TPM Reader JB says Paul Ryan has a point about the auto plant closures in Wisconsin:
I grew up in Kenosha, WI, and while I think Ryan’s remarks are hypocritical in light of his more recent remarks on the bailouts and on the stimulus, I think his criticism of the Obama administration with respect to the GM and Chrysler plants is fair.
Though the closure of the GM plant was announced in 2008 and production of SUVs ended then, it remained open through part of 2009 to manufacture light trucks. During that time, the Wisconsin delegation, led by Feingold, but also including Ryan, pushed the Obama administration to do more to utilize its power under the bailout to keep the plants open. The Wisconsin delegation wrote to Geithner and Summers and strongly objected to the fact that Chrysler and GM were not prioritizing protecting American jobs while receiving taxpayer money.
The administration’s uninspired efforts to use the bailout as a mechanism to keep the plants open received a lot of criticism in Wisconsin. Even the liberal Capital-Times was critical of the Obama administration on the subject during a June 2010 visit by the president to the area.
The economic damage that the closing of the GM and Chrysler plants did to southeastern Wisconsin can’t be overstated. I see it every time I go home. I think the pain that the region is still feeling from the closings played a significant role in why, fairly or unfairly, the area went for Walker and Johnson in 2010 and Walker again during the recall, despite its traditional Democratic lean.
While President Obama was not the architect of the bailout, I think Geithner, Summers, and certainly Rattner all could have done more to pressure the companies into keeping those plants open and into not outsourcing American jobs.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.