President Obama gave a rousing speech at the United Auto Workers Annual Conference touting the success of the auto bailout and the prospering auto industry. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.
Everyone's talking about today's Michigan/Arizona GOP primaries, but President Barack Obama was on fire today, accusing the Republicans of abandoning the American worker and taking credit for the auto industry's resurgence with a taxpayer-backed rescue of General Motors and Chrysler that he helped engineer.
Speaking to a raucous audience of 1,700 United Auto Workers in Washington, Obama drew a distinct contrast with Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, both of whom have said they would not have used government money to save GM and Chrysler.
"You've got folks saying, 'Well, the real problem is, what we really disagreed with was the workers, they all made out like bandits; that saving the American auto industry was just about paying back unions,"' Obama said in what felt more like a revival meeting for American workers. "Really? Even by the standards of this town, that's a load of you-know-what."
He noted that under the agreement to use taxpayer money to save GM and Chrysler, union members had to agree to reduced wages and that thousands of retirees saw reductions in their health care benefits.
In a veiled shot at Romney, Obama also said some critics wanted to "let Detroit go bankrupt." The phrase was the headline on a November 2008 opinion piece Romney wrote for the New York Times. In that opinion piece, Romney called for a managed bankruptcy that would restructure the companies by letting them "shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs."
President Obama addresses the United Auto Workers legislative conference in Washington, D.C.
Obama's speech came as auto sales are surging, on a pace to exceed 14 million this year. Auto makers and parts companies added more than 38,000 jobs last year, with industry employment averaging 717,000 for 2011. And automakers have announced plans to add another 13,000 jobs this year.