Ford and the Bailouts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 16 2011 9:46 AM

Ford and the Bailouts

This Ford ad's been out for a while, but Paul Bedard blogs about it anew and gets some Drudge attention. In the ad, a Real Live Customer says he bought a Ford because "I wasn't going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that's standing on their own: win, lose, or draw. That's what America is about is taking the chance to succeed and understanding when you fail that you gotta' pick yourself up and go back to work."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The ad's actually completely unsurprising. Ford did not join Chrysler and GM in taking a bailout. The company did not oppose the other bailouts, and it's benefitted from a number of tax incentives since 2009. The collapse of the other companies would have been rough (speaking modestly) for the auto parts industry, which would have been tough on Ford. But really, starting in 2010, Ford has been trading on the no-bailouts stuff. From 18 months ago:

While General Motors was stigmatized as “government motors,” Ford’s data shows its brand reputation at a high level.
The company thinks this will also benefit it in Washington.
“I think we’re very much respected for … running a healthy business and not asking for taxpayer money,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally told reporters.

One of the liberal critiques of Obama that really sings -- David Obey believes it, for one -- is that the stimulus and bailouts of 2009 were counterintuitive to Americans who don't like to watch Washington hand out money. (Polling in 2009, very briefly, had more people trusting government than business. It faded very quickly.) Obey et al believe that Obama should have spent more time selling these programs before moving to health care. But that's not something the congressional schedule really allowed, and that's not a real reflection of what Obama tried to do. The reason we're seeing so much video of the president at Solyndra factories is that the president has been doing a lot of drop-ins at places that got federal help, to prove that the stimulus worked. And it's just an impossibly hard sell, because those federal interventions haven't resulted in an economic comeback. Ford's just doing what reality dictates it should do.

(Disclosure: I've got a 2002 Ford Focus, which runs well, although the air conditioner has crapped out and required repair these past two summers.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.