State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

So-called "elves" contemplate the "Scrooge Christmas" outlined by Obama

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 2, 2012 11:54 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

The Rodon Group/K’NEX toy factory in Hatfield, Montgomery County has had a moment in the national spotlight, since the president used the manufacturer as a backdrop to highlight his stance on fiscal cliff negotiations.

President Obama called the workers at the Tinkertoy plant “Santa’s extra elves” during his Friday visit to make a public push for his plan to avoid the fiscal cliff by extending tax cuts for most wage-earners and raising taxes on the country’s wealthiest. Employee Rich Erb said the weeks before the holidays are crunch time for the toy company, and sales have been consistent for the past few years, even with the economic downturn.

“One of the good things with toys is kids will – parents will always buy their kids toys. Regardless of – times are tough, times are hard,” said Erb. “That’s the one nice thing. They’re a little bit recession proof.”

But Erb said he wasn’t sure if toys were fiscal-cliff-proof, which is just one of the reasons other employees said they think it’s important for the president to be visible as he pushes for a deal to avoid tax hikes.

“I think he still needs to reassure the country,” said longtime employee Maria Makins.

Colleague Tammy Shiber finished her sentence.

“That he cares about middle class people, you know?” she said of the president.

“Right,” Makins continued, “and he’s going to do a good job for us in the next four years and continue to help ‘Made in America,’ and working for people like us, middle class people, and people that go out and spend their money on things made in this country.”

In his roughly 20-minute speech, President Obama asked the audience of factory workers to contact their member of Congress and urge representatives to stop the partisan bickering. Employee Chris Malack said the words being exchanged on this subject are harsh for a reason.

“I think maybe those statements just come from the severity of the situation,” he said about the possibility the country heads off the fiscal cliff, as the metaphor goes, and falls headlong into spending cuts and tax hikes. “I think it would hurt. I think it would hurt everybody to have to pay more out of their pockets at a time like this.”

Rodon/K’NEX employees were expecting to head back to work soon after the president left the building. A company spokeswoman says the factory’s hulking machines will be powered up through the holiday season.

“Santa never sleeps,” she said.

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