Democrats have a chance to scrutinize GM’s actions

Here’s a reality check for Democrats as they take control today of the U.S. House of Representatives: Middle America (dismissively referred to as fly-over country) isn’t preoccupied with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election or with Republican President Donald Trump’s activities in the White House.

The region doesn’t even care about the blame-game underlying the current partial shutdown of the federal government because the president and Democrats in Congress are at loggerheads over funding for the southern border wall Trump promised to build when he was seeking the presidency.

His demand for $5 billion to construct the massive concrete structure flies in the face of his insistence in 2016 that Mexico would foot the bill. He made no mention then of any American taxpayer dollars going toward the project.

On Wednesday, the president met with congressional leaders from the Senate and the House to find a solution to the impasse.

Meanwhile, Democrats have released a plan to reopen the government that does not include the $5 billion sought by Trump. The two bills to fund shuttered government agencies and put hundreds of thousands of federal workers back on the job were to be voted on today after veteran U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California was sworn in as speaker.

But while the ongoing battle between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill on an array of topics has preoccupied the Washington press corps, in the nation’s Rust Belt, epitomized by the Mahoning Valley, the issue of the economy and jobs continues to take center stage.

While folks on the East and West coasts may have the luxury to indulge in the kind of partisan politics that have split this country apart, we live in the real world, a world of the growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

Presidential battlegRound

Therefore, when we hear that Democrats in the U.S. House are planning to investigate the Trump administration via various congressional hearings, we feel the need to remind them that the 2016 presidential election was decided in Middle America.

Although he ran as a Republican, Trump aggressively sought the support of blue-collar workers who traditionally vote Democratic. He promised to re-energize the domestic auto industry by forcing the Big Three manufacturers to close down plants abroad and create jobs in this country.

Trump, whose reputation as a billionaire real-estate developer from New York City and a political newcomer resonated in the Mahoning Valley, came to Youngstown and promised to reopen the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River.

Two years later, there is no indication that the steel mills will be resurrected, and most troubling, the auto jobs that have been the mainstay of the Valley’s economy will be gone by March.

General Motors has announced it will discontinue production of the Chevrolet Cruze at its Lordstown assembly complex, which will be idled. The company has said there isn’t another product to replace the Cruze.

Thus, there’s the very real possibility that car-making in the Valley will end, more than 50 years after the first vehicle rolled off the assembly line in Lordstown.

That’s why the preoccupation in Washington over congressional investigations and the scoring of political points are so unimportant to the people of MidAmerica.

Given the decision by GM to idle four plants in the U.S. – three assembly and one parts maker – while investing billions of dollars abroad, we believe the Democratic majority in the House should conduct congressional hearings on the company’s plans.

Congress is well within its right to launch such an investigation given that the federal government financially bailed out GM when it was on the verge of collapse during the Great Recession.

Democratic President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress made the right decision in providing GM and Chrysler with billions of dollars in loans to prevent bankruptcy.

It is noteworthy that businessman Trump opposed the bailout and said bankruptcy would be good for both automakers.

The decision by GM to produce the iconic Chevrolet Blazer in a plant in Mexico rather than Lordstown is illustrative of the company’s rejection of Trump’s demand that the Big Three close plants abroad and boost production in the U.S.

Democrats in the House would curry favors with voters in this part of the country where the 2020 presidential election will be decided if they force GM to justify its decision to furlough thousands of American workers.

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