GM plant becomes political football

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

— Rep. Paul Ryan took an example from his hometown Aug. 16 when discussing energy policy in Ohio.

Some have questioned his facts.

Ryan told the Ohio audience that the Janesville General Motors plant closed in 2009, and he said President Barack Obama's policies were, in part, to blame.

Obama wasn't president when the plant closed. Production ended in December 2008.

Gillian Morris, spokesman for Obama for America-Wisconsin, noted that the plant closed while George W. Bush was still president.

"This is just a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that the Romney-Ryan ticket will take us back to the failed policies that caused this mess in the first place," Morris said in an emailed response.

Here's the text of that portion of Ryan's speech in Ohio:

"Let's use our own energy, create jobs and stop depending on foreign oil. It's common sense. We are resource rich. The president's stopping this energy. He's tying it up in red tape.

"You know, I live in Janesville, Wisconsin. We used to have a big General Motors plant. A lot of my high school buddies worked at that plant. That plant was shut down in 2009. I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he'll keep that plant open. One more broken promise.

"We used to build Tahoes and Suburbans. One of the reasons that plant got shut down was $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president's terrible energy policies are costing us jobs.

"So a lot of my buddies that I grew up with, friends of mine from high school, they're out of this job. You know a lot of them thought that they could have a job at the plant downtown, just like their folks did and make a good living, provide for their families, have a good future. And now they're out of work."

Ryan went on to talk about education for the unemployed so they can get the skills they need to provide for their families.

Ryan's reference to Obama's statements at the GM plant in February 2008 as a "promise" also might be challenged, and it has been by The Detroit News, among others.

Here's Obama's quote, as reported in The Gazette in 2008:

"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 100 years."

Ryan congressional campaign spokesman Kevin Seifert said Ryan's criticism of Obama was referring to Democrats' energy policies at the time the plant closed.

Obama, of course, was a U.S. senator at the time.

"With respect to Janesville's GM plant, rising gas prices played a part in reduced consumer demand for the Tahoes and Suburbans made at the Janesville plant," Seifert said.

Democrats had "stonewalled legislation to increase domestic energy production" while gas prices were rising, Seifert said, which is similar to Obama's actions this year regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.

"These are positions that have contributed to Americans paying more at the pump," Seifert said.

Experts disagree about whether the pipeline would lower gas prices, "but those who believe as a matter of economics that it will ease prices say the impact will be modest," according to the Washington Post's "Fact Checker."

Last updated: 5:04 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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