Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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The presidential visit

Barely 12 hours after delivering his State of the Union address to Congress, President Bush came to the Toledo area to reiterate his contention that the country is confident and strong on his watch.

It's always an honor, of course, for the host community whenever and wherever a president pays a visit. It's a matter of civic pride, a rare chance to see the leader of the free world in person, and officials at Owens Community College made the most of the opportunity.

But our region was an interesting choice for the President's first post-State of the Union appearance.

On the face of it, Owens made sense because it is the fastest growing community college in Ohio, and the President wanted to tout his State of the Union proposal to invest heavily in job training programs, principally at community colleges.

However, he could have chosen from any number of successful community colleges across the land, and he came here.

Perhaps the President recognizes what this region has known all along - that despite all his pronouncements of economic progress, Toledo and other cities in Ohio and the so-called Rust Belt remain hurt by administration policies.

Wednesday was the President's 14th trip to a state that is still reeling from manufacturing jobs losses. He was quick to reassure his audience at Owens that "there's no doubt that things are getting better."

He highlighted his plan to spend $250 million on new job training at community colleges, but distributed nationwide, it may be the equivalent of purchasing a deck chair on the new Queen Mary 2.

Mr. Bush did acknowledge that all is not well. "I fully recognize, in Ohio there are still troubled times," he said. "The manufacturing here is sluggish at best, and therefore, people are looking for work."

Indeed they are, Mr. President. In fact, while 300 invited guests listened inside Owens' dazzling new Center for Fine and Performing Arts, an equal number demonstrated outside in the numbing cold in protest of his domestic policies.

The realities of a workplace still struggling to recover from recession were unavoidable even on the Owens campus. Half a dozen Owens employees handling work force development and training were laid off just days before the President's visit.

Owens President Christa Adams described the moves as a "realignment," but that's double-talk. Even if those people are reassigned to other positions, their jobs are being eliminated, an unfortunate coincidence given the nature of the President's visit.

It was also not lost on some Democrats that the President's pitch of expanding job training opportunities at community colleges followed administration proposals over the last two years to cut federal spending on vocational education, adult and youth job training, and other programs by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Are we pleased that the President of the United States came to our community? Of course.

But is Toledo better off than it was four years ago? We hope he understands that the answer is no.

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