In this campaign, economic “truthiness” has long since disappeared. The latest evidence of this is the flap over Governor Romney’s claim on the campaign trail and in ads running in Ohio that Chrysler is planning to ship jobs to China by opening a plant to make Jeeps in that country. Another ad makes a similar claim for General Motors. This produced sharp rejoinders from GM and Chrysler, and earned Romney four Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s factchecker, Glenn Kessler. My cynical side mainly deplores the ineptitude of Romney’s timing: He should have waited until later in the week before the election in order to avoid the blowback from the Obama team and zealous factcheckers.
But more seriously, there is a depressing, deeper irony in all of this. On the one hand, Romney long ago should have stepped up to the plate with a full-throated defense of offshoring/ outsourcing as a key element of the competitiveness of US (and other nations’) corporations—and ultimately as a force for generating additional jobs back in the US. These ads undercut the larger economic message on the imperatives of global competition his campaign has fitfully attempted to mount.
But not to fear. Help has come from an unlikely source: The eye-opening defense of Chrysler and GM mounted by Obama’s surrogates. Last evening on the Chris Matthews show (I know, hardly the place for economic wisdom or even literacy), Matthews and Steven Rattner (backed by NY Times reporter Bill Vlasic) ridiculed Romney by pointing out that offshoring/outsourcing by corporations was a positive good for the US in that in today’s global economy, in order to survive and succeed, US corporations had to produce their products in the markets they wanted to serve.
Rattner stated that this is a basic fact of life for the automobile industry. Jeeps made in China would feed a growing Chinese consumer demand for this iconic car, and would not come back to the US. This basic fact flies in the face of Obama dogma, which largely equates foreign investment by US corporations as the work of “Benedict Arnolds,” as John Kerry asserted in 2004.
I suppose it’s too late to demand that the Obama guys pull down all those ads condemning Romney as the “Outsourcer-in-Chief”; but maybe the Romney team can quickly flood a few Ohio TV markets with the “Rattner defense.”