The Real Automotive Debate

In the recent debate President Obama called out Governor Mitt Romney about his position on the auto-industry bailout. As with much of the public discourse — the back and forth about the auto bailout is meaningless. It was an unpleasant but ultimately successful government intervention.

The public should be focused on the American South — now one of the automotive manufacturing mega-regions of the world. In the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas the big employers are BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and related players like Michelin Tires and Borg Warn — parts suppliers and service providers — converging with a positive economic echo effect on day-to-day consumer commerce.

This near-miracle is a feat of political contortionism. Economic support by the state, local and even federal government — in the form of land grants, tax abatements and a smorgasbord of incentives — is the lifeblood of development in Southern Automotive Industry Corridor. For the Republicans this has meant promoting a level of de facto government intervention that is contradictory to their position on the auto bailout. For Democrats it means supporting — maybe with a wink and a nod — a level of tax and regulatory latitude that clashes with their populist themes.