What if Mitt Romney Had Been President in 2009?

When the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president stand onstage in Michigan tonight to debate the future of this country, they will be expected to answer for this important fact: Not one of them would have lifted a finger to save the American auto industry that is so vital to both the Michigan economy and the entire nation.

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In fact, when the U.S. auto companies were on the brink of collapse Michigan native Mitt Romney actually went so far as to write an appalling opinion piece in the New York Times titled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

By his own admission, had Mitt Romney been president in 2009, he would have simply let General Motors and Chrysler meet their demise. Romney would have turned a cold shoulder on auto workers in Michigan and across the country, and the consequences would have been disastrous.

Thankfully, Barack Obama was our President and he did not let that happen.

Despite incredible pressure from Republicans like Romney, the President stepped-up to the plate and provided the critical support needed to save the auto industry. He knew that the economic security of so many working families was hanging in the balance.

President Obama’s decision to provide loans to U.S. automakers was the right one. The recovery package worked, GM and Chrysler are back on their feet, and more than 1.4 million jobs that otherwise would have been lost were saved.

The incredible resurgence of the auto industry has helped get Michigan’s economy back on track. Just look at the facts:

  • According to data released from the Gallup Job Creation Index in February 2011, Michigan led all states in having the most improved job market conditions between 2009 and 2010.
  • In August 2011, Newsweek and affiliated-website The Daily Beast, ranked Michigan number one on their list of “Best States for Job Growth.”
  • And just this month, a new Bloomberg index tracking the pace of state growth found that Michigan’s economy is recovering from the recession at the second-fastest pace in the nation, “lifted by reviving carmakers and local manufacturers.”

As a result of the President’s leadership, the auto industry didn’t simply recover—it was restructured and improved to make America’s manufacturing base stronger and better prepared for the future. The Recovery Actsigned into law by President Obama made investments in clean energy and advanced manufacturing—including scores of lithium-iron battery factories across the state of Michigan. Consequently, Michigan quickly became the new center of the world’s electric vehicle and advanced battery industry, and the state’s unemployment rate proceeded to fall six times faster than the national average.

Even the conservative leaning Detroit News editorial page had this to say just today: "After a decade of devastation, Michigan is turning the economic corner. The state was recently ranked second in the nation for the pace of its recovery, and while the jobless rate remains high, new, good-paying jobs are coming on line at a pace faster than we've seen in a long time. Much of the turnaround is riding the back of the automobile industry recovery. And a lot of the credit for the good times at General Motors, Chrysler and to a certain extent Ford is going to the bailout orchestrated by President Barack Obama."

We simply would not have seen this progress under a Romney Administration. For all his talk about fiscal responsibility and experience as a former business executive, it’s important to remember that Mitt Romney’s plan was to let GM and Chrysler collapse. This decision, according to the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, would have cost federal government roughly $28.6 billion in lost tax revenues and aid to the unemployed in just the first two years alone.

Viewers tuning into tonight’s debate need to remember that in stark contrast to the President, if Mitt Romney had gotten his way, Midwestern families, middle class families and Michigan families would have been left out in the cold with no job, no income, and no industry. With a record like that no wonder Romney’s prone to changing his story to fit the audience. What he may have forgotten is that Michigan voters haven’t forgotten.

Jennifer M. Granholm is the former governor of Michigan, co-author of "A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future," and the host of Current TV’s upcoming show, “The War Room with Jennifer Granholm.”