American Future Fund: “Janesville”

American Future Fund is regurgitating Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) claim that the closure of a General Motors factory in his hometown proves President Obama’s economic policies failed. The timeline of events does not support AFF and Ryan’s claim, as the plant’s closure came under President Bush. More importantly, AFF and Ryan both omit some of then-candidate Obama’s 2008 comments to Janesville auto workers: Obama stressed the plant would have to retool its assembly line to make fuel-efficient cars rather than SUVs and trucks, because GM and the larger auto market were all shifting sharply in that direction. Indeed, Ryan lobbied GM throughout 2008 to retool the Janesville plant, while also claiming that government action could lower gas prices and help save truck assembly plants. Market forces and chronology render AFF’s ad highly dishonest.

Plant Was Idled In December 2008, Skeleton Crew Remained To Fill Out Final Isuzu Truck Order

Janesville Gazette : “Obama Wasn’t President When The Plant Closed.” From the Janesville Gazette‘s “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.” [, 8/28/12]

Washington Post: Despite Careful Wording, Ryan Implication Inaccurate Because Plant “Largely Closed In December 2008.” From the Washington Post: “In his acceptance speech, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared to suggest that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Ryan’s home town of Janesville, Wis. Obama gave his speech in February 2008, and he did say those words. But Ryan’s phrasing, referring to the fact the plant did not last another year, certainly suggests it was shut down in 2009, when Obama was president. Ryan, in fact, issued a news release in June 2008, urging GM to keep the plant open after the automaker announced it would close it. The plant was largely closed in December 2008 when production of General Motors SUVs ceased — before Obama was sworn in. A small crew of about 100 workers completed a contract for production of medium-duty trucks for Isuzu Motors, a contract that ended in April 2009. Note that Ryan called the plant ‘locked up’ rather than ‘shut down.’ That’s because the plant has not been completely shut down; it remains on ‘standby’ and could reopen if GM production reaches the right level, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.” [Washington Post, 8/30/12]

ABC: “The Plant Ryan Referenced…Made Its Last GM Automobile In December 2008 While President George W. Bush Was Still In Office.” From ABC News: “The plant Ryan referenced, which he also brought up at an event earlier this month, made its last GM automobile in December 2008 while President George W. Bush was still in office. The announcement to close the Janesville plant came in June of 2008, after then-candidate Obama spoke there, and the initial projected date for its closing was 2010, according to an AP article from the time. The plant remained open for a few months in 2009 to complete orders on Isuzu vehicles, a company with which GM had a partnership.” [ABC News, 8/29/12]

April 2009 AP Article Cited By AFF: GM SUV Production Ended “Just Before Christmas,” 100 Workers Retained To Finish Isuzu Order. From the April 19, 2009, Associated Press article cited in the ad: “Production at the General Motors plant in Janesville is scheduled to end for good this week. GM spokesman Christopher Lee says operations at the southern Wisconsin plant will cease Thursday. About 1,200 employees were let go just before Christmas when GM ended SUV production at the plant. Some 100 workers were retained to finish an order of small- to medium-duty trucks for Isuzu Motors Ltd. Lee says most of those workers will be laid off Thursday. He says others will be kept on to help guide the plant’s shutdown.” [Associated Press via Nexis, 4/19/09]

In Mid-2008, GM Announced Intention To Close Plant Due To “Collapsed” Demand For Trucks

June 3, 2008: GM Announces Plan To End Production At Janesville Plant “By The End Of 2010.” From the Janesville Gazette‘s “A decades-old rumor became harsh reality today when General Motors announced that it will cease production at its storied Janesville assembly plant by the end of 2010.” [, 6/3/08]

  • Janesville Gazette: June 2008 Announcement Was “The Other Shoe Dropping” After April 2008 Production Slowdown And 750 Layoffs. From the Janesville Gazette‘s “Tuesday’s announcement was the equivalent of the other shoe dropping for the Janesville plant. In April, GM said it would cut second-shift production in Janesville and eliminate up to 756 jobs in July.” [, 6/3/08]

June 3, 2008: GM CEO Explains Janesville Closure Plan Due To “Structural” Changes To Market – Gas Prices And Slackening Demand For Trucks And SUVs. From the Janesville Gazette‘s “In advance of an annual meeting with shareholders, GM CEO and President Rick Wagoner said high gas prices have hurt sales of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles and driven consumers to smaller car and crossover models. That has forced the automaker to shift its product mix, one that will move from a 50-50 balance of cars and trucks to one of 60 percent cars and 40 percent trucks. ‘There are changes in market conditions here in the U.S. that we believe are far more structural than cyclical,’ Wagoner said, adding that 18 of the next 19 new product launches GM is planning involve cars and crossovers.” [, 6/3/08]

GM President: “This Segment Of The Marketplace Has Almost Collapsed.” From the Janesville Gazette‘s “GM President Troy Clarke said the automaker’s forecasts necessitate one-shift production in Janesville into 2010. ‘At the end of the day, this segment of the marketplace has almost collapsed,’ Clarke said. ‘The decision is how we allocate our capacity.’ GM officials also said today that the plant’s medium-duty Isuzu truck line in Janesville will end production by the end of 2009. It employs fewer than 50 workers.” [, 6/3/08]

Rep. Ryan Acknowledged Low Demand For Trucks And Called On GM To Retool Janesville Plant In 2008

June 3, 2008: In News Release And Joint Letter, Rep. Ryan Expressed Disappointment At Plant Closure Announcement. From the June 3, 2008, letter signed by Ryan, Sen. Herb Kohl, and Sen. Russ Feingold: “We are writing to express our unwavering support for the continuation of operations at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. We are deeply disappointed by GM’s announcement that the company will close the plant in 2010.” [Ryan, Kohl, Feingold Letter, 6/3/08]

Ryan Letter Acknowledged Longstanding Weak Demand For Vehicles Produced In Janesville, Reiterated Call For Retooling. From the June 3, 2008, letter signed by Ryan, Sen. Herb Kohl, and Sen. Russ Feingold: “On May 1st of this year, we wrote to you asking that GM take future steps to ensure the continued success of the Janesville plant, including considering the assignment of new production models at the plant. We renew that request now. […] We recognize that market demand in the automobile industry is changing and that GM intends to adapt to the changing demand to remain a viable company. But rather than closing the Janesville plant, a retooled Janesville GM plant can assist in GM’s efforts to adapt to a changing market. The Janesville workforce is first-rate and the Janesville workers have proven their commitment to GM generation after generation. The Janesville GM workers will be strong partners in a retooled Janesville GM plant. 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.” [Ryan, Kohl, Feingold Letter, 6/3/08, emphasis added]

May 1, 2008: Ryan Signed Letter Specifically Calling On GM To Consider “New Production Models At The Plant” Following Announcement Of Production Slowdown. From the Huffington Post: “In April 29, 2008, it was announced that 750 workers at the GM plant in Janesville would lose their jobs. […] On May 1, 2008, then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), along with Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Ryan, sent a letter to Rick Wagoner, then GM CEO, urging the company to join government, community organizations and employers to help the affected workers. ‘We ask that you give every consideration to maintaining GM’s presence in Janesville, as well as taking future steps to ensure the continued success of the Janesville plant, including considering the assignment of new production models at the plant,’ the lawmakers wrote.” [Huffington Post, 8/17/12]

Late 2008: Amid Reports Suggesting Janesville Plant’s Final Closure Had Been Moved Up To Year’s End, Ryan Touted $1.6 Million Grant For Workers Who Would Be Displaced. From the Huffington Post: “On Sept. 13, the Herald Times Reporter said Ryan and then-Gov. Jim Doyle (D) had presented an ‘aggressive incentive plan’ to GM leaders. But by then, GM’s shutdown plans were set. On Oct. 11, 2008, the Journal Sentinel reported that GM would announce it would close the Janesville plant around Christmas, ‘at least a year earlier than the company had initially projected.’ Less than a month earlier, Ryan was making preparations to help the displaced workers and using federal funds to pick up the tab. On Sept. 18, his office put out a statement that it had joined forces with the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Agency to secure a $450,000 grant to support economic initiatives for the Janesville area. […] On Oct. 2, Ryan announced that the U.S. Department of Labor had awarded a $1.6 million national emergency grant to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The money would help ‘dislocated workers in Rock County’s automotive industry, including workers at General Motors, Lear Corporation, Logistics Services Inc., and United Industries.'” [Huffington Post, 8/17/12]

Ryan’s Response To Shift In Auto Demand: Try To Make Gas Cheaper To Prop Up SUV Sales

Ryan Op-Ed: Janesville Plant Layoffs Due To High Gas Prices, Which Government Can Lower By Drilling. In a May 2008 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed, Rep. Ryan wrote: “Well, last week in Janesville, more than 750 people found they soon will lose their entire paychecks. Why? General Motors announced that due to high fuel prices and sluggish sales, Janesville’s GM plant is eliminating its second shift of production of its large SUVs. As a fifth-generation native of Janesville, I grew up learning the old saying, ‘As GM goes, so goes Janesville.’ These layoffs are a devastating blow to our town and a harsh reminder of the consequences of our incoherent national energy policy. There are five clear examples of how the federal government has exacerbated this problem and how Congress could alleviate the mess it helped create: One: Drill for oil […] Two: Build more refineries […] Three: Streamline fuel blends […] Four: Don’t rely on food for fuel […] Five: Stop stoking inflation.” [Ryan Op-Ed, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/4/08]

Read our full research on the errors in conservative rhetoric around energy and gas prices.

Ryan Omitted Then-Candidate Obama’s Mention Of Necessity Of Retooling Janesville Plant For New Models

Ryan’s Prepared Remarks Skipped Over Obama’s Statement That The Plant’s Future Depended On Retooling To “Make This Transition” From SUVs To Fuel Efficient Vehicles. From the transcript of Ryan’s “remarks as prepared for delivery” published on the night of the RNC speech: “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.” From then-candidate Obama’s February 2008 speech, with the words omitted by Paul Ryan in bold: “And 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 hundred years.” [Ryan Prepared Remarks via Huffington Post, 8/29/12; Obama Remarks via, 2/13/08]

  • Transition” Mentioned In President Obama Speech In Janesville Referred To Shift Away From SUVs. From then-candidate Obama’s February 2008 speech: “The plant shut down for a period during the height of the Depression, and major shifts in production have been required to meet the changing times.  Tractors became automobiles.  Automobiles became artillery shells.  SUVs are becoming hybrids as we speak, and the cost of transition has always been greatest for the workers and their families. [Obama Remarks via, 2/13/08]

President Obama: “The Question Is Not Whether A Clean Energy Economy Is In Our Future,  It’s Where It Will Thrive,” So “I’ll Fight For” Investments In Making That Transition Happen In U.S. From then-candidate Obama’s February 2008 speech in Janesville: “I know that General Motors received some bad news yesterday, and I know how hard your Governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant.  But I also know how much progress you’ve made – how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out.  And 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 hundred years.  The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive.  I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your President. My energy plan will invest $150 billion over ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.” [Obama Remarks via, 2/13/08]

[Obama Clip:] “I believe that if our government is there to support you and give you the assistance you need to retool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.” [Ryan Clip:] “Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.” [ON-SCREEN TEXT:] “December 2008: GM “Idled Production” Of SUVs.” [Ryan Clip:] “It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.” [ON-SCREEN TEXT:] “February & March 2009: President Obama Signs The Stimulus And Authorizes Takeover Of GM.” [Obama Clip:] “This plant will be here for another hundred years.” [ON-SCREEN TEXT:] “April 2009: “GM Plant In Janesville Closing For Good…” [Ryan Clip:] “We have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What is missing is leadership in the White House.” [ON-SCREEN TEXT:] “President Obama. Hopeful Words. Disappointing Results. Enough Talk, Mr. President. It’s Time For New Leadership.” [Narrator:] American Future Fund is responsible for the content of this advertising. [American Future Fund via YouTube, 9/6/12]