The most under-covered success story of the Obama era

THE MOST UNDER-COVERED SUCCESS STORY OF THE OBAMA ERA…. About two years ago, NBC News established a tough benchmark: “As the GM bailout goes, so goes the Obama presidency.”

With that in mind, Jonathan Cohn offers us a helpful update on where things stand.

On Thursday General Motors announced that, for the fifth consecutive quarter, it had made a profit. And not just a measly one, either. The $3.2 billion was higher than experts had predicted and more than three times the profit of the same quarter in 2010, when the company was still struggling to emerge from its bankruptcy.

GM sales in North America were up 25 percent over that period. That reflects the recovery, obviously, but the increase in GM sales was still larger than the industry average. Even if GM can’t keep up that pace, it’s a sign of increasing health.

Still, the most interesting part of the news is not the profit itself. It’s how GM made it.

Right. After the federal intervention to rescue the automotive industry, GM shifted its focus, reducing excess capacity and developing a better lineup of fuel-efficient cars and crossover vehicles. It’s proven to be quite successful.

Cohn noted that GM recovery has not been flawless, and the transition has been painful for many. He concluded, however, “[I]f not for the Obama Administration’s intervention, the entire American auto industry might very well have collapsed and taken the Midwest with it. Instead, the industry is on the rebound, at least for now. That’s not bad for government work. Not bad at all.”

I’d just add, from a purely political perspective, that Republicans still consider this a failure. As far as the right is concerned, the Obama administration’s rescue of the American automotive industry wasn’t just wrong, it was one of the president’s most dreadful mistakes. Confront conservatives with reports like the latest from GM, and the response tends to be that the success of the policy doesn’t change anything.

The thesis about the right valuing ideology over practical results needs no better example.