- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gas-guzzling motor homes that President Obama blames in part for climate change are the same vehicles the White House is cheering for spurring the economic recovery of an Indiana town where Mr. Obama will take a victory lap Wednesday.

Mr. Obama will visit Elkhart, Indiana, to claim credit for its economic recovery despite administration policies that discourage manufacturing of the fuel-inefficient recreational vehicles, which have helped the city rebound with sales buoyed by low fuel prices.

Elkhart is the first place Mr. Obama visited as president, during the recession in April 2009, to push for an economic stimulus plan. His vision became the bloated $821 billion recovery act that passed Congress with only three Republican votes.

Elkhart, where unemployment rose to nearly 20 percent, received about $170 million of that taxpayer money. Seven years later, the city’s jobless rate is about 4 percent, and Mr. Obama is ready to play a little bit of presidential “I told you so.”

“Manufacturing employment has rebounded, and domestic auto production has doubled since the crisis,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. “Elkhart’s iconic RV industry is leading that trend and is set to break an all-time production record this year.”

He said the stimulus law “laid the foundation” for Elkhart’s success “despite near unanimous obstruction from Republicans in Congress.”

Of Elkhart’s share of the stimulus money, $39 million went to develop “clean” electric trucks at a former RV factory. But the effort failed, the owners sold the plant, and the factory is once again pumping out diesel-fueled RVs off the assembly line.

Meanwhile, the administration says that one of the most important steps Americans can take to reduce the effects of climate change is “choosing a car with better gas mileage,” according to the Energy Department’s website. Most RVs average about 10 mpg.

While his spokesman was praising the legacy-building economic benefits of record RV production, Mr. Obama received a briefing at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the outlook for the hurricane season. The president warned that greenhouse gases are making storms worse.

“As climate continues to change, hurricanes are only going to become more powerful and more devastating,” Mr. Obama said.

Although the White House is thrilled for Indiana’s economic recovery, Indianans seem less so. Seven in 10 Republican voters in the state’s presidential primary last month said they were “very” worried about the economy; even 40 percent of Democratic voters said they were very worried.

There was much anger in Indiana earlier this year about the decision of Carrier, the heating and air conditioning firm that was awarded but didn’t accept $5.1 million in stimulus tax credits from the administration in 2013, to shut down two Indiana plants and move nearly 2,000 jobs to Mexico.

Asked if low gas prices, low interest rates and Indiana’s status as a right-to-work state helped its economy recovery, Mr. Earnest replied, “The president’s been clear that it’s the private sector that’s led our recovery.”

“There are a number of things that contributed to that success,” he said. “Many of them are policies that President Obama initiated that are strongly opposed by Republicans.”

The White House would dearly love to use the president’s victory lap in Indiana to pass the baton to his preferred successor, Hillary Clinton. But Mrs. Clinton is still competing with Sen. Bernard Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has pointed to the Carrier move as emblematic of Mr. Obama’s bad trade deals. Mr. Earnest said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, of which Mexico is a partner, would force Mexico “to be in a position where they have to start meeting higher standards, and that’s starting to level the playing field for American businesses and American workers.”

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders also oppose the TPP, saying it would hurt American manufacturing jobs.

Mr. Earnest said the president’s trip to Indiana is, at bottom, about promoting middle-class economic policies and reminding voters what’s at stake in November.

“His successor will have some important decisions to make about whether or not we are going to build on this progress, are we going to build on this momentum, or are we going to tear it down?” he said. “And there is a pretty clear choice to be made if you take a look at the policies that are being advocated by the two parties.”


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