Closing Factories in Wisconsin Put Paul Ryan’s Trade Agenda in Spotlight

Closing GM Plant Janisville, MI AP
Washington D.C.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary election, the closure of both the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin — Speaker Paul Ryan’s hometown — as well as the recent closure of the Oscar Meyer plant in Madison, Wisconsin has put a spotlight on Paul Ryan’s long-standing support for trade globalism.

According to Politico’s Mike Allen, “Top Republicans are becoming increasingly vocal about their long-held belief that Speaker Paul Ryan will wind up as the nominee,” should the #NeverTrump club keep Donald Trump from receiving 1,237 delegates outright.

As Pat Caddell has explained, the GOP establishment is “using [Sen. Ted] Cruz as a cat’s-paw” as part of its effort “to stop Trump … They will then move to nominate, to try to nominate an establishment figure, someone who hasn’t run,” Caddell warns.

Mike Allen notes that “one of the nation’s best-wired Republicans, with an enviable prediction record for this cycle” tells him that there is “a 90 percent chance that delegates turn to Ryan” should Trump be blocked from getting 1,237 delegates.

Paul Ryan has been one of Congress’s biggest proponents of globalist trade pacts that send American jobs overseas. Even though Republican voters by a nearly five-to-one margin believe so-called “free trade” deals lower American wages rather than raise them, Ryan was President Obama’s “partner” in pushing to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In a 2015 op-ed co-authored with Sen. Cruz, Paul Ryan described the TPP as an “historic” trade agreement that would “mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Growth in the U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs.”

The General Motors plant of Janesville, Wisconsin officially closed in the fall of last year after years of remaining idle. As Elliot Hughes at the Janesville GazetteXtra reported in March, “GM operated a plant in the city from 1919 to 2008, employing as many 7,000 people at its peak. From 2008 to 2015, it sat empty and unused on ‘standby’ status. The company announced last fall that it will officially close. Efforts to sell the 250-acre property began this winter.”

Three days before the 2012 Presidential election, Business Insider ran a story featuring photos of the deserted plant in a piece entitled, “Heartbreaking Photos Of The Shuttered GM Plant In Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin Hometown.” Interestingly, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney not only lost the state of Wisconsin in the 2012 election, but they lost Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville by 25 points.

In November of 2015, Oscar Meyer announced that it was shutting down its headquarters in Madison, “wiping out hundreds of jobs at a company that has been a part of the community’s fabric since 1919,” wrote the Associated Press:

The company [Kraft Heinz Food Co.] plans to shed a total of 2,600 jobs. About 300 corporate workers in Madison will be offered jobs at the company’s co-headquarters in Chicago; the remaining 700 or so production workers here will lose their positions in three waves of layoffs over the next two years.

As Janesville resident, 38-year-old Joshua Nehls told AP, “It’s tragic. There were a lot of tears (when company officials announced the closure). A lot of people’s lives are here.” AP notes that Nehls “worked at the Madison facility for a decade; his current task is packing Lunchable snack packs.”

According to the report, Madison mayor Paul Soglin “tried to put a positive spin on the closure, noting the city has emerged from recession. But he said the economic impact would be ‘very significant.’ ‘These men and women have dedicated their lives to this company, and they and their families are of the utmost concern to me,’ Soglin said. ‘They are the heart and soul of the Northside.’”

As McClatchy has reported, trade has become a critical issue in the 2016 election. McClatchy writes, “Trade deals costly in key election states: In Wisconsin and across the industrial Midwest, economic angst is coupled with a sense of betrayal”:

Establishment economists, government and business officials argue that trade deals are critical in a global economy, and great for America. But critics like organized labor call them ‘death warrants.’ And in blue-collar communities in Wisconsin and across the industrial Midwest, that economic angst, coupled with a sense of betrayal, helps explain the roiling politics of 2016. Wisconsin votes Tuesday. Soon after come other industrial states, including Pennsylvania. And all could be battlegrounds this fall in the general election. A lot will look like Milwaukee, once known as “the machine shop to the world,” now grappling with a new economy. Wisconsin has lost more than more than 68,000 manufacturing jobs since the mid-1990s, when the first of several trade agreements with Mexico, China and other nations took hold. About 76,000 Wisconsin workers in various fields lost their jobs because of imports or the work they do being shipped overseas, according to the U.S. Labor Department… Wisconsin’s heavy manufacturing sector, once one of the country’s strongest, has been taking a lot of punches in recent years. General Motors, General Electric, Chrysler, Joy Global Surface Mining and Manitowoc Cranes have all cut jobs or closed operations in recent years for a variety of reasons.

Indeed, in recent days Trump has been hammering Sen. Cruz on the issue. On Friday, Trump told Breitbart News that as President, Sen. Cruz would implement Obama’s trade agenda, declaring, “He’s going to vote for it [Obamatrade] again. He’s just waiting for after the election. He will vote for it — because the people who give him campaign contributions want it. He will vote for it right after the election.”