Mitt Romney campaigned in Defiance, Ohio, last night, and rolled out a new argument. "I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China," he said. "I will fight for every good job in America, I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it's fair, America will win."
There are a few problems with this line of attack, starting with the simple fact that Romney wasn't telling the truth. As Chrysler itself explained, the company intends to build Jeeps in China to be sold in China, but isn't moving American jobs abroad.
On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report "Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises" stated "Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China."
Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.
Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It's simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments. [emphasis in the original]
All of this, incidentally, is rather ironic given the successful efforts of the Obama administration when it comes to China and Jeeps, specifically.
Greg Sargent explained well why this matters: "Romney may very well be the next president. That's a position of some responsibility. Yet he and his campaign rushed to tell voters a story designed to stoke their fears for their livelihoods without bothering to vet it for basic accuracy. This is not a small thing. It reveals the depth of Romney's blithe lack of concern for the truth -- and the subservience of it to his own political ambitions."
Indeed, we can take this a step further.
Romney specifically urged business leaders to give their employees voting instructions -- many took Romney's suggestion seriously -- and as a consequence, workers in a growing number of businesses are being told their jobs may be dependent on the outcome of the election.
Romney's comments in Defiance are part of the same kind of fear-based argument: vote the right way or you'll be unemployed. Your livelihood is at stake, so support the candidate who opposed President Obama's successful rescue of the auto industry and got rich laying off American workers.
For additional context, it's worth noting that the Detroit News reports today that Chrysler is adding an additional 1,100 new jobs. Why? To build more Jeeps right here in the United States.