On his second visit in a month to the battleground state of Iowa, President Obama accused congressional Republicans on Thursday of risking a slowdown in the economic recovery.
Mr. Obama toured a plant in Newton, Iowa, that manufactures blades for wind turbines and called on lawmakers to extend tax credits for clean-energy companies — part of his multibillion-dollar “to do” list he has promoted in recent weeks.
“If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit,” Mr. Obama told employees at the plant. “Jobs will be lost. That’s not a guess. That’s a fact. We can’t let it happen. You can’t wait for six months.”
The town about 35 miles east of Des Moines provided a useful backdrop for Mr. Obama on two fronts. The plant, TPI Composites, employs about 700 people in the clean-energy industry that the president is trying to promote as an integral part of the U.S. recovery in manufacturing.
And Newton is the former headquarters of Maytag Corp., which was acquired by Whirlpool in 2006, causing 1,900 employees locally to lose their jobs. The story is reminiscent of the cold-hearted capitalism that the Obama campaign has been trying to lay at the feet of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney during his career as a venture capitalist. (Mr. Romney’s former private equity firm, Bain Capital, wasn’t involved with the Maytag plant shutdown but Bain did make an offer to purchase Maytag in 2005).
“We saw manufacturing move offshore” even before the recession hit in 2008, Mr. Obama said. “We saw a few people do well.”
Mr. Obama spelled out a cause-and-effect scenario in which he said GOP lawmakers would bear the blame for a stalled economic recovery.
“Every day they don’t act, business grows more concerned that [the tax credits] will not be renewed,” the president said. “They’re worried demand for their products is going down. So they start thinking twice about expanding, more cautious about new investments. They start looking overseas.”
The president said a company that planned to build a $100 million wind-manufacturing plant in Arkansas “put those plans on hold,” implying that uncertainty about the tax credits was the cause. But the company, Mitsubishi, actually built the plant before it became embroiled in a patent dispute with General Electric. Mitsubishi filed the action against GE in federal court in May 2010, claiming that GE embarked on an “unlawful scheme” to drive Mitsubishi and other wind- turbine producers out of the market.
GE’s chairman, Jeffrey Immelt, is co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s Jobs Council.
Mitsubishi did announce last month that it had decided to “mothball” the Arkansas facility but made no mention of congressional inaction in its announcement.
“Since the 2008 banking crisis, demand for wind turbines in the North American market has stagnated, and the commercialization of cheap oil-shale gas and other matters have had a further dampening effect, making it more difficult for MHI to win new contracts,” the company stated. “In view of few signs of recovery in the North American wind-turbine market, it was decided to take steps that include write-down of related inventory and to build a solid foundation for this business.”