As he campaigns for reelection, President Obama has embraced soaring political rhetoric, pledging to harness the ingenuity of America “to bring manufacturing back.” In beat-up factory towns across the land, he has promoted a vision to rebuild manufacturing after decades of shuttered plants and vanishing middle class jobs.
But he wasn’t always so sure. Three years ago, confronting the issue in an Oval Office debate, Obama was less of the chest-thumping politician he is today. Vice President Biden led a group of advisers who were making the case for an ambitious plan to reverse the industry’s long decline.
Obama had witnessed the devastation of lost factory jobs from his earliest days as a community activist in Chicago and felt in his gut that there must be some way to help, but the president, a policy wonk and onetime professor, also wanted to know what the research showed.
“There’s a narrative that countries have to make things to be successful,” Obama said to his economic advisers. “What’s the evidence?”