- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2011

Speaking to workers at a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, President Obama on Friday said his decision to double down on the government’s auto bailout has been justified by the industry’s recent successes, including Chrysler’s repayment of a $6 billion loan last week.

“I put my faith in the American worker,” the president told a crowd of auto workers. “And I’ll tell you what — I’m going to do that every day of the week because what you’ve done vindicates my faith.”

Chrysler’s repayment of $7.5 billion in loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments came just several weeks after the automaker announced its first profit in five years.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that his decision to shovel additional taxpayer dollars to General Motors and Chrysler soon after taking office went against public opinion. But with the automakers rebounding, the bailout has become an early campaign theme as he touts himself as a president who’s willing to make tough decisions.

Indeed, Mr. Obama’s remarks Friday in Ohio — a crucial presidential swing state — had the ring of a stump speech as he recounted the government’s rescue of the auto industry.

“We could have followed the status quo and kept the automakers on life support by just giving them tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, but never really dealing with the structural issues at these plants,” he said before taking a veiled jab at Republicans who opposed the bailout. “Or we could’ve done what a lot of folks in Washington thought we should do, and that is nothing. We could’ve just let U.S. automakers go into an uncontrolled free fall.”

Mr. Obama didn’t specifically address a disappointing employment report released earlier in the day that showed unemployment ticked up to 9.1 percent as the economy added only 54,000 jobs in may — just a fraction of April’s increase of 244,000. He did, however, say the economy would face “bumps on the road to recovery,” and held up the auto industry as an example of a successful turnaround he’d like to see on the national level.

“Just as we succeeded in retooling this industry for a new age, we’ve got to rebuild this whole economy for a new age, so that the middle class doesn’t just survive, but it also thrives,” he said.

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