Auto Bailout Saved Michigan but Not Black Workers

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While GOP presidential candidates exchange barbs with President Barack Obama over the benefits of the auto bailout for America, black workers are still waiting to earn their fair share of postrecession incomes, writes ColorLines blogger Shani O. Hilton.


Michigan’s Republican primary once again revealed the uncertainty of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which squeaked out a win over Rick Santorum in his home state. Perhaps that’s not a huge surprise, considering Romney’s best efforts to appeal to Michigan voters included auto union bashing in a state that builds cars.

President Obama and the GOP presidential candidate have been trading barbs over the effectiveness of the auto company bailout — a stimulus initiated by President George W. Bush and extended by Obama. Most observers have scored the president as winning that fight politically.

But beyond politics, the debate also begs the question of what’s happened since the bailout in Michigan’s crucial Midwestern economy. The answer is that state appears to be another data point in a troubling pattern of inequitable, and thus unsustainable, recovery. The bailout may eventually spur a full rebound in Michigan, but thus far it does not appear to be helping the most devastated parts of the state — black communities.

A couple of weeks ago, Romney argued in an op-ed for the Detroit News that the bailout was an example of caving to unions and just another sign of the “defects” of Obama’s management:

My view at the time — and I set it out plainly in an op-ed in the New York Times — was that “the American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing.” Instead of a bailout, I favored “managed bankruptcy” as the way forward.

Managed bankruptcy may sound like a death knell. But in fact, it is a way for a troubled company to restructure itself rapidly, entering and leaving the courtroom sometimes in weeks or months instead of years, and then returning to profitable operation.

Read Shani O. Hilton's entire blog entry at ColorLines.