COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland used Tuesday’s announcement by Chrysler that it would repay $7.5 billion in loans to the federal government as a chance to both talk up President Obama’s chances to win the state and the White House again next year and to slap the many Republicans who wanted to let the Big 2 American automakers die a slow death, which would have sent Ohio’s unemployment rate even higher than it was at the height of the Great Recession.
Brown touts federal help to automakers
In November of 2008, Brown introduced the Auto Industry Emergency Bridge Loan Act, with a bipartisan group of colleagues, his office said in a release to media. In December 2008, Brown said he fought to ensure that funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) were allocated to aid the Big 3 and American auto suppliers—despite near-unanimous opposition from most House and Senate Republicans. Brown said he applauded President Obama’s decision in 2009 to advance restructuring plans to ensure the viability of the American auto industry.
“From Chrysler’s Jeep assembly complex in Toledo, to hundreds of new positions at General Motors’ Toledo transmission facility, and three shifts of workers in Lordstown making the best-selling Chevy Cruze, the domestic auto industry is responsible for creating thousands of good-paying, middle-class Ohio jobs,” said Brown, who is running next year for a second six-year term. “Chrysler’s repayment of the bulk of its loan to the government is yet another sign that the American auto industry has made a stunning turnaround. There were defeatists and naysayers who wanted to let the American auto industry disintegrate, but we made the right decision to invest in these cornerstones of our economy. That decision is now paying dividends all across Ohio and the United States,” he said.
Joining former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and United Auto Workers president Bob King, Ted Strickland, who lost a hard–fought, close election to John Kasich last year, commented on the payback from Chrysler in a conference call with reporters.
“People are beginning to understand where we are today is because of decisions made by President Obama in the most trying of times,” Strickland said on the call. While polling shows the President’s approval numbers in Ohio at 49 now, Strickland, whose campaign Obama supported on many visits to the state last year, said Obama will do well in Ohio in 2012, in large part because the state’s economy is improving.
“People are beginning to understand where we are today is because of decisions made by President Obama in the most trying of times,” Strickland said. The troika of Democrats lauded Obama for moving expeditiously to save the American automotive industry from disappearing, a decision they said saved over 1 million jobs nationwide and many thousands in Ohio and Michigan. Of no surprise, they laid the blame of being callous to the dire situation America’s Big 3 automakers found themselves in at the feet of front runner GOP presidential contenders like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, and Jon Huntsman.
Chrysler and General Motors, unlike Ford, accepted federal stimulus help.
Auto dealers are now reporting record sales, Brown and Strickland said, and the Big 3 have repaid their loans to the government. The Cash for Clunkers program, in which the federal government provided Ohio consumers with vouchers to purchase new fuel-efficient vehicles, “was a resounding success, helping American consumers purchase nearly 700,000 new vehicles—adding nearly one percent to the third quarter GDP growth at the time,” Brown emphasized. He said the program stabilized the auto sector and saved or created thousands of jobs across Ohio and the nation.
In January 2011, Brown’s release said that as the Toledo Auto Show kicked off, he called on the Chrysler Group to fully utilize the Toledo Assembly Complex by adding a new production line to the facility as part of the company’s planned 2011 expansion. Brown last visited the Toledo Assembly Complex with Vice President Joe Biden in August 2010. At that visit, Brown and Biden touted the success thus far of Obama’s actions to strengthen the American auto industry, including the role of the Administration’s investments in GM and Chrysler in helping these companies return to profitability, retain and hire workers, and keep plants open. Brown underscored that the jobs of more than 250,000 Ohioans depend on the auto industry.
Sen. Rob Portman stands by statement of bad bailout to Detroit
When Rob Portman was gearing up to run for U.S. Senator from Ohio in 2009, he said the bailout of Detroit automakers was a bad deal. “The General Motors bankruptcy plan Washington announced today is a lousy deal for Ohio,” Portman said in June of 2009. “Taxpayers, including hard working Ohioans, are investing $50 billion in a GM plan that we now find includes shutting down plants in Mansfield, Parma, and Columbus, Ohio. The reason for this unprecedented taxpayer bailout and government intervention was to preserve jobs. Instead, for our $50 Billion taxpayer investment, thousands more workers will see their jobs disappear. Ohio deserves better than this.”
As Ohio’s new junior senator, a Portman spokeman said the senator hasn’t changed his mind, despite the loan repayment news. “Portman’s position was and remains still, that the auto bailout was not a good deal for Ohio,” Portman’s office said.
In response to Ohio’s declining unemployment rate, now at 8.6 percent from a one-time high of about 11 percent, Strickland, who Kasich lambasted for losing over 400,000 jobs on his watch, an unfortunate consequence of the recession that very governors escaped unscathed from, said the state added 6,000 automotive jobs from March, 2010 through March, 2011.
“As this campaign develops, the president is going to do quite well in Ohio,” Strickland said, adding that Ohioans can “compare what (Obama) has done with what these potential challengers have advocated.”
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