Tinker Toy Maker: `Fiscal Cliff’ a `Red, White and Blue Issue’

Photograph by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Barack Obama looks at a K'nex roller coaster at a Rodon Group manufacturing facility on Nov. 30, 2012 in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

The folks who make Tinker Toys say this is no time to be tinkering with public confidence in the economy.

Michael Araten is president and CEO of K’NEX, the toy company in Pennsylvania that President Barack Obama visited today to pitch his plan for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He’s also an Obama supporter, and a Democrat who contributed $200 to the president’s re-election campaign.

He was asked why he support the president’s plan if it will cost him money.

“It will cost us a lot more money if demand is taken out of the system,” the toymaker said. “If you lose $200 billion of discretionary spending from the American economy, that is going to hurt businesses a lot more than the incremental 3 percent I might pay more on my taxes.”

Business is good, he says — orders up 20 percent over last year.

The chief executive also expects lawmakers and the White House to take all the time they have to negotiate an alternative to the “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled at year’s end. The president, touring the toy factory today, warned of “prolonged negotiations.”

“I’m 100 percent confident they will come together at the last minute here,” Araten said. “I’d be surprised if it wasn’t until after Christmas. They’re going to go to the wire. … But at the end of the day they will get it done because they recognize it is too important to the American economy and the American people are watching. When the American people watch, usually our leaders in Washington pay attention.”

That’s what the president was counting on with this visit today, which Republican leaders in Congress have dismissed as a diversionary campaign-styled tactic — getting the public’s attention.

“It is time to rise above all the partisan rhetoric,” Araten said. “It’s too important to the country. It’s not a red issue. It’s not a blue issue. This issue is a red, white and blue issue. Manufacturing is a red, white and blue issue. The fiscal cliff is a red, white and blue issue.”


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