WASHINGTON TWP. | During her second stop in Northwest Indiana in less than a month, presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton vowed to protect American companies that produce vital military equipment.
Clinton, D-N.Y., was joined on stage Saturday by two people who once helped Valparaiso company Magnequench make powerful magnets for the kinds of precise guided bombs that can glide down chimney stacks before detonating.
Today the plant is in China.
Clinton lamented the move, because it cost 225 local jobs and, by all indications, gave the Chinese access to American military bomb technology.
"We're not just outsourcing jobs, we're outsourcing our security. And this must stop," Clinton said. "I don't think America's security should depend on Chinese spare parts."
During her one-hour appearance at Washington Township High School on Saturday, she took time out of her planned remarks on the defense industry to criticize her Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
She said Obama showed he is out of touch with small-town America when he remarked that many Americans were clutching to guns and religion out of anger or bitterness at the state of the country.
But the capacity crowd of about 1,800 supporters packed into the high school gym east of Valparaiso reacted most vocally to a more commonly heard message.
"I will end No Child Left Behind," she said to loud cheering, waving signs and foot stomping in the bleachers. "I see you agree with me."
Clinton said she would offer holders of high-interest student loans the ability to have their debts forgiven in exchange for community volunteerism. It was almost identical to a proposal offered by Obama during a visit to Gary's Roosevelt High School on Thursday.
"Education is still the passport to opportunity in America," Clinton said Saturday.
Clinton was introduced by Indiana's Democratic U.S. senator, Evan Bayh, who told the crowd he was deeply disappointed that Congress could not prevent Chinese investors from moving Magnequench's factory to China five years ago.
Bayh said Chinese investors bought the company in 1995 with a promise to keep production of the magnets in the United States, but then backed out on that agreement in 2003.
Stan Trout, a Magnequench worker who lost his job after the plant closure, said the closure is part of a disturbing wider pattern.
"It really wasn't too long ago that Indiana was the magnet capital of the United States," Trout said. "If they weren't made right here, they were made within a 250-mile radius of here."
Today, all those plants in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois are gone. Gone also is the knowledge of the middle-class workers who used to staff those plants, and the pool of younger workers who could replace them.
"There are no youngsters behind me," Trout said. "If we need to start making magnets again, I hope that some of us are still around."
To stop the trend, Clinton proposed a comprehensive review of all of America's military industrial factories with an eye to prevent them from moving. She also proposed creating a task force to prevent industrial espionage.
"The Chinese have a full-court press to steal (industrial secrets) they can't buy from us," Clinton said.