I do not agree with Mitt Romney's implied protectionism in his ads, particularly when he says
Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China
The problem with Obama's intervention in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies was cronyism -- the protection of favored insiders to the detriment of the operation of the rule of law -- rather than any accelerated globalization. The auto industry is a global business, deal with it. We should be thrilled that Chrysler is participating in the Chinese economy, an opportunity they would not have had a generation or two ago. This kind of populist BS is exactly why I voted Johnson, not Romney, this morning.
Anyway, this statement has been subject to a lot of "fact-checking." Chrysler head Sergio Marchionne wrote a letter in the Detroit News, and while he did not attempt to deny the part about Italians (though that would have been funny), he did write:
Chrysler Group's production plans for the Jeep brand have become the focus of public debate.
I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.
OK, thanks for the clarification. But wait, the letter goes on. He spends a lot of time explaining how Chrysler is investing a lot in Jeep SUV development and production, and that many jobs are being added making Jeeps. In fact, Jeep SUV's seem to be the big bright spot in the Chrysler turnaround, which is funny because Obama's logic for handing Chrysler over to Fiat for about a dollar was that Fiat would turn Chrysler around with all of its great small car designs.
Anyway, the really interesting part comes late in the article, where he says in paragraph 9:
Together, we are working to establish a global enterprise and previously announced our intent to return Jeep production to China, the world's largest auto market, in order to satisfy local market demand, which would not otherwise be accessible.
So Chrysler ... is going to build Jeeps in China.
This is why the whole "fact check" genre is so stupid. We could fact-check this three ways, depending on what political axe we want to grind:
- We could say that Romney's ad was exactly correct, that Chrysler's CEO says it is going to build Jeeps in China, just as Romeny said. Romney's statement is literally true as written, which one would think might be a good criteria for a fact-check.
- We could say that Romney's ad was misleading, because the implication was meant to be that Chrysler is shifting North American production to China, and they are not (Politifact took this tack).
- We could argue that Romney's entire premise is wrong, because what matters to long-term economic health and wealth creation in this country is that Chrysler is making the optimum production decisions, wherever the factories end up. And further, that making these decisions the subject of political discourse virtually guarantees they will be made for reasons other than optimizing efficiency. This is the fact-check I would make but you will not hear in mainstream media fact-checks, because the level of economic ignorance on trade in most of the media is simply astonishingly high.