The President's Weekly Address
Hello, everybody. I'm speaking to you from the GM auto plant here in Detroit, Michigan, where a hopeful story is unfolding in a place that's been one of the hardest hit in America.
In the 12 months before I took office, American auto companies lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales plunged 40 percent. Liquidation was a very real possibility. Years of papering over tough problems and a failing to adapt to changing times, combined with a vicious economic crisis, brought an industry that's been the symbol of our manufacturing might for a century to the brink of collapse.
We didn't have many good options. On the one hand, we could have continued the practice of handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to the auto industry with no real strings attached. On the other hand, we could have walked away and allowed two major auto companies to go out of business, which could have wiped out 1 million American jobs.
I refused to let that happen. So we came up with a third way. We said to the auto companies, if you're willing to make the hard decisions necessary to adapt and compete in the 21st century, we'll make a one-time investment in your future.
Of course, if some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all. This plant might not exist because there were leaders of the "just say no" crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One called it "the worst investment you could possibly make." They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go.
Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs, the strongest period of job growth in more than 10 years. For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit. Sales have begun to rebound. And plants like this that wouldn't have existed if all of us didn't act are now operating at maximum capacity.
What's more, thanks to our investments, a lot of these auto companies are reinventing themselves to meet the demands of a new age. At this plant, they're hard at work building the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow, cars like the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt that can run 40 miles before taking a sip of gasoline. Throughout Michigan, an advanced battery industry is taking root that will power clean electric cars, an industry that produced only 2 percent of the world's advanced batteries last year, but will now be able to produce as much as 40 percent in a little over 5 years. That's real progress.
There's no doubt we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before folks here and across America can feel whole again. But what's important is that we're finally beginning to see some of the tough decisions we made pay off. And if we had listened to the cynics and the naysayers, if we had simply done what the politics of the moment required, none of this progress would have happened.
Still, even as these icons of American industry are being reborn, we also need to stand shoulder to shoulder with America's small-business men and women, particularly since they're the ones who create most of the new jobs in this country.
As we work to rebuild our economy, I can't imagine anything more common sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly needed lending assistance to America's small-business owners so they can grow and hire. That's what we're trying to do with the "Small Business Jobs Act," a bill that has been praised as being good for small businesses by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. It's a bill that includes provision after provision authored by both Democrats and Republicans. But yesterday the Republican leaders in the Senate once again used parliamentary procedures to block it. Understand, a majority of Senators support the plan. It's just that the Republican leaders in the Senate won't even allow it to come up for a vote.
That isn't right. And I'm calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America's small businesses hostage to politics and allow an up-or-down vote on this small-business jobs bill.
At a time when America is just starting to move forward again, we can't afford the do-nothing policies and partisan maneuvering that will only take us backward. I won't sit here and pretend everything's wonderful. I know that times are tough. But what I also know is that we've made it through tough times before. And we'll make it through again. The men and women hard at work in this auto plant makes me absolutely confident of that.
So to all the naysayers out there, I say this: Don't ever bet against the American people, don't bet against the American worker, because we don't take the easy way out. That's not how we deal with challenge. That's not how we built this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known. We did it by summoning the courage to persevere and adapt and push this country forward, inch by inch. That's the spirit I see in this plant today, and as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I will keep fighting alongside you until we reach a better day.
NOTE: The address was recorded at approximately 2:20 p.m. on July 30 at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center in Hamtramck, MI. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on July 30, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on July 31.
Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/288478