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Two Ohios: Obama Talks Jobs in Cleveland, While Workers Rally in Columbus

3 years ago
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President Obama stuck to his script in Cleveland Tuesday -- promoting economic competitiveness -- even as labor unrest captured the public's attention 140 miles to the south at the Statehouse in Columbus and also in neighboring Indiana.

Obama was greeted at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport by Ohio's newly elected Republican governor, John Kasich, whose plan to limit state workers' benefits and collective bargaining rights brought some 4,000 demonstrators to the state Capitol, just down I-71.

In Indiana on Tuesday, all but a few House Democrats fled the state rather than take part in motions and procedures leading to a vote on similar legislation rolling back public employee union rights, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The exodus of legislators started last week in Madison, Wis., where the governor insists the state is broke and has threatened layoffs. Democratic state senators bolted for Illinois, denying Republicans a quorum so they could not vote on Gov. Scott Walker's bill demanding more generous contributions from state workers for their health care and pension plans, as well as new limits on bargaining.

In politically important Ohio, Kasich is facing a deficit projected as high as $8 billion in his upcoming two-year budget. Emotions ran high Tuesday. Pro-labor Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), in his eighth term representing a Cleveland district, even bypassed Obama's visit to his hometown to join the demonstration in Columbus.

The scene in Cleveland on Tuesday was more tranquil. At Cleveland State University, the president, accompanied by four Cabinet members, spoke to a roomful of suits at a small business forum. AOL co-founder Steve Case, named by Obama to head a new panel promoting entrepreneurship, also made the trek to Northeast Ohio.

Even with money tight in Washington, Obama said, "we can invest in the things that are critical to our long-term success -- in innovation, so that America stays on the cutting edge, in education so businesses have access to the skilled workers ... in upgrading our transportation and information networks."

The forum divided into break-out sessions -- for entrepreneurs, new media and access-to-capital -- so Obama could hear first hand about the challenges and problems that
small businesses encounter. "We know we still have some challenges," he told them. "I assume that Tim [Treasury Secretary Geithner] has already described to you what we're doing with both the SBA [Small Business Administration] and at Treasury to try to loosen up capital for entrepreneurs and business people."

The Clevelanders seemed appreciative of Obama's time. "If there ever was a 15 minutes of fame for our regional development efforts, this was it," Joe Roman, head of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, told The Plain Dealer. Obama, a basketball fan, even had a quip about the plight of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Asked by a panelist why he had come to Cleveland, he joked, "I just felt bad when Lebron left."

But it wasn't all smooth sailing in the lakeside city. The president got the mayor of Cleveland's name wrong at one point, calling him "Frank Johnson," instead of Frank Jackson. He quickly corrected himself.

"You've been working to reinvent the Rust Belt as the Tech Belt," Obama told the Cleveland forum. "... Your universities, your hospitals, entrepreneurs, businesses have all teamed up to get biotechnology and clean energy from imagination to reality and, as a consequence, you've made Cleveland an emerging global leader in both fields."

En route to Ohio, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had little to say about the planned protest in Columbus. Obama, he said was "focused very much on this important forum -- small business forum" in Cleveland.

Carney said the president made it clear, when asked last week about the Wisconsin turmoil, that "everyone needs to tighten their belts and that includes public sector employees." But, "he also expressed concerns that the efforts, specifically in Wisconsin, were aimed at going right after collective bargaining rights of unions."

Folo Tom Diemer on Twitter http://twitter.com/tomdiemer

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11 Comments

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inasctg56

reply to michael- manufacturing and exports have seen double digit gains for over 18 months. Boehner just supported one million job losses and gop states are doing the same. The only ones staying on track with job creation are the dems. And why do you think that is? Because the gop wants to say the dems efforts didn't work so they can win in 2012. They are putting politics before economic recovery. Eric Cantor wants to bring back the 2004 tax rate of 5.25% for overseas profits. They cut the IRS so they can't go after offshore accounts. They are tagging ammendments to cuts that reverses the banking legislation and consumer protections on credit cards. They are doing more of the same failed policies for working families while passing legislation that benefits banking and corporations.

February 26 2011 at 12:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jason Williams

government needs to tighten their belts why ddont we hear of elected oficials taking pay cuts???? does the president need all of those staff members?? start taxing improted goods that mfg send in since they took their companies out of the us to make more profit. what happened to the lottery systems helping the schools
the education in the us? it is time for big government and corps to take big pay
cuts pay mors taxes leave us middle and lower class citizens alone we can barly make it now!!

February 25 2011 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
steven32001

I live in Wisconsin, where we proudly uphold a long tradition of worker's rights. What needs to be pointed out is that the state workers have agreed to concssions in pay and benefits, but the strikes are about Walker's desire to effectively end collective bargaining rights and the unions themselves. These people did not create the state's deficit, and in fact Walker has pushed through deficit-building tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. He also apparently plans to "cut" Medicaid programs which provide life-sustaining and saving health care for the poor and elederly--I have disabled family members who rely on these programs. Hard working laborers like my father, again, did not cause this deficit. To those who advocate giving more tax cuts to the wealthy as a way to raise money, I ask: if that was true, then why was there no full employment and budget surplus at the end of the last administration, which championed these policies? Workers should have rights and protections, and at the very least we should have negotiations; Gov. Walker will not negotiate, that is the problem.

February 23 2011 at 5:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
conservgirl8

No matter what he says, which, often, is a repeated, reorganized speech, has no meaning anymore.

If he really cared about the state of our economy, he would leave the states alone to do what they need to do to clean house, and he would allow the congress to do what they have to do and not threaten to veto anything. He should be encouraging his party to do the same thing. The divisions among party lines falls entirely on him.

February 23 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Michael

Obama "talks" jobs: jobs do not ensue. I rest my case.

February 22 2011 at 7:44 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Michael's comment
fpfp040408

please keep up, 187,000 jobs were added in Jan.

February 23 2011 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

Cleveland?? Will this guy ever get to Phoenix?

February 22 2011 at 7:03 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
sysaphus71

When the votes get tough.....the Democrats get going....that is , to an adjoining state, to hide.
Ah democracy in the 21st century.....live free or join a union....same thing.

February 22 2011 at 6:34 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sysaphus71's comment
Michael

Democrats: the "flee" party.

February 22 2011 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
joe

Can anyone tell me when did collective bargaining become a right??? Is it in the Constitution ? Just where is it written?

February 22 2011 at 6:11 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joe's comment
Michael

Collective bargaining was granted as a privilege (as opposed to a right) under the Wagner Act in the FDR years. FDR himself was on record as strongly opposing strikes of Public servants with a special duty to the people.

February 22 2011 at 7:47 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

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