An unlikely stop on the president's jobs tour
July 30th, 2013
03:53 PM ET
12 months ago

An unlikely stop on the president's jobs tour

Updated at 4:01 p.m. ET on 7/30

Chattanooga, Tennessee (CNN) – On the face of it picking Tennessee as the next stop on President Obama's job tour was an unusual choice.

In the last week he spoke in two states that were clearly in his column last year: Illinois and Florida.
He, however, lost Tennessee in 2012 by almost two to one in the popular vote.

During his event at Amazon distribution center in Chattanooga, he even acknowledged it:

"I know that the politics for Obama aren't always great in Tennessee."

The state is represented by two conservative GOP senators – Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and Chattanooga is part of the 3rd Congressional District which has long sent a Republican to the House of Representatives. Currently Rep. Chuck Fleischmann represents the district.

All three were invited to the president's speech at an Amazon center that processes and fulfills online customer orders, but they all declined citing other commitments. There were several elected Democrats, including Rep. Jim Cooper, on hand, and some locally elected Republicans did attend.

"I hated for the president to come to my hometown and not accompany him, especially because it would have provided an opportunity for us to talk more about our country's fiscal challenges," Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, said in a statement, but he said he had work to do in Washington.

During his speech the president proposed to Republicans a deal: he would accept a corporate tax decrease if they would pass some of his spending proposals, such as infrastructure improvements, with some of the accompanying savings from the tax cut.

"If folks in Washington want a 'grand bargain,' how about a grand bargain for middle class jobs?" the president asked.

He is using speeches, such as Tuesday's, to try show he is emphasizing the middle class and ways to strengthen it – and that the Republicans are standing in the way.

Republican leaders immediately shot down the president's proposals as just recycled ideas. "It is just a further left version of a widely panned plan he already proposed two years ago – this time with extra goodies for tax and spend liberals," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said.

But the White House could tout one bit of good news – Amazon just one day ago announced it would add 5,000 full-time jobs, including dozens in Chattanooga, to its distribution centers around the country.

"That's the kind of investment that we're starting to see more of," Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. "Other companies are making that kind of investment to modernize their infrastructure, and we should be making that kind of investment here in this country as well."

The Amazon plant in Chattanooga employs 1,800 full-time employees and 700 part-time ones. Currently it employs about 20,000 full-time workers at its fulfillment centers.

As the president used the event to tout ways to help the middle class, the White House was asked about whether Amazon's jobs fit that category. Amazon says the jobs in its fulfillment centers pay 30% percent more than traditional retail ones and they carry bonuses and tuition programs. While salaries vary by location, a full-time worker starting out at a distribution center would start out making approximately $11-$17 an hour.

Another irony for the president's visit: while he touted in the speech manufacturing and how the number of jobs in manufacturing has gone up, Chattanooga has seen a revitalization as it is no longer emphasizing manufacturing.

Much of the job growth in the city is now in the service sector thanks to hospitals, insurance and other businesses such as Amazon.

"Diversity has really grown in the last 20-30 years," Charles Wood, vice president of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, told CNN.

While in the 1970's and 80's manufacturing dominated the city, the city eventually lost thousands of jobs because of economic shifts.
City leaders decided to diversify and now see manufacturing and service both play key roles.

"They play well off of each other," said Wood.


Filed under: President Obama • Tennessee
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Tigas

    Why run the country when you can campaign like it's 2008/2012, again?

    July 30, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    Sigh. See how long those service jobs stick around if there is no manufacturing base. Not everyone can work in that Amazon warehouse.

    July 30, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "I hated for the president to come to my hometown and not accompany him, especially because it would have provided an opportunity for us to talk more about our country's fiscal challenges,"
    -------------------------------------------------
    Well you should have dropped everything you were doing and attended. Kudos to those democrats & local state republicans who attended.

    July 30, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  4. Phoney President Obama

    When is the Campaigner-in-Chief ever going to stop campaigning and actually accomplish something positive? Record HIGH unemployment, record HIGH debt, record LOW labor participation rate, record HIGH food stamps, middle class median income plummeting durng his terms and his name sake disaster Obamacare falling apart at the seams.

    OMABA = MASSIVE FAILURE.

    July 30, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. ????

    Obama should bring Ben Bernanke with him for the jobs tour. Bernanke is responsible for keeping the U.S. economy on life support since 2008 with his low interest rate policy. If it wasn't for Bernanke, U.S. unemployment rates would be closer to 10% and Obama probably would not have been re-elected in 2012.

    July 30, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Credit where it's due: Corker is actually one of the few GOPers trying to talk sense in to the imbeciles on the right (like Cruz and Rubio) who are threatening government shutdown and a default on the nation's debts unless the ACA is defunded. He called it a "silly effort" and rightfully characterized it as a cowardly effort to take themselves out of the debate in a manner that allows them to fake like they're being "principled" but avoids them having to make any proposals or suggestions for workable, practical solutions.

    July 30, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. PJ

    Corker – You call what you do in Washington "work"? I have another name for it.

    July 30, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Not everyone can work in that Amazon warehouse."

    Indeed. Especially since it's being reported that, like WalMart, what the Amazon warehouses do is swoop in, build a fantastically huge building promising the community a huge uptick in retail and jobs, resulting in growth in retail, etc., and what really happens is that they hire temp workers from agencies, treat them like crap, run them out of the job after a few months and keep a constant revolving door of employees going so that they never trigger any rules about providing benefits and can essentially pay slave-labor wages without ever having to give raises, etc. The result is that none of the promised economic "boom" activity ever occurs in the local economy AND frequently that there is a sag in the local economy. This is all without considering the subsidies the project probably conned the local governments into providing and the fact that the tax base increase is frequently lower than the cost of providing the new utilities to the facility. It's just another giant boondoggle on communities and American labor.

    July 30, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Much of the job growth in the city is now in the service sector thanks to hospitals, insurance and other businesses such as Amazon."

    A great many jobs in the insurance industry have been outsourced to India. Have those outsourced jobs begun to trickle back to America?

    July 30, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  10. it must be said

    Oh look!!! It is Obama campaigning again. We almost never see that happening.... BWAHAHAHAHAHA... this clown is the ultimate narcicist.

    July 30, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. tom l.

    @Sniffiit
    "Last time the gov't "got out of the way," it repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and opened the door to Wall Street sending us into the worst recession in a century."

    Just wondering who was president when this was repealed. Shall I take care of your canned response only without the 25 cent words?
    1. It's not the president who repealed it, it was Congress

    July 30, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. just sayin

    He is using speeches, such as Tuesday's, to try show he is emphasizing the middle class and ways to strengthen it – and that the Republicans are standing in the way.
    --

    well, not according to several of obama's supporters, the labor unions, that wrote obama and stated that obamacare was going to severly damage the middle class workers in this country. i guess obama didn't bother to read that letter since it was not nice to him.

    July 30, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "Oh look!!! It is Obama campaigning again."

    The only reason you don't like it is because it works to shift public opinion and put more pressure on the GOP to do something other than play partisan obstruction games.

    July 30, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. tom l.

    @Sniffit
    ""I have no idea what's in it!!!!! Death panels!!!!"

    Yawn. Cognitive dissonance is the GOP/Teatrolls' bread and butter.

    But there are death panels in the ACA. If you want to call it an "Independent Payment Advisory Board" then fine, but it's still rationing healthcare. Should also mention that Howard Dean agrees that it is, in fact, just a fancy term for Death Panels.

    July 30, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. tom l.

    @Sniffit
    "Oh look!!! It is Obama campaigning again."

    The only reason you don't like it is because it works to shift public opinion and put more pressure on the GOP to do something other than play partisan obstruction games.

    But it's not working at all. The repubs are digging their heels in further and he is not going to get anything accomplished. So, as the polidiot that you are, you see this as a positive. But the bottom line is that he is just not a leader. Leaders get people to work together and there is no way you can argue that he has accomplished that. I really hate to reference GWB because I am no fan of his, but even with extreme opposition (Pelosi and Reid), he was still able to get what he wanted passed. The best example of that is that 25% of Senate Democrats voted for the "Bush tax cuts". Obama just goes out and gives a speech. It's not leading.

    July 30, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    ""Last time the gov't "got out of the way," it repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and opened the door to Wall Street sending us into the worst recession in a century."

    Just wondering who was president when this was repealed. Shall I take care of your canned response only without the 25 cent words?
    1. It's not the president who repealed it, it was Congress
    "

    What the heck are you talking about? Congress repealed it and that repeal has non effect whatsoever if the POTUS (in this case Clinton) doesn't sign it. Not sure how you think you had a "gotcha" moment there since I said nothing about whether it was POTUS or Congress and simply referred to the gov't in general terms. Since we're on the subject, however, what's worthy of note is that the Dems admit that getting on board with that repeal was a mistake, pointing to the measurable but-for consequences of having done so....while the GOP still the repeal in order to conform to their ideological dogma regarding deregulation. THAT is the difference: Who learned and is willing to learn from their mistakes.

    July 30, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. tom l.

    @Sniffit
    "What the heck are you talking about? Congress repealed it and that repeal has non effect whatsoever if the POTUS (in this case Clinton) doesn't sign it. Not sure how you think you had a "gotcha" moment there since I said nothing about whether it was POTUS or Congress and simply referred to the gov't in general terms"

    No...here's the gotcha moment. You're right, it was Congress and it didn't have a lot to do with Clinton. Just like the great economy that happened while he was president. It was the Newt Gingrich led Congress that led to the great economy under Clinton.

    This is gonna be SO fun to hear your response. I can't wait to see how you twist this one.

    July 30, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "But it's not working at all. The repubs are digging their heels in further and he is not going to get anything accomplished. "

    There's no way to "dig their heels in further" past their already-promised and in-place obstructionism and refusal to compromise on anything. Obama was going to get nothing on any "grand bargain" and he knows it. That's why he feels safe repeatedly angering and worrying his base with non-progressive offers to compromise, offers to give the GOP what they want: because they're going to say no anyway. They'd painted themselves into the corner by radicalizing their base long before Obama even made his first proposal. It's TOXIC for them to compromise with him or "give him a win" and that's a situation of their own making. Their Frankenstein monster flips out and primaries them every time they even hint at it.

    "Leaders get people to work together"

    Manufacturing that talking point by refusing, starting January 20, 2009, to cooperate with him on anything is pretty lame and flaccid. No attempt to fluff argument gives it girth.

    "even with extreme opposition (Pelosi and Reid), he was still able to get what he wanted passed. The best example of that is that 25% of Senate Democrats voted for the "Bush tax cuts". "

    Pelosi and Reid were not "extreme" in their opposition to Dubya. They compromised and the Dem caucus compromised frequently...oh hey, as you just highlighted. They didn't flip out over Medicare Part D and try to repeal it...they tried to fix it. They didn't set massive, unprecedented records for filibusters and nomination delays, etc., either. It's not even remotely comparable to what the GOP has done for the past 5 years. Not even close.

    July 30, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. Gurgyl

    Job, jobs, jobs, manufacturing, infrastructure, green energy. Period. First citizens then h1-b, j-1 visa guys. Know it.

    July 30, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  20. Rick McDaniel

    Obama's deal, is no deal at all. It is simply more wasteful spending, he wants to get passed, and he wants to add tax reductions to that?????? That's double jeopardy, on the financial side, as far as I am concerned, which will lead to double the deficit spending, and result in another huge increase in the national debt.

    July 30, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "No...here's the gotcha moment. You're right, it was Congress and it didn't have a lot to do with Clinton. Just like the great economy that happened while he was president. It was the Newt Gingrich led Congress that led to the great economy under Clinton.

    This is gonna be SO fun to hear your response. I can't wait to see how you twist this one."

    You love trying for your lame gotchas but it never gets you anywhere. POTUS gets credit for the economy...just like he gets blame. IT's pretty hypocritical for someone who likes to run around blaming Obama for the economy being bad and recovery being sluggish and yammering incessantly about his alleged lack of leadership to turn around and then just try to give all credit to a GOP congress for a good economy. Clinton gets it because he called Gingrich's bluff when Gingrich and the GOP shut down the gov't. He forced them to learn the hard way that they were going to have to compromise with Clinton or he'd let them hang themselves with their recalcitrance. He won that battle hands-down with public outrage at the GOP for their shutdown game and it forced them to come to the table. Yeah, we know, Newtered likes to flip history on its head and claim that he taught Clinton to compromise by shutting down the gov't, but that completely ignores that the polls show the blame and damage for it went to the GOP by a longshot.

    That being said, while I think Clinton played it all masterfully to break them, I see no reason to pretend that it didn't take both sides cooperating to reach positive results. That was the whole point of calling Newtered's bluff. It's what we've been saying all along for the past 5 years and what the GOP/Teatrolls have done everything in their power to resist doing for the past 5 years. This game of pretending that they haven't been 100% opposed to cooperating from the get-go is pretty lame...and the attempt to spin it on its' head and blame Obama for "insulting" them by not going to them before the public, after 5 years of their absolute temper tantrum behavior, is even lamer.

    July 30, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "But there are death panels in the ACA. If you want to call it an "Independent Payment Advisory Board" then fine, but it's still rationing healthcare. Should also mention that Howard Dean agrees that it is, in fact, just a fancy term for Death Panels."

    Explain how private insurance companies in the "free market" do anything different when they determine that so-and-so is "uninsurable" because of a pre-existing condition or telling people that they won't be receiving coverage for something because it's "experimental" even though it's been around for 10 years. Oh wait...that's right...the IPAB doesn't really have that power and discretion, and the ACA sets extremely strict rules that prevent the IPAB from doing anything remotely as bad as what the private insurance industry has set up as the "norm" under the excuse of the "free market"...starting with the fact that nobody can be refused coverage for pre-existing conditions.

    Here's a newflash, champ: ALL INSURANCE IS A RATIONING SYSTEM. All of it. It's all just a question of HOW it gets rationed. Learn that.

    July 30, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Should also mention that Howard Dean agrees that it is, in fact, just a fancy term for Death Panels."

    Why do I care what he thinks? Please do explain.

    July 30, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "well, not according to several of obama's supporters, the labor unions, that wrote obama and stated that obamacare was going to severly damage the middle class workers in this country."

    That's not what they said. There's a few of them who have been using some specious arguments about it in order to try to get leverage to demand some special treatments for their health care plans that would amount to a double-dip on some of the tax breaks. No, there's no shock and gasp about this just because you're seeing me disagree with a few of the unions and point out that these ones in particular are being greedy...nor is it something that proves a rule about ALL unions just because a couple are behaving that way.

    July 30, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. TONE

    @Rick McDaniel
    Seriously can you tell me what deal the Republicans have on the table? I am expecting silence.

    July 30, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |