In a letter published Aug. 12, Robert Rusch inaccurately quotes President Obama's words and also makes and incorrect statement regarding the history of the Harnischfeger Corporation, which closed its Escanaba plant in December of 1982.
Mr. Rusch states in his letter: "...Harnischfeger moved its factory to a lower cost, non-union alternate location. Consequently my dad's business failed."
First off, nothing could be further from the truth regarding P+H. In the official history of the company, it lists the following factors as a reasons for its difficulties in the late 1970's and early 1980's. 1) After borrowing money to fuel growth, the company was deep in debt. It's interest payments alone came to $28 million yearly. Debt was 40 percent of total capital. 2) The company was hit hard by the cancellation of a $20 million contract with Iran after the Iranian revolution, leaving the company with cranes built and no one to pay for them due to the embargo that was placed on the country. 3) The early 80's Reagan Recession depressed its domestic and international markets severely. It's 1983 sales were less than half of its 1981 sales. The company was forced into survival mode, closing plants, one of which sadly was located in Escanaba. It's workforce was slashed by thousands worldwide. P+H did not close its Escanaba plant to move it to a "lower cost, non-union alternate location." That is a fabrication and is simply not true. Unions had nothing to do with it. The vice president of P+H Richard Schultzie was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal on Dec. 20, 1982: "This is not a problem of the cost of doing business in Escanaba; its a problem of not having enough business to do."
In regards to President Obama supposedly saying that business owners didn't built their own businesses, that is completely inaccurate. This is his full statement:
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business - you didn't build that... The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
In other words: If you built a business you did do that on your own. But, the things that you rely on to make that business a success (infrastructure, roads, bridges, educated employees who attended public schools, national power grids, law enforcement, anti trust laws, the internet) we built.
These are all collective ideas and investments that we have made as a country. And these collective investments have made this country a better place to live and have fueled the economic growth which has made America the strongest economy in the world since the Second World War. These investments have fueled the growth of private enterprise. And by not continually making them, we run the risk of the next generation of businessmen and woman who are bold enough to risk starting a business not having the same chance of success due to a crumbling infrastructure that is in dire straits. These are the big things that we can only do as a nation. Do you think the Mackinaw Bridge would have been built without the collective will of the people expressed through governmental initiative and action? Would the interstate highway system exist if left to the will of private enterprise? Would the Cold War have been won by Halliburton?
It's important for the President, the collective leader of our nation, to express the importance of working together. His words take nothing away from anyone who has ever put their own money on the line by starting their own business.
Los Angeles, Calif.