WASHINGTON (CNN) – Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm told President Barack Obama to ignore persistent Republican criticism that he is trying to do too much in a time of economic crisis and, instead, urged the new president to tackle the nation’s health care costs as part of a larger effort to get the economy back on track.
“I think he should do it,” Granholm said when asked whether Obama should forge ahead with health care reform even if doing so meant more taxes or more deficit spending in the current tough economic times.
“It is part of the economy. If you look at the manufacturing sector, one of the huge costs on that sector is health care,” the governor said, noting the impact that health care costs are having on her state’s automotive industry. “It is part of the economic malaise that this country is feeling. So they need to fix that.”
In the wake of Obama’s efforts late last week to tamp down growing controversy over $165 milllion in bonuses paid to AIG employees, Granholm also highlighted a growing sense of a double standard in Michigan.
The governor of the state with a struggling manufacturing sector and the highest unemployment rate in the nation said “it is a huge unfairness” that AIG employees were allowed to keep their bonus contracts intact while auto workers in her state and others have been asked to renegotiate their contracts in an effort to help save Chrysler and General Motors.
“There is this impression of a complete disparity of the way people are being treated,” Granholm said. “When it comes to Wall Street . . . they can negotiate [a bailout] and they don’t have to give back. . . . The message that is received by the folks on the ground is that there is one standard for Wall Street and one standard for the average joe and that is not fair.”
And Granholm praised the president for trying to deal with the AIG bonus controversy. “So, it’s a good thing the Obama administration is trying to be much more consistent and saying ‘give those bonuses back.’”
In her interview with John King on CNN’s State of the Union, Granholm also pleaded for the administration’s help in keeping her state’s struggling industries afloat. “I just beg them, I ask them, please help to save this manufacturing sector because it is the backbone of the middle class in this country.”
Obama’s auto industry task force is currently reviewing the long-term turn around plans of the automakers that have taken billions in federal aid. The administration also recently announced $5 billion in aid to automakers’ suppliers who have also suffered during the downturn caused by the credit crunch.