Mak­ing the K'NEXions!

Pres­i­dent Obama vis­its Hat­field, talks fis­cal cliff

North Penn Life - - Front Page - By Michael Gold­berg mgold­berg@jour­nalregis­

In front of a back­drop of ma­chin­ery and K’NEX toys in­side the Rodon Group’s Hat­field fac­tory Nov. 30, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama made his case for ex­tend­ing mid­dle-class tax cuts that are set to ex­pire at the end of the year, warn­ing that busi­nesses such as the Rodon Group — and mil­lions of Amer­i­cans — will take a big hit if Congress fails to agree soon on a fis­cal plan.

“Econ­o­mists have said if in­come taxes go up on the mid­dle class, peo­ple will spend nearly $200 bil­lion less in stores and on­line,” said Obama, ex­plain­ing that if Congress does not act, taxes on a typ­i­cal mid­dle-class fam­ily of four will go up by about $2,200 in 2013. “That’s money a lot of fam­i­lies can’t af­ford to lose. That’s less money to buy gas, less money to buy gro­ceries. It means less money to buy more K’NEX.”

Speak­ing in front of about 300 Rodon Group em­ploy­ees, guests and elected of­fi­cials in­clud­ing U.S. Reps. Chaka Fat­tah, D-2, and Allyson Schwartz, D-13, Obama ap­pealed to those in the room, and all Amer­i­cans, to put pres­sure on Congress to ex­tend the tax cuts by mak­ing phone calls, send­ing e-mails and tweet­ing their rep­re­sen­ta­tives with the hash­tag #My2K. “That’s the 2K from your pocket,” he said. “It’s not ac­cept­able to me, and I don’t think it’s ac­cept­able to you, for just a hand­ful of Repub­li­cans in Congress to hold the mid­dle-class tax cuts hostage sim­ply be­cause they don’t want tax rates on up­per in­come folks to go up,” he said to huge ap­plause. “If Congress does noth­ing, ev­ery­body here, you’ll see your taxes go up on Jan­uary 1st. I’m as­sum­ing that doesn’t sound too good to you. That’s sorta like the lump of coal you get for Christ­mas.”

The pres­i­dent said he picked the K’NEX fac­tory to make his case to the Amer­i­can pub­lic be­cause the com­pany had made a point of cre­at­ing jobs for Amer­i­can work­ers.

“This is one of the few com­pa­nies in the toy in­dus­tries that has ag­gres­sively moved jobs back here,” said Obama. “I want to re­ward man­u­fac­tur­ers like this one that cre­ate jobs here in the United States, not overseas,” he said, adding that in ad­di­tion to 98 per­cent of Amer­i­cans, 97 per­cent of small busi­nesses in the U.S. would also ben­e­fit from an ex­ten­sion of the mid­dle-class tax cuts.

The pres­i­dent’s mes­sage res­onated with Rick Conti, 59, who works in Rodon’s ship­ping de­part­ment.

“I agreed with ev­ery­thing he said, and I think his pro­gram sounds good, you just gotta con­vince the wealthy,” said Conti. “I liked what he said about the work­ing peo­ple. He’s con­cerned about our jobs, mak­ing sure we have se­cu­rity. Af­ter all, we all worry about the same thing — our kids and our fam­i­lies.”

“It’s a really in­cred­i­ble thing that he cares enough to come here and see the blue-col­lar work­ing guy,” Conti added.

Rodon tech­ni­cal man­ager Jack McPher­son hoped the pres­i­dent was sin­cere about his de­sire to work in a bi­par­ti­san man­ner to avoid the so-called “fis­cal cliff” loom­ing at the end of the year.

“I know he has an agenda that’s pure Demo­crat, and I know the Repub­li­cans have an agenda, too, but I’d like to see them come to­gether and solve this prob­lem be­fore we have such a poor rep­u­ta­tion around the globe that no one will want to do any busi­ness with Amer­ica at all,” said McPher­son.

Although Obama’s fis­cal points were se­ri­ous, he couched many of his points in hu­mor.

“I’ve been keep­ing my own naughty and nice list for Washington, so you should keep your eye on who gets some K’NEX this year — there’ll be some mem­bers of Congress who get ‘em and some who don’t,” he joked.

The pres­i­dent then had a laugh at the ex­pense of his vice pres­i­dent.

“Joe Bi­den was at Costco, he wanted to buy some of this stuff but I told him he had too much work to do. I wasn’t gonna have him build­ing roller coast­ers all day long,” Obama said.

Prior to his speech, Obama was given a tour of the fac­tory by Rodon/K’NEX CEO Michael Araten and Joel and Bob Glick­man, the sons of Rodon Group founder Irv­ing Glick­man, who died Nov. 19 at age 101.

“I have been asked of­ten this week, why were we cho­sen by Pres­i­dent Obama for a visit? We build the worlds kids love, right here in the USA,” Araten said to the crowd be­fore the pres­i­dent ar­rived. “We are a third-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can fam­ily busi­ness. We are the Amer­i­can story.”

Above, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama speaks at K’NEX in Hat­field Nov. 30.

Left, pro­test­ers wave signs at pass­ing mo­torists along Route 309 in Hat­field prior to Pres­i­dent Obama’s visit.

Left, au­di­ence mem­bers lis­ten to the pres­i­dent’s ad­dress in­side the K’NEX fac­tory.

Above, K’NEX CEO Michael Araten, right, and prod­uct in­ven­tor Joel Glick­man wave as they are ac­knowl­edged by Pres­i­dent Obama.

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