequent flopping.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.