The REAL Paul Ryan GM Janesville record – politics over people

Paul Ryan has been representing Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District since 1999. Ryan’s recent statements inferring that Barack Obama could have possibly saved the Janesville GM plant in 2009 are, at best, misleading; to be blunt, they are lies – especially as Ryan’s own record proves he knows better.

A report released as early as July, 2005 was an early warning that the Janesville plant was vulnerable to closing.  The study predicted decreased demand for SUVs manufactured at the Janesville plant, largely due to rising oil and gas prices:

If the cost of a barrel of oil rises to $80 or $100, possibly due to a supply disruption, gas prices would reach $2.86 to $3.37, according to the study, which may be enough to drive down demand for SUVs and larger pickup trucks.

The changes that this would bring would gravely impact the auto workers and the communities these manufacturers are in, said Walter S. McManus of the Transportation Research Institute.

Was it possible Ryan was unaware of this situation? Considering this report was cited in a July 28, 2005 article in the Wisconsin State Journal – not likely. Fast forward to 2008…

On June 3, 2008, Ryan issued a statement in response to the GM announcement that the closing of the Janesville plant by 2010 was imminent:

“Today’s news is downright gut-wrenching for Janesville. Growing up and living in Janesville, this is something we’ve always feared…It is my hope that as this 2010 shutdown date approaches, Janesville will be in a better position to reverse this decision.”

The same day, June 3, 2008, Ryan, Kohl, and Feingold issued a joint response to GM CEO G. Richard Wagoner. A key part of their response:

We ask that you reconsider the decision to close the Janesville GM plant and request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss GM’s plans for the Janesville plant, including the possibility of retooling the plant for different production lines.

Clearly, Ryan knew in mid-2008 the plant would be closing within the year.

In September 2008 Ryan and other state leaders, including Senators Kohl and Feingold, and then-Governor Jim Doyle scrambled to convince GM to keep the plant open. Ryan flew to Detroit with Jim Doyle that month to present an unprecedented package to GM Executives. The union concessions, combined with state and local tax breaks, amounted to a $195 million package for GM. Ryan also personally lobbied GM executives to keep the plant open. Again, clearly, Ryan was aware of the impending closure.

On October 13, 2008, Ryan issued a press release in response to the GM Janesville plant closing announcement:

GM’s decision to end production of their SUVs at the end of this year gets at the heart of our economic crisis. Today’s announcement is disappointing, although not surprising given the drop-off of sales of SUVs. (emphasis mine)

The press release itself refers back to the 2005 study (cited above) warning of the closure of the Janesville plant. In his own words, Ryan acknowledges the timing of the Janesville plant closure. By his own actions, he confirms the desperate attempts by Wisconsin officials to keep the plant open; in spite of the failing Bush economy.

Ryan even broke with his own party at the end of 2008 in a last-ditch attempt to save the Janesville plant; and to save face in his District. In November 2008, Ryan was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as being opposed to pending auto-industry bailout legislation:

Like most Republicans and a number of Democrats, Ryan opposes using part of the $700 billion financial bailout package to help the ailing industry, arguing it would not be the proper use of those funds.

“This is not what the (money) is for or should be for,” he said. “It was to save the broader economy from crashing.”

After the Thanksgiving recess, Ryan returned to Congress and voted against his party, to pass HR7321 on December 10, 2008. The legislation (sponsored by Barney Frank D-MA) approved $14 billion in auto industry bailout money. Ryan was 1 of only 32 Republicans to vote for the bill in  a 237-170 passage. Was this a last-ditch attempt to give GM resources  to re-open the Janesville plant? Or a political ploy to save face in his own district – ravaged by plant closings on his watch…

The Ryan record of words and actions are clear. Paul Ryan is now attempting to re-write the history and record of the Janesville GM plant closing. He leaves behind the workers in his district whose lives were turned upside-down; and moves ahead with his political career – taking no responsibility for the closing on his (and George W. Bush’s) watch.

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