WOONSOCKET — President Barack Obama told about three dozen employees of American Cord and Webbing that, “It’s small businesses like this one, after all, that are the bricks and blocks, the cord and webbing, if you will, of our economy.”
After taking a brief tour of the plant in the Highland Corporate Park, Obama boasted that his administration, with the help of Congress has passed 16 different tax cuts for small businesses in the last two years.”
On his first visit to Rhode Island since becoming president, Obama also attended two Providence fundraisers for 1st District Democratic candidate David Cicilline, one for $500 a person at the Rhode Island Convention Center and a second, for $7,500 a person at a private home on the East Side of Providence.
Joining Obama for his stop in Woonsocket were Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Reps. Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis and Cicilline, all Democrats, along with one Republican, Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine.
Fontaine declared it, “an exciting time for the city and for American Cord and Webbing; they are a great local company and I was thrilled for them. All politics aside, it is a nice thing for the city to have the president come in and recognize one of our local companies.
Conspicuous by his absence was General Treasurer Frank Caprio. Caprio, a Democrat running for governor, had planned on accompanying Obama on his Ocean State travels. But he was miffed after it was reported that the President would not endorse him in his gubernatorial bid. He said the president could take his endorsement and “shove it.”
Chris Parks of Woonsocket, who works at ACW, called the president’s visit to his workplace “a once in a lifetime sort of thing; it’s kind of exciting.”
Jean Gudz, also of Woonsocket, was especially excited. Asked if she had a chance to shake Obama’s hand, she said, “I got a hug and a kiss! I loved it.” Gudz said she supports Obama because “he’s going to help the little people. That’s what counts.” She and her son, Steve, both work at ACW.
The president noted that, “Like most small businesses, American Cord and Webbing has gone through some tough times in the past few years. Early in 2009, they lost customers and had to lay off some workers. But they buckled down — that was a pun. You catch that one?” (The company manufactures buckles among other products.)
After investing in new products and winning new customers, Obama said, “over the past year, they’ve hired back all the workers they had to lay off. And today business is going well.”
He said this year owner Mark Krauss expects to make a profit. “He’s going to invest in new machinery and new equipment. And just last month, this company was approved for an SBA loan that’s going to help them expand this facility by nearly half, which is going to be very exciting.
“Now, this is important,” the president continued, “not just for this particular business and these particular workers, but for America” because the financial crisis made it very difficult for them to get the loans that they needed to grow.
Over the past 20 months, Obama said, “we’ve done everything we can to boost small businesses like this one.
“We’ve passed tax cuts for hiring back unemployed workers. We’ve passed tax cuts for investing in new equipment. There are 4 million small businesses right now that are poised to get a tax break of up to 35 percent of the premiums they pay if they are providing health insurance to their employees — and that’s a tax break that can free up tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade facilities, buy new equipment, or hire a few new workers.
And last month, after plenty of political obstacles, after months in which thousands of small business owners across America were waiting for the loans and tax cuts they badly needed to grow their business and hire new employees, I signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act.
“The bottom line is, when our small businesses don’t do well, America doesn’t do well. So we all have a stake in helping our small businesses grow and succeed. And because small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in America, our economy depends on it,” the president said.
“We’re doing all this because when times are tough, I believe we should be cutting taxes for small business owners,” he added. “We should be cutting taxes for companies that are investing here in Rhode Island and here in the United States of America.
“When new loans are hard to come by, I believe we should help free up lending. When some companies are shipping jobs overseas, we should be helping companies like this one — our small businesses, our manufacturers, our clean energy companies. I think those are pretty commonsense values that we can all agree on.”
The event at the Convention Center had a decidedly more political tone.
He warned that, if Republicans take control of one or both chambers of the Congress, “the chair of the Republican campaign committee has already promised to pursue the exact same agenda as they pursued before I took office.” The way that is done, Obama said, is “you cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, you cut rules for special interests, then you cut middle class families” to make up the money to do so. “So if you are a family that doesn’t have health care, tough luck, you are on your own. If you are a young person who can’t afford to go to college, too bad, you are on your own. If you have lost your job, you need a little help with unemployment insurance, you need a little help with job training, tough luck you are on your own.
“This is all done under the guise, under the banner of fiscal conservatism,” Obama said, “except it turns out this same agenda turned record surpluses under a Democratic president (Bill Clinton) and converted them into record deficits. They allowed Wall Street to run wild and nearly destroyed our economy.”
“I bring all this up, not because I want to reargue the past, I bring it up because I don’t want to relive the past,” he said.
Obama repeated his oft-told story about the Republicans driving the national economy into a ditch, not helping while Democrats got it out of the ditch, then asking for the keys back. “You can’t have the keys back,” he declared, “you don’t know how to drive.”
Asked about the propriety of a candidate like Cicilline, who has said one of his top priorities is to break the link between money and politics, benefitting from a $15,000 a couple fundraiser, Cicilline campaign manager Eric Hyers said, “when groups like Karl Rove’s are doing really shadowy things and not disclosing donors, launching disgusting attacks against Democrats all over the country, with millions of dollars from people we don’t know about, with groups like Americans For Common Sense Solutions, which has a disgusting ad against David right now, which is in violation of the FEC, which is in violation of the IRS, with groups like that raising millions of dollars, yes, we have to make sure we have the resources to combat the disgusting, vile small attacks that are being lobbed at Democrats all around the country.
Fontaine said “There will be some additional costs to the city” related to Obama’s visit, “but I believe it will be minimal. We held over some of our police officers, but for the most part we’ve been trying to do it with our staff people. It could be worse.”