GM still ringing political bells
The closure of the Janesville General Motors plant and the resulting unemployment continue to play a role in politics as the midterm congressional elections approach.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st District, issued a statement last week, challenging the claim by General Motors and the Obama administration that GM has paid off its bailout loan from the federal government.
The $6.7 billion payment leaves about $43 billion of the $50 billion bailout package unpaid, according to news reports. The government holds GM stock—a 61 percent share in GM—to account for the rest of the money.
“The fact is: The federal government still owns GM,” Ryan said. “The government remains deeply entrenched in the auto industry, and the American people deserve to have transparent information on the financial health of GM.
“If anyone is owed a clear and honest explanation, it is those hit hardest by the downturn in the auto industry, including those I serve in Janesville, Kenosha, Oak Creek and the surrounding communities in southern Wisconsin,” Ryan said.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who also is up for re-election in November, agreed.
“Rep. Ryan is correct that while GM has repaid the government $6.7 billion, it still owes billions of taxpayer dollars. Rather than misleading people, GM should be up front with the American taxpayers and present a clear plan to return their money. The autoworkers in Wisconsin hit by this terrible economy deserve honesty, not p.r. campaigns.”
Ryan’s statement raised questions with some, however, who asked why he voted last month against a bill to extend unemployment compensation if he is so concerned for the laid-off workers in his district.
Democrat Paulette Garin of Kenosha, who is still considering a run against Ryan, called Ryan’s vote “reprehensible.”
Ryan said his vote signaled his displeasure with a measure that increases the national debt.
“If this legislation was paid for, I would have gladly supported it,” Ryan said. “However, rather than prioritizing spending to offset the cost of this bill, the majority irresponsibly decided to borrow an additional $18.1 billion to pay for it.”
“Since January 2009, Washington has enacted into law $1.8 trillion in new spending,” Ryan said. “We can no longer afford to borrow from foreign governments, impose new tax hikes or plunge our nation deeper into debt. Washington’s reckless spending spree is driving us ever closer to a debt crisis. Rather than exacerbate this crisis and force taxpayers to finance short-term benefit extensions, we need to prioritize spending for those that need it most and advance job creation and pro-growth economic policies.”
Garin asked where Ryan’s fiscal conservatism was when much larger sums were borrowed to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He blatantly ignores the needs of his constituents, especially those in his hometown of Janesville,” Garin charged. “… If the vote doesn’t benefit his corporate benefactors, he’s going to vote ‘no.’ If he can’t privatize it, he's going to vote ‘no.’”
Garin said Ryan’s personal likeability belies his true colors.
“It’s sort of like ‘pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’ you know? Don’t look at what he says, look at what he does,” she said.