Obama in Detroit: Honing His Economic Message
TIME's Michael Scherer covered Barack Obama's visit to Detroit on Friday. Here's an excerpt from his story:
One of the women who took Barack Obama on a tour of the Jeep Grand Cherokee assembly line Friday wore a t-shirt with the president's image that read "Our Dreams Do Come True." A few miles away, at the Hamtramck General Motors plant, workers brought in red-white-and-blue pom poms to celebrate his arrival. "It's the savior of the company," joked Dave Notarianni, an electrician of 38 years for GM. "Barack, our boss."
In terms of raw star power, it's hard to top the U.S. President in an American auto factory these days. Not only is Obama, by dint of his job, the majority shareholder in GM and a major investor in Chrysler, he is quite literally both companies' savior. "You did! You did! You did!" shouted the enthusiastic throng at GM, when Obama recounted his own decision to invest $60 billion in taxpayer money to prevent the dissolution of the two companies last year.
"Don't bet against the American worker," Obama now proclaims, congratulating himself on his investment. Indeed, the trend line is good: American auto giants are all making a profit so far this year, the first time since 2004, and the government estimates that Obama's $60 billion investment still has a market value of about $60 billion or more, suggesting that taxpayers may yet be made whole on his investment. At the Jeep plant, another shift had just been added, with 1,100 additional workers. "I feel like I did back in '94, when I first started," explained Shearard Myricks, a Chrysler worker, who spent months in 2009 collecting unemployment benefits. "It's a feeling of euphoria."
But one only need look across the street from the factories Obama visited Friday to see that the euphoria is not so widely held. Detroit remains a struggling shell of its former self, with boarded up and burned out houses lining the major roads, and an unemployment rate around 25%. The contrast between spots of success and the broader agony in Michigan served as an apt metaphor for the broader state of the American economy. Just as Obama boarded Air Force One Friday, the Commerce Department announced that economic growth had fallen sharply in the second quarter, to 2.4% from 3.7%. Economists say the lower rate spells high unemployment for the foreseeable future.
Read the full story here.