Washington – Congressman Aaron Schock, at the ripe old age of 27, visited the Conservative Bloggers’ Briefing at Heritage today and spoke on a range of issues, but told a particularly interesting story regarding a visit with President Obama to the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois last month.
The giant plant on the east bank of the Illinois River is home to the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. As reported previously, CEO Jim Owens said, in response to Obama’s claims of the stimulus bill’s elixir-like power to create jobs: “I think realistically no. The truth is we’re going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.”
The February 12th speech in Schock’s home district merited a ride on Air Force One during which Schock said the President “Didn’t lobby me heavily. It was really when we got in front of everone.” Believing he was on friendly turf, Obama called out the young Congressman at the beginning of his speech:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: …Congressman Schock — where is he? He’s back here. He’s right here. Stand up, Aaron. This is — (applause). Aaron’s still trying to make up his mind about our recovery package.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: So, you know, he has a chance to be in the mold of Bob Michel and Ray LaHood. And so we’re — we know that all of you are going to talk to him —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: — after our event, because he’s a very talented young man. I’ve got great confidence in him to do the right thing for the people of Peoria.
“I was very surprised to be called out the way I was,” said Schock at today’s Briefing.
His next line drew hearty laughter from the surrounding bloggers. “The funny part was, I stuck around for 45 minutes while he was in there taking pictures…and [the Caterpillar employees] came up to me and said ‘Hey Aaron, stick to your guns. This is a bad bill’. The irony was..the local…UAW did not endorse the stimulus bill.”
Later, through calls and emails, Caterpillar employees continued to urge Schock not to vote for the stimulus bill. “I had fourteen hundred Caterpillar employees alone urging me to vote against it,” he said.
After the rally, Schock, the President and CEO Jim Owens boarded Air Force One. Schock said he sat nervously next to Owens, having believed Obama when he said Owens supported the stimulus. “I know Jim Owens, guy’s a Phd, graduate of Wharton…this guy’s smarter than this. I don’t think this is something he’d say. So I got on the plane and leaned over to him and said: Jim, are you really promoting this bill?”
Schock paraphrased Owen’s response: “Aaron, I got ambushed. The President called me up and said, ‘Jim what would it take for you to re-hire people at Caterpillar?'” Owens responded by saying if a “responsible stimulus bill” was passed, he would be able to re-hire workers.
“And so the President left that phone call and went out and said “The CEO of Caterpillar said if my bill passes–well, he made a couple of assumptions: first, that his stimulus bill was responsible–which it wasnt. And number two, that it was going to get the economy going again-which it didn’t,” concluded Schock.
Despite clever marketing and direct pressure from a popular President, the ugly head of economic reality refuses to hide. This Caterpillar anectdote is a perfect example of why mere spending does not equal economic growth. If government spending truly created growth, we should be borrowing and spending trillions of dollars every minute of every day, till the end of time.
But it doesn’t. Incentivizing businesses and individuals by allowing them to keep their money through tax cuts does, however, create net growth and attract investment.