By David Skolnick
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, criticized President Barack Obama on what the Democrat incumbent considers one of his crowning achievements: the federal government bailout of the American auto industry.
“We want to see a healthy auto industry, [but] not every community was a winner in this,” said Ryan during an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Vindicator. “The communities I represent [in Wisconsin] were losers, and we still don’t have auto jobs where I come from,” Ryan added. “But I am pleased we are getting auto jobs in places like Lordstown. That’s a good thing. The question really is where do we go from here? What kinds of policies do we put in place to help American manufacturers succeed and thrive?”
Ryan spoke to the newspaper before giving a speech to about 2,200 supporters at the Westlake Recreation Center in this western Cuyahoga County community. During a Friday speech at the United Auto Workers Local 1714 union hall in Lordstown, Vice President Joe Biden said without the $82 billion federal government auto bailout in 2009 of General Motors and Chrysler, “a million jobs would have been lost.”
But Ryan said GM was going to go through a bankruptcy regardless of the bailout — which he voted to support.
“With respect to the auto restructuring, I’m pleased the auto industry is where it is now, but it could still do more,” Ryan said. “I want to make sure we have the right manufacturing policies in place so that we can help [the)] U.S. manufacturing industry. That’s what the Romney/Ryan plan for a stronger middle class is all about.”
Ryan criticized Obama for the closure of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. The plant, except for 100 workers, shut down before Obama took office. The remaining 100 workers lost their jobs in April 2009, three months after Obama began serving as president.
“Our plant was under duress, and when we were worried about it getting shut down, the president came and said [the plant will be here for] another 100 years,” Ryan said.
During a February 2008 campaign stop, then-candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”
GM announced in June 2008 the plant would close.
“After the announcement of the shutdown occurred, he said it will need a retooling effort to get plants like Janesville reopened,” Ryan continued. “It’s still not reopened. The point I was trying to make is that this is yet another piece of evidence of the empty promises he made. He fills communities with hope about jobs, and we still haven’t seen those jobs.”
Later, Ryan said that plant and two Delphi facilities in Oak Creek, Wis., also in his district, closed before Obama became president.
“We’re still hurting where I come from in the auto sector,” he said. “Not everyone was a winner.”
In response, Jessica Kershaw, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, said, “Paul Ryan criticized the auto rescue and continues to push debunked falsehoods about a Janesville, Wis., auto plant that actually began to close under the Bush administration.”
When told there were successes from the bailout, including the GM complex in Lordstown, Ryan said, “Yeah, yeah, I don’t want to begrudge that.”
Romney wanted a “managed bankruptcy,” but a number of independent analysts said that plan wouldn’t work without a government bailout because the U.S. credit market was frozen at the time, and international funding sources were very limited.
“Not everyone agrees on every single issue, but on this issue what our focus is [is] where we go from here to make sure we have better manufacturing jobs and to make sure that American manufacturers are more competitive,” Ryan said.
Ryan said Obama has an “energy policy that is hostile to coal, to natural gas, to oil, to the Keystone Pipeline. Think of the ability to get new drilling techniques to get natural gas and oil out of shale in America that we’re not. Think of the ability to be tough on China when they cheat on trade, so we can get a level playing field to make more things and sell them overseas.”
Kershaw said Ryan “voted against a bill to crack down on China for currency manipulation.” She was referring to HR 2378, a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, that the House approved in September 2010 by a 348-79 vote.
She added it was “politically convenient to hide the truth” that when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he criticized a coal plant that “kills people.”
Romney’s campaign has said he was specifically referring to one of the state’s oldest coal plants not in compliance with state environmental laws, and not the entire industry.
Ryan said he was asked by numerous people to run for president, but declined.
“I decided I didn’t want to spend 18 months running around the country away from my family running for president,” he said. “A 70-day sprint, I can handle. I’m used to going four days a week [away from home] because of this congressional job. I can handle this sprint.”
Ryan accepted the vice presidential nomination because of “the lack of leadership. We had to turn this country around and get jobs created.”
The Republican vice-presidential nominee also said under Obama, the United States is “moving faster toward a European-like debt crisis, and we will get European kinds of results if we stick with the failed leadership we have today.”
Kershaw said, “Businesses have added 4.5 million jobs over the last 20 months; GM regained the title of No. 1 automaker in the world just two years after retooling; and American manufacturers are adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. While Romney and Ryan may want to rewrite the past, they aren’t entitled to their own facts.”
To date, campaign officials for Obama and Biden have declined requests by the newspaper for interviews.