Romney faults Obama for GM layoffs

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Courtesy of The Detroit News:

Washington— Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama closed factories and laid off workers at General Motors as part of the automaker’s 2009 restructuring.

The new line of defense is part of an effort by Romney to shield himself against criticism that as a partner at private equity firm Bain Capital, the company slashed tens of thousands of jobs.

“The president has had one experience overseeing an enterprise — a couple of enterprises, General Motors and Chrysler,” Romney told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday. “What did he do? He closed factories. He laid off people. He didn’t do it personally, but his people did. Why did he do that? Because he wanted to save the enterprise, and he wants to make it profitable so it can survive.”

Romney’s comments came as scrutiny intensified over companies controlled by Bain Capital. A review by the Associated Press of financial and regulatory documents contrasts with statements Romney has made during his presidential campaign about his success creating jobs in the private sector. It shows how Bain, headed by Romney, wrung profits out of a South Carolina photo album factory by slashing costs and trimming its work force.

Romney told Fox News he recognizes “the president is going to go after me. I’ll go after him.”

Romney argues jobs will be lost through innovation.

“When the automobile came on the scene and tractors came on the scene… a lot of people did lose jobs and it had to be heart-wrenching, and you have to have a setting that allows people to get trained for the new positions, a safety net to make sure people are not on the streets,” Romney told Fox. “That’s an essential part of a free enterprise system as well, where there will be businesses that go out of business to get people into the new opportunities.”

Clark Pettig, Michigan spokesman for the Obama campaign, responded to Romney’s remarks. “We know what Mitt Romney did when 1.4 million jobs were on the line — he opposed the rescue loan the president extended to avoid liquidation, and made clear he would let Detroit go bankrupt. It’s no wonder he did that, because when he was a corporate buyout specialist, he laid off thousands of workers, closed factories and outsourced jobs solely in order to create profits for himself and his partners.”

During GM’s 2009 government-led bankruptcy restructuring, the automaker announced it would close 14 additional factories (including seven in Michigan) and three warehouses, cutting up to 20,000 jobs.

GM reversed the closing decision on two plants. One other plant has yet to close.

Obama has made the turnaround of GM and Chrysler a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. His campaign has noted Republican presidential candidates opposed the bailout.

Romney acknowledged in the Fox interview that four of Bain’s 10 largest investments ultimately filed for bankruptcy.

One company, the GS Industries group of steel mills, went “bankrupt after I left the firm,” Romney said. “But the steel industry got in trouble in this country. I think 40 mills went bankrupt the same time it did, in part because of — well, in this case, dumping from places like China into this country.”

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