President Obama was fired up at the United Auto Workers conference yesterday, speaking about the choice he made to bet on America’s auto industry—and why he knew we couldn’t just “let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Think about what that choice would have meant for this country, if we had turned our backs on you, if America had thrown in the towel, if GM and Chrysler had gone under. The suppliers, the distributors that get their business from these companies, they would have died off. Then even Ford could have gone down as well. Production shut down. Factories shuttered. Once-proud companies chopped up and sold off for scraps. And all of you, the men and women who built these companies with your own hands, would have been hung out to dry.
So, no, we were not going to take a knee and do nothing. We were not going to give up on your jobs and your families and your communities. So in exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We said to the auto industry, you’re going to have to truly change, not just pretend like you’re changing.
We got the industry to retool and restructure, and everybody involved made sacrifices. Everybody had some skin in the game. And it wasn’t popular. And it wasn’t what I ran for President to do. That wasn’t originally what I thought I was going to be doing as President. But you know what, I did run to make the tough calls and do the right things—no matter what the politics were.
And I want you to know, you know why I knew this rescue would succeed?
It wasn’t because of anything the government did. It wasn’t just because of anything management did. It was because I believed in you. I placed my bet on the American worker. And I’ll make that bet any day of the week.
And now, three years later, that bet is paying off—not just paying off for you, it’s paying off for America. Three years later, the American auto industry is back. GM is back on top as the number-one automaker in the world—highest profits in its 100-year history. Chrysler is growing faster in America than any other car company. Ford is investing billions in American plants, American factories—plans to bring thousands of jobs back to America.
This notion that we should have let the auto industry die, that we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that unions like yours will buckle and unravel—that’s part of that same old “you are on your own” philosophy that says we should just leave everybody to fend for themselves; let the most powerful do whatever they please. They think the best way to boost the economy is to roll back the reforms we put into place to prevent another crisis, to let Wall Street write the rules again. They think the best way to help families afford health care is to roll back the reforms we passed that [are] already lowering costs for millions of Americans. They want to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny your coverage or jack up your rates whenever and however they pleased. They think we should keep cutting taxes for those at the very top, for people like me, even though we don’t need it, just so they can keep paying lower tax rates than their secretaries.
Well, let me tell you something. Not to put too fine a point on it—they’re wrong. They are wrong. That’s the philosophy that got us into this mess. We can’t afford to go back to it. Not now. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a long way to go before everybody who wants a good job can get a good job. We’ve got a long way to go before middle-class Americans fully regain that sense of security that’s been slipping away since long before this recession hit. But you know what, we’ve got something to show—all of you show what’s possible when we pull together. Over the last two years, our businesses have added about 3.7 million new jobs. Manufacturing is coming back for the first time since the 1990s. Companies are bringing jobs back from overseas. The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is speeding up. Now is the time to keep our foot on the gas, not put on the brakes.
When our assembly lines grind to a halt, we work together and we get them going again. When somebody else falters, we try to give them a hand up, because we know we’re all in it together. I got my start standing with working folks who’d lost their jobs, folks who had lost their hope because the steel plants had closed down. I didn’t like the idea that they didn’t have anybody fighting for them. The same reason I got into this business is the same reason I’m here today. I’m driven by that same belief that everybody—everybody—should deserve a chance.
So I promise you this: As long as you’ve got an ounce of fight left in you, I’ll have a ton of fight left in me. We’re going to keep on fighting to make our economy stronger; to put our friends and neighbors back to work faster; to give our children even more opportunity; to make sure that the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.
Read the President’s full speech here, and then make sure to tell us how an improving auto industry is impacting your community.