To the editor:
As a resident of Jefferson County, I often hear people who are skeptical of President Barack Obama ask how his policies have helped people in the valley, and across Ohio. I would like to address how his policies have helped the coal, auto and manufacturing industries.
The president's record is often distorted with a view that he somehow dislikes rural America and the coal industry. The facts say otherwise.
At the height of the recession and with the American auto industry on the brink of collapse, Obama took a big political risk with giving loans with conditions to GM and Chrysler, and because of that help GM is the No. 1 auto seller in the world and all three auto companies are more profitable than ever. This is vital because one in eight Ohio jobs is related to the auto industry. A great local example of the auto revival has been the Staffilino car dealership in Martins Ferry. Without Obama's leadership, Staffilino's would have had to close. Today, it is thriving and it is able to keep dozens of local employees on the payroll. There would be no more manufacturing industry if the president hadn't saved the industry from collapse. The loan program saved 1 million jobs initially, and the industry has created 230,000 jobs since 2009.
It comes as no surprise to people in this area that our manufacturing industry has declined steadily since the late 1970s. However, Obama has helped the industry recover and the auto industry has been a big reason. Manufacturing jobs have been created as a result of trade deals with Panama, Columbia and South Korea. These bills have supported 70,000 jobs, and 504,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since January 2010. The U.S. has had nearly two straight years of manufacturing job growth.
Finally, the president has gotten a very bad reputation for his perceived anti-coal attitude that the GOP has been perpetuating to try and limit his support in Midwest battleground states. The facts reveal that coal mining employment in Ohio hit a 15-year high in 2011 with nearly 60,000 jobs. Through the recovery act, Obama invested $3.4 billion in clean coal technology. The administration has led an aggressive push to improve miner safety and the industry had the second-lowest death rate in its history in 2011. Contrary to common perception, the reason older power plants are closing down is a result of depressed demand and lower power prices, not because the president has rallied against the coal industry.
The president's accomplishments are real, and while the national economy has recovered more slowly than people would like, and our area has lagged behind other parts of the country, we are in a much better state than before Obama took office, with a lower unemployment rate and more than 4 million jobs created. The nation still has a long way to go, but Obama supports the industries and values of our local community. The facts about his first term in office say so.