Ryan and the Janesville Plant: the Fact that Matters

The latest conflagration over the media’s attempt to “fact-check” campaigning politicians centers on comments Paul Ryan made in his speech last night about a shuttered GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin:

President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two.  Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account.  My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.

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.  And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

A number of “fact checkers” cried foul. The left was pleased. The right was not pleased and has been crying foul on the left and the fact checkers. If you’re unfamiliar with the claims and counter-claims, you can Google the controversy if you’d like because I’m not going bother hyperlinking to all the back-and-forth.

I’m not going to bother because lost in all the predictable haggling between the left and the right over veracity of Ryan’s claim is the fact that really matters: Paul Ryan voted for the federal government’s bailout of the auto industry. In fact, he was 1 of only 32 Republicans to do so.

But it gets worse. Following his comments on the Janesville plant, here’s what Ryan had to say about the president’s failed stimulus package:

The first troubling sign came with the stimulus. It was President Obama’s first and best shot at fixing the economy, at a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule. It cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government.

It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal.

If you replace “Solyndra” with “General Motors” the story is essentially the same: “a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism.” The only real difference that I can see is that Solyndra didn’t have a plant in Ryan’s backyard.