Politics

Ryan Press Call Puts Human Face on GM Shutdown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With the end of car production at General Motors Lordstown, John DeGarmo faces the prospect of leaving his fifth auto industry plant.

Before transferring to GM Lordstown from Lake Orion, Mich. in 2010, DeGarmo had worked at four other plants, including three with GM. He shared the price he and other workers have paid and are still paying during a conference call hosted by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan Friday afternoon.

The North Jackson resident said among the 500 workers who transferred to Lordstown with him, 67 endured divorce. It’s an experience he is going through himself, and he is now selling his house because he can’t afford it on his own. He lamented the prospect of potentially having to leave the area – and his three-year-old daughter – if he needs to move to another plant.

“The thought of moving away from her and not being able to see her on a regular basis scares the hell out of me,” he said.

“It’s been a very, very tough few months” since GM announced it was discontinuing production of the Chevrolet Cruze, added Ryan, D-13 Ohio, during the call.

Ryan criticized the $1.5 trillion tax cut, which he said predominantly benefitted corporations and the wealthy instead of being reinvested. Benefits largely went to stock buybacks and inflating stock prices, enriching shareholders who sold their shares.

“That’s a scam,” he said. “We need a tax code that helps workers.”

The arguments made for the tax cut were that it would spur investment and its benefits would go to individuals across income distribution, said Gbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress. Average wages would increase by $4,000 on average.

“That’s something that we just have not seen,” Ajilore said. What has taken place instead is a boost in corporate profits and more modest wage growth.

“Nobody is holding these companies accountable,” DeGarmo said. He also pointed out that the Cruze helped GM emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Ryan discussed his recent request to President Donald Trump for funding in the Fiscal Year 2020 Presidential Budget for the Department of Energy’s Domestic Manufacturing Conversion Grant Program.

The program would provide grants and loan guarantees to auto manufacturers who are interested in producing efficient hybrid, plug-in electric hybrid and advanced diesel vehicles, giving special priority to the refurbishment or retooling of manufacturing facilities that have recently ceased operation or will cease operation in the near future

Ryan also criticized the lack of a U.S. industrial policy. Such policies in countries such as China and Germany encourage innovation and “cut workers in on the deal,” he said.

“Until we get that national policy, states like Ohio will continue to hurt,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.