Brown defends auto bailout stance

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown took to the telephone lines Wed-nesday for a town hall teleconference to battle attacks made by his Republican opponent for a U.S. Senate seat and current state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Brown, who talked with more than 6,000 Ohio residents Wednesday during his teleconference, discussed with Ohioans the reason for his auto manufacturing bailout and other pieces of legislation aimed at spurring the economy out of a recession.

“I want to keep this growing economy growing and growing faster,” Brown said during the town hall teleconference. “There are some 800,000 jobs that are directly or indirectly connected to the auto industry. In 2008, when I was at town hall meetings and talking with people, you could feel their fear and anxiety because their way of life was going to change and was going to change drastically.”

In 2008, Brown said he worked with President Barack Obama, then Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich and others in a bipartisan fashion to save the automotive industry in the United States, specifically General Motors and Chrysler.

Without the bailout of the automotive manufacturers, Brown said the entire industry from the supply chain to the manufacturers themselves, including solvent auto manufacturers such as Honda and Ford, would have been affected. Executives at all four manufactures and auto suppliers favored the automotive rescue package.

Mandel has said repeatedly he would have voted against bailouts for Wall Street and the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. He said he opposed the automotive bailout because  it stripped pensions from union workers at Delphi and cost workers their jobs.

“I’m not a bailout senator, he’s the bailout senator,” Mandel said during debate this week in Cleveland.

During the debate, Mandel did not want people to confuse his opposition to the bailout with his support for the automotive industry.

“This is an issue that is personal to me,” Mandel said. “As a United States senator I will take a back seat to no one in fighting for auto jobs.”

While the economic recovery has resulted in a lowering of the national unemployment rate and the state unemployment rate from 10.5 percent in 2008 to 7.5 percent this past month, Brown said more needs to be done now and in the next six years.

“There are still far too many people whose wages have been flat, but we know we are going in the right direction,” Brown said. “We can do this if we can rebuild manufacturing with more automotive jobs and more clean energy jobs.

“My goal has always been to rebuild the middle class,” the senator said. “Some people say you build the economy with tax breaks at the top and you hope that it works its way down to the middle class but that hasn’t worked very well for a number of years. I think you concentrate on building up the middle class and work your way out from there. If you have a strong middle class everyone does well — the rich do well, the middle class does well and more people have more of a shot and an opportunity to succeed.”