July 8 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said a $32 million government grant to a maker of battery-driven trucks is an example of how government funding can help businesses generate jobs as the nation recovers from a “brutal recession.”
“Government doesn’t have all the answers,” Obama said today after touring the Smith Electric Vehicles factory in Kansas City, Missouri. “But what government can do is lay the foundation for small businesses to expand and thrive.”
Obama is on a two-day trip to Missouri and Nevada to stump for his economic policies and raise money for Democratic Senate candidates. Tomorrow he’ll also give a speech on the economy in Las Vegas.
The economy, jobs and the deficit are likely to be top issues in the November elections that will decide control of Congress. Obama today defended the $862 billion economic stimulus measure Congress passed soon after he took office, which Republicans have criticized as wasteful. And as he has stepped up his defense of his own policies, he has increased his attacks on Republicans.
“There are some people who argue that we should abandon our efforts, some people who make the political calculation that it’s better to just say no to everything than to lend a hand to clean up the mess that we’ve been in,” Obama said.
Those “naysayers,” Obama said, should come visit factors like Smith Electric that are now hiring workers thanks to government help.
The U.S. economy is struggling to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s, with 83,000 private jobs added in June and unemployment at 9.5 percent.
“This has been a difficult period for America: two years of brutal recession; a decade of economic insecurity,” Obama said. “And there are going to be some hard days ahead.”
He said he expects energy investments alone to generate 700,000 jobs over the next few years nationwide. “And these are investments that will not only boost our economy in the short term, this is going to lay a platform for the future.”
The administration has highlighted government’s investment at Smith Electric, which was matched by $36 million of the company’s money, as an example of how the government can help the private sector create jobs.
The Smith Electric factory will eventually employ about 70 people and build about 500 battery-powered commercial trucks per year, Matt Rogers, an adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, told reporters yesterday.
“The intent of the funding here is to enable Smith to purchase the capital equipment necessary to get this manufacturing assembly line operational,” he said.
The company plans to build as many as 20 factories around the country.
“This is a microcosm of precisely what needs to keep happening,” said Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser.
After his economic speech, Obama spoke at two fundraisers in Kansas City for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan.
“We need tough leaders like Robin in Washington because these are tough times in America,” he said at the first of the two events that will raise about $500,000 for her campaign. Carnahan, Missouri’s secretary of state, is heavily favored to win the August 3 Democratic primary; her likely Republican opponent for the open seat is U.S. Representative Roy Blunt.
Obama continued his attacks on Republicans in his Kansas City speech. He singled out for criticism U.S. Representative John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, for recently comparing the financial crisis to an “ant,” and U.S. Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, for apologizing to BP Plc for government attempts to get it to pay for the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The president also said his opponents are reflexively opposing important new policies for political gain. “They figure they just keep on saying no to everything and nothing gets done, they’ll get more votes in November,” he said.
Later today Obama will raise money in Las Vegas for Harry Reid of Nevada, the top Democrat in the Senate who is facing a tough re-election campaign.
To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Kansas City, Missouri, at firstname.lastname@example.org;
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com