During his speech before the Republican National Convention last night, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan blamed President Obama for the closing of a Janesville, Wisconsin, General Motors plant. “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,” Ryan said.
While it is true that the plant is no longer open, the announcement that it would halt production was made in June 2008, months before Obama was even President-elect, never mind President (though the plant didn’t finish production until April 2009). The Obama speech to which Ryan is referring was delivered months before the plant had even decided to end production. As U.S. News & World Report’s Robert Schlesinger wrote, “I know the presidency is powerful but it seems a stretch to blame [Obama] for his auto bailout lacking the ability to go back in time to save an autoplant.”
However, that didn’t stop Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) from parroting the tale last night during an interview on MSNBC. But Walker, when challenged by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Al Sharpton, could only claim that a “managed bankruptcy” run by the “private sector” might have kept the plant open. Watch it:
Mitt Romney makes the same claim regarding the rescue of the auto industry, saying that a private sector intervention would have been preferable. But the government stepped in precisely because the private sector had no interest in financing a bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler. Auto industry insiders and reporters who covered the industry have dismissed Romney’s view as “reckless,” “dishonest,” and “pure fantasy.” Even other Republicans have corrected Romney’s version of the story.
As The Economist noted, “the credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history.” But Walker is still touting Romney’s impossible solution as a magical path that would have kept Janesville’s plant open, in order to dishonestly blame Obama for events over which he had no control.