Ohio reaction mixed on speech


Jobs are the elixir for the economic ills ailing this country. Jobs are key to close the gap between the rich and the poor, the key to the middle class hanging onto to their homes. Jobs are the key to education and making sure the free market rules, President Barack Obama said Tuesday during his State of the Union address.

“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” Obama said. “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

U.S. lawmakers from Ohio supported or denounced the president’s address along party lines — with Democrats rallying behind Obama and Republicans attacking the speech’s rhetoric.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said he hoped Obama’s third State of the Union address would blaze a new course to help all Americans — employed, underemployed and unemployed.

“I had hoped to hear President Obama lay out an alternative vision to the same failed policies of expanded government and more spending,” Portman said. “With over 21 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, and a $15 trillion national debt, we need a new course. Americans cannot afford to wait any longer for the pro-growth policies that will lead to job creation.”

Portman, who has been a longtime proponent of tax reform, agreed personal and corporate income tax needs reforming, but America needs lower rates by closing loopholes and by placing U.S. workers and businesses on a level playing field.

“I was concerned that, with Washington’s record debt and deficits, President Obama did not talk about the need for Washington to control spending,” Portman said. “With the debt now larger than the nation’s economy, we heard little tonight (Tuesday) when it came to real plans to save our growing entitlement system from bankruptcy and insolvency.

“President Obama should live up to his past promises to change the tone in Washington and work with Republicans to turn the economy around,” the freshman legislator said. “That means less time campaigning, no more delays in putting forward a budget — a serious one this time — and more time focused on the issues so that Washington can fix our cumbersome tax system while enacting regulatory reform to remove barriers to job creation, an energy plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and health care reform to expand access and reduce costs.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown remarked Obama finally gave manufacturing the attention it deserves.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of our economy, providing good paying jobs and helping to lead our economic recovery,” Brown said after the address. “The next step is a national manufacturing strategy that enforces trade law, encourages clean energy innovation, and trains workers for emerging industries. Tonight’s (Tuesday’s) speech helped lay the blueprint for a national manufacturing agenda that Democrats and Republicans can unite behind.”

Brown cited work he and Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., did in introducing the bipartisan National Manufacturing Strategy Act of 2011 which would require a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s manufacturing section, would increase the manufacturing jobs and would identify emerging technologies.

The lawmaker shared the president’s belief that the blueprint for America to last is supported by four pillars — American manufacturing, American energy, American workers and American values.

Brown noted current federal policy is aiding manufacturing which added 23,000 jobs in December, affirming the economic recovery is taking root. While Obama does not want to see any more bailouts, Brown attested to the need for the 2009 bailouts of GM and Chrysler.

“As we’ve seen with the auto rescue — there is a role for government to play in supporting manufacturing,” Brown said Tuesday afternoon in a media teleconference. “Make no mistake: rescuing the auto industry was about saving American manufacturing and saving Ohio from a depression.

“It wasn’t just about three companies in Detroit, but about the hundreds of suppliers and thousands of workers who are the backbone of Ohio’s economy,” he said. “Between 2009 and 2010, we added more than 3,000 new auto jobs in Ohio. By 2015, Ohio will add more than 3,500 new jobs on top of that.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said he felt Obama missed another opportunity to commit to policies based on common sense and to push for action on job bills waiting for Senate approval.

“The American people want us to work on simplifying the tax code, producing more American energy, and stopping the onslaught of new federal regulations that are creating uncertainty and economic stagnation,” Jordan said after the speech. “Instead, President Obama is pledging to double-down on his failed plan of more government, more job-killing regulations, more borrowing, more debt and higher taxes.

“There are almost 30 jobs bills, passed by the House and waiting for action in the Senate,” he said. “The President would do better to urge his former Senate colleagues to debate and vote on some of our jobs bills, which will jumpstart our economy.”

While Democratic U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur listened to Obama’s speech, she reflected on how future policies may affect residents in her district.

“As I listened to the president share his vision of a strong America, where our workers innovate and manufacture and compete, I thought about the North Coast and northern Ohio — because that’s what we do,” Kaptur said. “When the president talked about ‘Made in America,’ I saw the faces of steel workers and autoworkers and solar factory workers — because that’s who we are.

“And as I listened to the president talk about the values of our citizens, I thought about the resilient families in northern Ohio who faced up to tough challenges without flinching and without running away,” she said. “Working together, we will redeem the American dream and then pass it on to the next generation.”