June 29, 2010

What's Obama going to talk about at his Racine visit?

Update: Lynn Sweet, at the Sun-Times, has the background on Obama's visit to Racine.

Look for the president to talk about the benefits of stimulus spending for Racine and Wisconsin, and about Small Business Association loans for Motovend LLC and Bright Star Healthcare.

Original post: So what's President Obama going to talk about during his Racine visit? Here's what we know:

1. It's a town hall meeting on the economy.
2. He'll be talking in a city where one of every seven people is out of work (and that's optimistic).
3. Democrats have a big mid-term election coming up in November that will hinge on Obama's popularity.

But it's tough to be popular when the economy is sputtering and real people are hurting. The U.S. economy is adding jobs, but many of those jobs are short-term Census positions that will disappear in a month or two. Other jobs were created by the federal government's stimulus program, which is set to run out.

In an interview Tuesday, Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said governments can't let up on efforts to stimulate the global economy.

“We share the view that the economy is strengthening, that we are into recovery, that it’s actually led by some interesting sectors like manufacturing,” Obama said Tuesday.

“But,” he added, “what we also agreed is that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. There is a great concern about the 8 million jobs that were lost during the course of these last two years, and that we’ve got to continually push the pace of economic growth in order to put people back to work.”
So what's this mean for Racine? 

It's hard to imagine the president choosing a city like Racine without bearing some sort of gift. When he spoke in Buffalo, N.Y. in May, the president singled out two manufacturing companies that benefited from loans from the federal government. Look for the president to similarly laud companies like Ruud Lighting for developing green technologies with the potential to create jobs, and SC Johnson, which is a worldwide corporate leader in pursuing environmental responsibility. 

We also got a hint from Mick Wynhoff of Pacific Sands that his company may be up for some attention. Pacific Sands, which manufactures all-natural cleaning supplies, is preparing products to send to the Gulf of Mexico to help with the BP oil spill clean up. The president could even point to Racine's successful efforts to clean up North Beach and turn it into a premier attraction. 

There's also speculation Obama will use the speech to announce the U.S. Export-Important Bank was reversing its decision to deny Bucyrus International a loan to build a coal-fired power plant in India. The move would cost Bucyrus up to 1,000 jobs. 

Pressuring is mounting to save the jobs. Sen. Russ Feingold called for the court to reverse its decision, noting that denying the loan would not help the environment because India will simply find another manufacturer to build equipment for the plant. 

Feingold also wants the president to support a tax break to make it easier for businesses to hire employees. 

“Nearly 15 million people are officially considered unemployed, and millions more are looking for more work, or are so discouraged they’ve given up looking,” Feingold wrote Tuesday, calling for an expanded small business tax break. “We can help firms willing to take a chance on a recovering economy by making it easier for them to expand their payroll, and in doing so we can spur the increased demand that will contribute to a more robust recovery.”

Based on past speeches, also count on Obama to start off his talk with some light-hearted banter, reference an unannounced stop he made along the way to Racine, introduce local elected officials and generally play to the partisan crowd. 

People lined up for hours Tuesday outside of Festival Hall to get tickets, so no doubt the president will get the rock star treatment regardless of the substantive proposals he may, or may not, bring to Racine.