White House Correspondent
Touring the ZBB manufacturing plant in Menomonee Falls, Wis., on Monday, President Obama continued
that the economy is on the rebound and that his administration's actions in the last 18 months to boost growth and create jobs have been the right ones. Highlighting advances afforded by the Recovery Act in the manufacturing sector -- specifically in clean-energy technology -- Obama said jobs created at the battery plant to store electricity from solar cells and wind turbines were "pointing the country towards a brighter economic future."
As evidence of progress, the president cited a $1.3 million Recovery Act State Energy Program loan to ZBB to expand operations, retain and hire new workers, as well as a special tax credit that will allow for the opening of a second factory that will, in turn, create additional jobs. "We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012," he said. "And this isn't just creating work in the short term -- it's helping to lay a new foundation for lasting growth."
"What's clear," Obama continued, "is that we are heading in the right direction. Just a year and a half ago, the economy was shrinking rapidly. Now the economy is growing. We were bleeding 750,000 jobs each month. Now the economy has added private-sector jobs for seven months in a row."
But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment
rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event. In what has become a refrain in nearly all of the president's remarks on the economy, Obama made clear his understanding that the progress thus far is not enough, and reiterated a promise that his administration "will not rest until every American who is able and willing to work can find a job, and a job that pays a decent wage with decent benefits to support a family."
And if the president's trip to Wisconsin was to highlight how the country is "jump-starting a homegrown, clean-energy industry," it was also to make clear the choice voters will face in the midterm elections this November. In that regard, it was a call for them to reject Republican candidates as obstructionists more concerned with playing politics that working for the American people. "They said no to small-business tax cuts, no to rebuilding infrastructure, no to clean-energy projects," said Obama. "They even voted against getting rid of tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas."
made several weeks ago at the GM, Chrysler and Ford auto plants, Obama encouraged naysayers to come and visit those plants that would have otherwise been shuttered without government intervention and that have now rebounded -- proof positive that his administration's moves were the right ones to make. "Come to this plant," said Obama. "I want [critics] to explain why they think these clean-energy jobs are better off in other countries instead of right here in the United States."
The president then returned to a now-familiar message about the difficulty of the task at hand, praising the resilience of the American worker: "These have been a very hard couple of years for America. And there will be some more difficult days ahead. It would a mistake to pretend otherwise," he warned. "But this nation is home to the most skilled and industrious people on this earth. There is nothing we cannot achieve when we set our minds to it."