MFG 2.0

Mitt Romney As Auto Industry Czar?

Is he campaigning for the job? He certainly put himself out there in today's NY Times editorial.

Here's the crux of his argument:

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

His solution is all about the tough love for all parties concerned -- management, labor and even shareholders:

on't ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost. The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs.

He talks about a culture change on both the side of management and of labor, and makes a convincing case about leaving the "enmity" between the two behind. It's funny, but it almost sounds like he's calling for bipartisanship, and in some ways he's right -- a political solution is the path to an economic solution for this industry.

As Time's Michael Scherer points out, it's more than a little ironic for Romney -- who campaigned and won in the Republican primary by railing against John McCain's "straight talk" about the future of the auto industry -- to call for bankruptcy and radical restructuring.

It was Romney, after all, who won the Michigan primary by attacking John McCain for telling voters that some manufacturing jobs "are not coming back."

Romney the Politician always seemed to be pandering to one group or another. . .But Romney the Businessman is another thing altogether. The same thing that made him a lousy candidate--an obsession with seeing everything as a Harvard Business School case study--makes him the kind of person you want to listen to in a corporate financial crisis.

However, for any deal to be successful going forward, it has to have buy-in from all affected parties, and although they might all (especially shareholders) be feeling a little battered these days, it's not likely that Romney's brand of tough love would be high on anyone's holiday wish list.

Of course, that doesn't mean that it shouldn't happen. What do you think?

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