Friday, August 31, 2012

Ryan did not "lie" about Janesville GM plant

The argument that Paul Ryan "lied' or "misrepresented" the closing of the Janesville GM plant is not even colorable.

Here is what the President said:
"And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years. The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive. I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your president." (emphasis supplied.)

Here is what Ryan said:

"My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight." (emphasis supplied.)
Let's make a few observations that seem to have eluded Ryan's critics.

First, Ryan does not "characterize" or "insinuate" anything about what the President said. He quoted him.

Second, while Ryan did not say that this constituted a "promise" to keep the plant open, the workers in Janesville might have reasonably understood it that way. The clear implication of Obama's words is that he would bring the government's resources to bear to retool plants like Janesville and that this would keep such plants - including this particular one - open.

Ryan's critics want to argue that the workers should have understand a jesuitical distinction. The President, they argue, only said that "if the government provided resources to the plant, then it would be open for a hundred years.'" He never said that he actually would do what he said he could do.

It was just a law professor's hypothetical, you see, an academic discussion with a group of people about to lost their jobs. Obama was saying that "we can help you" but bot that "you can expect that we will."

If that's what candidate Obama meant, then he is the one who misrepresented his intentions and mislead the Janesville workers. To suggest that Obama did not intend to imply anything about the Janesville plant beggars reality. That he has now been hoisted on his own petard is a product of his own doing.

But let's give him the benefit of what seems to be a rather infinitesimal doubt. Ryan did not say that Obama "promised" to keep the plant open, but only that he told voters that the resources of government could be used to keep plants like Janesville and keep them open. In Ryan's view (and he's got the numbers), that hasn't happened. The President has not brought those resources to bear or, if he has, it hasn't worked. The Janesville plant is closed as are many similarly situated plants across the country.

But what about the fact that this plant closure was announced before Obama took office? That is not relevant to Ryan's critique. Obama was arguing that government could retool plants and keep them operational. That didn't happen.

Beyond that, this criticism of Ryan's remarks is cynical and deceptive. Obama knew - everyone knew - the the Janesville plant was on the chopping block. That's why Obama made his remarks. If he thought it was too late to save this plant and keep it open for "a hundred years," why say anything at all?

The plant closed in April 2009. When that happened and for 18 months thereafter, the President of the United States, not only had strong majorities in the Congress. Not only that,  the federal govenment run by the President, also soon came to own a controlling interest in GM. Couldn't the government have retooled the shuttered plant that it now owned as the candidate told the people of Janesville it could do?

Maybe not. Maybe it is unreasonable to think that the President should have worried about a GM plant in little Janesville, Wisconsin or recall the hope he tried to give its embattled workers. After all, someone who is causing the waters to recede and the sick to heal can't be bothered with the pedestrian problems of a small town in Wisconsin.

But even if you believe that, it doesn't undercut Ryan's argument. It was fair for him to use Janesville as a metaphor for a promise that unequivocally was made (the President did promise - many time and in many places - that he could use government resources to turn the economy around) and not kept.

Of course, you can argue that the President ought to be excused from the consequences of presiding over the weakest recovery in the post-WWII era. You can join him in what seems to be the theme of his campaign: It's not my fault, America. You can even believe that the only problem with the President's policies is that we haven't had enough of them.

But the fact that you disagree with the implications of Ryan's remarks - theat the President's policies have failed - doesn't make them false.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Anonymous said...

Partisan hackery at its finest.

When candidate Obama said those words, it was February 2008. The plant was struggling but at the time was not slated to close. GM announced it would close in June 2008, on December 2008 it ceased making GM cars and ran a skeleton crew after that to finish an order until April 2009.

You cannot blame Obama for failing when the circumstances changed after his remarks and took it out of his hands.

Paul Ryan misled and he lied. The funniest/saddest part is that, apparently, Mr. Free Market wishes the government had picked winners and losers. So even if you're right, he's a massive hypocrite (as he is with Medicare cuts).

Serious question for you, is this the only lie of this you're going to attempt to spin? Nothing on the Medicare Cuts? Nothing on Simpson-Bowles? Nothing on the County's credit rating?

That last one, to me, was the most blatant and sickening. Really? You're going to blame the President for that? Anyone paying attention at the time knows it was the House GOP, including Mr. Ryan, that took us to the brink and led the rating agencies to downgrade us thanks to our ridiculous political climate.

And now, of course, he and the rest of the GOP want to go back on their agreement (like Hamas), because of course government spending by corporations that write big checks to them create a lot of jobs at the big 5-sided building. Oh but programs for the poor? Well "we all" gotta sacrifice, you know.

What an abjectly pathetic party you belong to.

-Cream Sauce

Anonymous said...

Shorter Esenberg:

A liar, lying about a liar.

Dad29 said...

Serious Screechers hystericizing in force, transcribing talking points into pixels...

My, my, my. They're not Alfred Neuman-izing, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

Dad, when was the last time you had an independent thought of any kind?

JohnLloydScharf said...

February 17, 2009 the Stimulus Act became effective.The last line closed after June 1 of 2009 and still remained closed after the 2009 Stimulus Act took effect.

Dad29 said...

Po' Anony can't read.

Anonymous said...

John that is irrelevant. GM had decided the plant would close in June 2008. It was only making cars in 2009 to finish an order. Maybe you think it can or should have closed instantly after the decision was made, but that's not how it works.

Do you agree with Paul Ryan that government needs to get out of the way and not pick winners and losers, or do you agree with Paul Ryan when he demands government assistance to keep open a plant the private sector has already decided - in june 2008 - should be closed?

-Cream Sauce

Tom said...

Here's what I posted on my Facebook feed last night -

Dear political commentators of all stripes (that includes Politifact):

Just because an argument is weak, or incomplete, or even has stronger counterarguments, does not make the argument a lie.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Tom, if an argument is weak, or incomplete, or even has [apparent] stronger counterarguments, it could mean that the reasoning behind it is false or has a foundation built on half-truths or downright falsehoods.

Dad29, the bane of Brookfield.

Carry on...

Anonymous said...

"But what about the fact that this plant closure was announced before Obama took office?** That is not relevant to Ryan's critique. Obama was arguing that government could retool plants and keep them operational. That didn't happen."

I just love how the Professor casually dismisses this statement** as "not relevant" without providing additional support. And he calls himself a lawyer?

So, Professor, why didn't it happen, indeed?

Obama believed that the government COULD, not WOULD, assist the auto workers in Janesville. I believe he talked about helping GM retool to make more efficient vehicles. It was a truck and SUV factory, vehicles that were once best sellers but demand fell sharply because of high gas prices PRIOR to the market meltdown which obliterated demand.

So had GM actually been interesting in making something else in Janesville, they might have gotten money from the Obama Administration--funds Ryan criticized then asked for!--or at least enabled the plant in Janesville to retool, build different cars, and monitor the situation, leaving the door open to closing it in the future.

At any rate, Obama would have been attacked for attempting to nationalize the auto industry and interfering with the decisions of a private company!!!

Now Ryan in 2008 wrote that CONGRESS (!) in essence created the conditions that necessitated the a second round of cuts to the workforce in Janesville, which ultimately proved to be its death blow.

Yet Ryan has the audacity to blame ONLY OBAMA for its shuttering when there were other factors in play. Here's my source.

Yellowed copies of Wisconsin newspapers exist today containing articles about the tragic closing of the GM auto plant in Ryan's hometown. Those yellowed pages are clearly dated in 2007 and 2008, during the administration of George W. Bush. President Obama took office in January 2009. In fact, in his capacity as the U.S. congressman representing Janesville, Ryan appealed to GM to keep the plant open.

Rather than accepting that his attempts were noble but impotent, Ryan has changed history to blame someone else exclusively rather than admit a host of factors were responsible.

Anonymous said...

Harry S Truman: The buck stops here.
Barack H. Obama: It's someone else's fault.

Dad29 said...

Ah, Anony. So behind the times on my location...

And still incapable of simple logic.

Obozo TWICE iterated that 'this plant' could remain open. He then went on to the Presidency.

By this time, much of the auto bailout had been spent, but not ALL of it. And by this time, Janesville was gurgling its last.

(Since "Gummint interference" was a fait accompli when Obozo assumed authority, bringing it up is a red herring; but you specialize in immaterial matters, so I'm not surprised to see it.)

Any sensible human being gets it: the Obozo Miracle of seas diminishing, 'warming' reversing, and Endless Prosperity of the Proletariat immanent....ahhh......didn't happen.

The point, Obtuse One, is that there ARE no miracles consequent to the Obozo election. In fact, umpty-billions in "stimulus" did not stimulate anything but UN-employment (top-line and U-6), descending HHI, and general malaise.

Anonymous said...

Hey, anony, care to read the 10:09 a.m. post? Nah, you'd rather play partisan.

Dad29 said... more thing: umpty-billions also stimulated the national debt, which will hit $16 trillion (a figure Les Aspin never, ever, imagined) during the Democrat Convention.

Nice capstone for that event, eh?

Anonymous said...

Leave it to Dad29 the "sensible human" to ignore Ryan's OWN WORDS as to why the Janesville plant was going by the wayside.

"(Since "Gummint interference" was a fait accompli when Obozo assumed authority, bringing it up is a red herring; but you specialize in immaterial matters, so I'm not surprised to see it.)"

Dad29's repeatedly touts that the gummint ought not to interfere with business matters, then has the gall to insinuate that it should have become more involved to save the Janesville plant. Hypocrite? Indeed!

"In fact, umpty-billions in "stimulus" did not stimulate anything but UN-employment (top-line and U-6), descending HHI, and general malaise."

Any evidence to support your assertion? Catholic bloviations don't count.

Dad29 said...

You infer far more than I state.

Gummint COULD have 'saved' the Janesville plant, but did not.

As to unemployment, HHI, and malaise, I would suggest that Google is available to you. It's evident that you don't read the news.

Dad29 said...

One more note: I never supported the bailout of GM and Chrysler. It would have been far better for those entities AND the taxpayers if they had gone through a 'packaged' BK.

Anonymous said...

"Gummint COULD have 'saved' the Janesville plant, but did not."

I stated that in my 10:09 a.m. post. Try to catch up.
Ultimately, the company made the decision to because of a host of factors, as articulated by Ryan in 2008. Any comment on that matter?

"As to unemployment, HHI, and malaise, I would suggest that Google is available to you. It's evident that you don't read the news."

Intellectual laziness personified. YOU made the claim, YOU do the work.

"You infer far more than I state."

Your positions on the matter have been crystal clear in your blog postings. You ain't foolin' anyone.

"It would have been far better for those entities AND the taxpayers if they had gone through a 'packaged' BK."

And you know this, how?

Dad29 said...

Unemployment: 7.8% then, 8.3% now
Median income: $54,983 then, $50,964 now
Gas prices: $1.85 per gallon then, $3.78 now
National debt: $10.6 trillion then, $15.9 trillion now

Note my error: it ain't HHI, it's median income which dumped by $4K.

So to the question: "Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?"


1) If GM had gone through a packaged BK, its pension obligations would be zero. Yes, the taxpayer would be picking up the PBGC obligation (albeit we don't know how much there would be), but instead, they're picking up a big loss in GM stock.

2) Without that pension obligation, GM could....oh, I dunno...reduce the price of its offerings. The only player who'd suffer then would be FoMoCo. But the consumer? Huzzahh! 15% off the price of a cheap Cruze would put it in the $15K category today.

Further, the UAW would have to find a new set of contracts--which would not be quite so generous in terms of base comp, total comp, and "da rulezzzzz". But a lot more of the membership would be working due to the pop in volume b/c of reduced prices (see above.)

3) GM could have disposed of its bloodsucking European ops. They WISH that would have happened; now it sucks about $600MM/year from the bottom line.

4) GM would be paying taxes on its income; under the "Gummint Motors" agreement it ain't. Would be helpful for deficits, ya'know.

5) GM and Chrysler would not have arbitrarily, capriciously, (or politically) have dumped 100,000 dealership employees into the sewer, as they did under orders from "Smart People" in Gummint.

One could argue that, aside from 'bad publicity,' there would have been no long-lasting change in GM's sales. There CERTAINLY would have been no impact on its parts biz, which is by far the most profitable segment of GM and every other automaker.

Anonymous said...

All you do is list statistics...from HotAir, a conservative site akin to its liberal sister DailyKos. The reader is led to infer that it's all Obama's fault. Causation does not imply correlation. There's a host of reasons why our economy is in the tank. Obama's policies may be one of several factors, but it's not the only one.

Even your boy Ryan cited those factors in 2008, yet why do you refuse to acknowledge his admission? Heh.

"1) If GM had gone through a packaged BK, its pension obligations would be zero. Yes, the taxpayer would be picking up the PBGC obligation..."

Wahhh, wahhh, wahhhhhhhhh. Sorry, Mr. Conservative, this statement goes against your principles. In a compromising mood, eh?

Everything you cite thereafter is irrelevant. Mere speculation. Certainly possible, but not certain as you make it out to be.

Anonymous said...

Candidate Obama promised that his policy of massive federal spending on green jobs and the like would save plants like the one in Janesville. Janesville is not better off than it was when Obama took office.

Anonymous said...


Problem with your alternative is that private financing for a bankruptcy was not available. If you were in charge, those two companies fail, and hundreds of thousands are out of work.

Anonymous said...

Private financing for assets that have real potential to be profitable is always available.

Dad29 said...

The GM Parts business would be worth a small fortune to anyone, except anonymous academics disguised as "business commentators."

That's only one of the pickins. The Corvette business would be interesting to a number of buyers; so would the GM Truck biz, whether Chevy or GMC.

Given what was in development at the time, Buick would be viable; and so is Holden/Australia.

You state unequivocally that 'private financing was not available.'

Nobody ever asked.

I await your non-speculative offering on "If the South Had Won the Civil War."

Anonymous said...

Nice try, Shark, but Lyin' Ryan has already backtracked on what he said.

Sewer Urchin said...

So when Ryan quotes Obama almost verbatim and the quotes are published side by side, both Ryan and the author are tagged as liars and the exercise branded as partisan hackery. How about a little intellectual effort from you lefties before you start chugging the kool-aid this evening?

Anonymous said...

Talk is cheap, anony 5:15 p.m. You and Dad29 outright refuse to acknowledge that Ryan in 2008 offered the reasons why the Janesville plant was going by the wayside. It had NOTHING to do with Obama's "failure" to save it.

Anonymous said...

Sewer Urchin:

Let me lay it out for you with the online equivalent of crayons so you can follow it:

1. Obama makes promise in February of 2008 to keep plant open.

2. GM announces in June 2008 plant will close. Obama not yet President.

3. GM essentially closes plant in December 2008. Obama not yet President.

4. Obama inaugurated January 2009.

Do you understand that? If you reached an agreement to buy a house, and before you closed on the house and moved in, you promised your wife you'd paint the walls green, and then before you closed and moved in the former owners burnt the place down on accident, therefore removing the walls you had promised to paint, could you be blamed for failing to paint the walls green?

Get it? Sinking in? Making its way through your brain's need to define reality in the way you want it to exist?


Tell you what, since there is enough nuance to allow for lots of partisan hackery, let's try Ryan's claim that Obama was to blame for the nation's credit downgrade. Now, please, tell me honestly: you don't accept that, do you? You all know there was a lot more to it that makes that claim purely idiotic, right?


Sewer Urchin said...

Have another sip. Maybe later we'll discuss political pandering vs. leadership.

Anonymous said...

Sewer Urchin:

Pathetic, but expected.

Maybe someday you'll have the intellectual curiosity to overcome simple tribalism; to think independently.

Dad29 said...

Umnnhhhh....what about the "re-tool" promise, which does NOT require an 'operating plant'?

I know: "nevermind" is the answer, right?

Anonymous said...

Umnnnhhh, it's not gummint's job to intervene in the affairs of companies, right fake-conservative Dad29? Yet, you're arguing Obama should have been involved. So, what is it, no intervention at all, or only intervention after the fact to suit your political narrative?

I know: avoid the fact that Ryan clearly laid out why the Janesville plant was doomed, right?

Anonymous said...

Ryan's marathon time, along with his chronology of his beloved GM plant and understanding of Simpson-Bowles, disqualifies his simplemindedness from higher office.


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