Steve Rattner speaks at the Reuters Global Hedge Fund and Private Equity Summit in New York
Some descriptions of Mitt Romney’s auto bailout position from former Obama “car czar” Steven Rattner: “dead wrong,” “utter fantasy,” has “delusions,” and “hasn’t felt a need to be consistent.” REUTERS

Here's how the former car czar for President Barack Obama describes Mitt Romney and his position on the auto bailout: dead wrong, utter fantasy, has delusions, and hasn't felt a need to be consistent.

Steven Rattner, who led the administration's auto task force that provided government loans to General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, used these descriptions and more in a scathing New York Times op-ed Friday. Rattner took aim at Romney's criticism of the auto industry bailouts by both Obama and President George W. Bush, writing that Romney was trashing a program that saved tens of thousands of jobs.

I consider myself an ardent capitalist, and well recognize the risks of government intervention, particularly the 'moral hazard' of rewarding failure and the scary prospect of politics' entering private sector decision-making, Rattner wrote.

But when markets fail, as they did for both autos and banks in 2008, government should have the ability - in fact, the obligation - to step in.

Rattner's words are the latest pushback by Democrats against Romney, who is campaigning in Michigan as he seeks to ward off a strong challenge from fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum in Romney's home state. Romney's father, George, was governor of Michigan in the 1960s and head of American Motors.

Rattner's argument centers on his status as the head of the auto task force. He wrote that Romney's gist of an argument -- that the government should have stood aside let GM and Chrysler go through a more traditional, managed bankruptcy process financed by private capital -- is flawed.

Rattner wrote that there was, simply, no private capital available. He said he spoke to all conceivable providers of funds. No one was willing to finance.

If Mr. Romney disagrees, Ratner wrote, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won't be able to, because there aren't any.

Rattner said both GM and Chrysler would have been forced to liquidate, and Ford Motor Co. would have had to close temporarily. He wrote that he considers himself an ardent capitalist that recognized the risks of government intervention.

He also attacked arguments from Romney and, lately, fellow presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who said in Wednesday night's Republican debate that Obama and the task force enacted the loans to pay off the United Auto Workers union.

I recognize the emotions surrounding the decision to give members of the United Auto Workers company stock in exchange for resolving their health care claims, Rattner said. But the courts were emphatic that what we did was legal, because we remained true to a core principle of bankruptcy reorganization: Every stakeholder received more from our plan than if the companies had been left to go bankrupt on their own.

GM recently announced a full-year record net profit of $7.6 billion, with hopes of $10 million-plus in the near future. It also recently became the world's top-selling auto maker once again. Chrysler reported its first full-year net profit since 1997.

Obama and other Democrats have been quick to use this as fuel in the president's re-election campaign. Obama declared the auto industry is back, while not-so-subtly pointing the finger at Romney and other Republicans that he said were willing to let the industry die.

GM posted record annual profit today, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted last week. Glad we didn't let Detroit fail as Romney suggested. Never bet against the American worker!