My leftwing Facebook friends and quite a few mainstream news media are blasting Paul Ryan for reciting, yet again, what lefties consider to be a lie: that GM closed its plant in Janesville, WI, during the Obama administration. But if everyone would just sit down for a minute and do a little research, the public record shows that both sides are telling emotional truth. Janesville has had a long, tough journey. That means some folks took a big hit under GOP leaders, some fell during Democrat administrations. So let’s take a look at the public record, which clearly shows that while finger-pointing might respond to “what happened when,” it goes nowhere if we change the question to “why?”
So, in defense of Ryan’s memory and his superficial staffer, here is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline that landed on doorsteps in June 2009:
Reports: Janesville loses GM plant
Michigan will get small-car line
If — as I assume — Representative Ryan’s staffer was scrolling through the Journal Sentinel archives to find the date for an event emblazoned in the mind of every family in that small town– something which the congressman rightly says ended the career vision of people he knew from high school, of neighbors he sees every day — yes, indeed, fellow lefties, this headline confirms that the final nail went in the coffin after Barack Obama had settled into the White House. That’s okay for harried staffers (I used to work in DC, I know that feeling!), but it really disgraces the co-called “political fact-checkers.”
Because look what the article actually says: Would everyone please shut up for a minute and read this:
“General Motors will announce Friday that a new small-car manufacturing line is to be located in Michigan and not at the company’s shuttered Janesville plant, according to news reports.
“If the news is accurate, it is disappointing beyond belief,” said Tim Cullen, a retired state legislator who is co-chairman of a state task force appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle to save the Janesville plant.
The Associated Press and Bloomberg News, citing anonymous sources familiar with the decision-making process, reported Thursday that a plant in Orion, Mich., would get the new subcompact car line.
Wisconsin officials said they had not been informed of the decision.
If true, the decision would be one of the final blows to Wisconsin’s identity as an automobile manufacturing state. Hundreds of Chrysler workers in Kenosha are awaiting word about whether Fiat, the new owner of Chrysler, will keep the engine plant open in that city.
About 1,500 jobs are at stake in Janesville.”
So the plant was already closed when that headline punched Janesville in the gut. When did that happen?
Here’s a report about the impact of the 2008 closing, effective two days before Christmas 2008.
Ripple effect felt in closing of GM’s Janesville plant
“The closure may ultimately end up costing Rock County nearly 9,000 jobs, according to estimates compiled by Steve Deller, a professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Using a multiplier effect, Deller says almost every sector in the county may suffer some job losses, everything from construction to real estate to retail to health services.
“GM has been slowly but surely winding down,” Deller says. “But the timing is horrendous.”
The plant is ceasing production in the teeth of what may be the country’s most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. It also comes as the Big Three automakers – GM, Ford and Chrysler – are fighting for their survival.
“GM was the town, not so long ago,” says Bob Clapper, president of Fagan Chevrolet-Cadillac. “If you didn’t work there, you were related to someone who did.”
Clapper’s dealership tells a story of the town. One year in the late 1990s, he recalls, his firm sold 2,000 new vehicles, with around a third of them going to GM employees. This year, he says, he sold 800 new vehicles through October, with around 20% going to GM employees.
“We’re watching every expense,” he says. “We cut our advertising. We’ve cut our inventory. We’ll probably have a few less employees. Not a lot, a couple.”
At Zoxx 411 Club – a bar located in the shadow of the factory – they’ve served GM workers for decades, once employing four bartenders during workday lunch hours. Now, they’re down to two bartenders daily. As the GM work force has declined, the bar has sought to lure new business with dart leagues and big-screen televisions.
“We’re going to recover from this,” says Andy Sigwell, 40, the third generation in his family to operate the bar. “It might take 10 years, but we’ll recover.”
“In Janesville, workers and their families are trying to cope as best they can, bracing for the day they know will come, the ending of GM production…
“…Patricia Torner, 46, a pipe fitter at the Janesville plant, is keeping her options open. In many ways, the fate of Janesville is tied to people like Torner, who is divorced and raising her 10-year-old granddaughter.
With 22 years in at GM, she’ll take a job transfer to another plant, if she can get it. If not, she’ll attend college, trying to fast-track 56 credit hours she’ll need toward an undergraduate degree in psychology and social work.
If Torner leaves, her chiropractor will be down one patient, her hair dresser will miss one client, the veterinarian who takes care of her two dogs will suffer a loss. And, of course, Janesville schools will be losing one more pupil, Torner’s granddaughter.
Last month, she took her granddaughter on a tour of the plant, in what was dubbed Heritage Days, a last chance for the general public to see the assembly line in operation.
“As we’re riding around the plant, I’m waving to people I know and I thought, this is it, this is truly it,” Torner says. “It brought me to tears. I realized at that moment, we’re done.”
This fact-check took less than 2 clocked minutes. The blog post has taken fewer than thirty. But figuring out what to do next — now that’s gonna be the hard part.
And as the GOP likes to say, we’ll all do better if we start at the same starting line. As the Democrats like to say, that line is made of facts.