TOPICS > Economy

Jobs & the Swing States

October 15, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: As we just saw, jobs have been a critical issue in several key battleground states in the Midwest. That includes the crucial state of Ohio, where 20 electoral votes are at stake. So, how does the jobs picture look in Ohio? And how are the candidates’ plans being received?

For answers, we turn to representatives from Ohio’s labor and business communities, John Ryan, executive secretary of the Cleveland AFL-CIO, and Andrew Doehrel, president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

And gentlemen, if you were doctors, sizing up a patient, take a look at the Ohio job market for me and, Andrew Doehrel, how is the patient?

ANDREW DOEHREL: Well, the patient is not quite where we want to be, but it’s heading in the right direction. And that’s good news.

RAY SUAREZ: And what signs have you seen lately that things are heading in the right direction?

ANDREW DOEHREL: Well, our unemployment rate is down from where it was a year ago. As we talk to companies around the state of Ohio, they’re telling us where they weren’t a year or two ago, was there a light at the end of the tunnel. They’re saying absolutely there is and we’re moving in the right direction. So we’re seeing some job creation, we’re seeing less unemployment in the state. So we’re moving where we need to move.

RAY SUAREZ: And, John Ryan, your general overview of the health of the job market in Ohio?

JOHN RYAN: Well, my concern is that, you know, we’d be on life support if we were a patient. In the past four years we have 224,000 fewer jobs, including 159,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the state. We continue to see the type of jobs being replaced are far less than the jobs that we used to have, and are less likely to have health care insurance or pensions.

RAY SUAREZ: So you don’t see the turn around that Mr. Doehrel just described?

JOHN RYAN: Well, you know, we don’t see the kind of turn around that we need to have in this state or throughout the country. In fact, President Bush is the first president since President Hoover to actually have lost jobs during his four years.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, if there is a problem in Ohio with job loss, and especially in the manufacturing sector, what’s causing it in your view? We heard both candidates talk about free trade and fair trade. What’s wrong with what’s going on in Ohio, what’s keeping Ohio from doing better?

JOHN RYAN: Well, Ohio has been built on manufacturing jobs. And seeing the 159,000 manufacturing jobs lost and continuing to see manufacturing jobs lost even now is a real concern. And, you know, seeing outsourcing in a president that comes into this state and his administration saying outsourcing is a good thing, you know, just makes working people take a look and say this president just doesn’t get it.

RAY SUAREZ: Andrew Doehrel, what about outsourcing, is that what’s really ailing Ohio’s manufacturing sector?

ANDREW DOEHREL: Outsourcing is the biggest phantom issue that’s out there. This isn’t about outsourcing, because the other shoe to outsourcing is in-sourcing. And Ohio is a perfect example of jobs coming into Ohio from countries outside of Ohio. You don’t have to look any further in Ohio than Honda, which provides either directly or through suppliers that are involved with Honda that touch almost 12 percent of the work force in Ohio.

So if you’re going to talk about stopping outsourcing or you’re going to stop bringing jobs in from other countries, so you can’t talk about outsourcing in that manner. Very, very few jobs are going outside this country. And those jobs that are going outside are the ones that we really — are not high paying jobs; call centers in India are not the big-time jobs that everybody wants to talk about at all.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Andrew Doehrel, if outsourcing and globalization are not the culprits, what’s standing in the way of job creation in Ohio and is either campaign addressing it?

ANDREW DOEHREL: Well, I think you have to look at two major factors: One we are moving into a new economy without any doubts. We’re into a high tech. era. We’re changing over our work force in the context of what those jobs are; just as when we move from an agrarian society into a manufacturing society. There were a lot of pains that went along with that, we all worried we’d never have enough food to feed everybody if everybody goes to work in factories.

We’re now moving into high tech; and the second major issue that I think it’s overlooked is the 9/11 effect. Never in the history of this country have we brought the economy to a dead halt. With 9/11 we stopped the economy in the United States for several weeks, and you don’t have to look any further than the airline industry to see that it brought it to its knees literally overnight. So we’re dealing with a situation that has never ever been faced before. So we have some unique factors that are facing not only Ohio but the country right now.

RAY SUAREZ: John Ryan, same question. What’s standing in the way of more job creation in Ohio, and is either campaign addressing it?

JOHN RYAN: Well, two things. One is that Bush administration has created more excuses for a bad economy than they have jobs. And as long as an administration takes a look and says the economy is good, when working families are more stressed and out of work a longer period of time than usual, you know, we’re not going to see any type of change that’s a positive change.

The second thing, is we really need to take a look not at the wealthy and how to give tax breaks to them, but we need to find ways to create jobs and put money into working families pockets, making sure that we have health care for people and making sure that the type of jobs that are created aren’t the Wal-Mart type of jobs, but are the type of jobs that Andrew talks about, you know, the better jobs. But we’re just not seeing those in Ohio, and we’re not seeing those for the most part around the country.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, you took a swipe at President Bush earlier, we just heard both candidates laying out their plans. Does John Kerry have anything in his tool kit for what ails Ohio? He talks about tax incentives to make it attractive for employers to bring on new employees; he talks about closing loopholes that cause people to move jobs off shore. Is that really going to do it for your state?

JOHN RYAN: It’s absolutely a start in a plan that’s going to move us in the right direction. You know, we’re not going to get out of this job slump, you know, on the first day of a Kerry administration. But at the same time, he recognizes the problems; he’s talking about finally eliminating tax breaks to create jobs in other countries.

And, you know, I would disagree, respectfully, with Andrew that somehow jobs in phone centers are not good jobs. I come from the Communication Workers of America, and we have great jobs, at SBC and other companies in those phone centers that we worry about going to India.

RAY SUAREZ: Andrew Doehrel, if they may not be great jobs, but I guess if you’ve got a CWA card in your wallet you’re probably getting health care and some pension and other things that are probably desired by a lot of Ohio people.

ANDREW DOEHREL: Well, it’s interesting that you mention health care, because again there’s probably one of the major differences that employers are concerned with as they look at this particular election. You’re talking about having a big government health care plan that’s going to cost trillions of dollars. Guess where they’re going to go get it from if you’re going to not tax individuals?

You’re going to cut back on their taxes, they’re going to have to come after the corporations. If you’re going raise costs for companies to do business in this country, they’re not going to be able to remain competitive. We have to do a lot of things to make companies here more competitive. The tax breaks that the president put in place and has fought to keep in place absolutely have been essential to small business.

We’ve talked with many people, and that’s where most of the jobs are being created nowadays; over 70 percent of the new jobs come from small business. And those are the ones that benefit directly from these tax cuts that go into job creation and move Ohio ahead and the country ahead.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Andrew Doehrel, just heard the president a short time ago talking about some of the ideas he has for encouraging job growth. Are there businesses that would come to Ohio from outside, or businesses that are already in Ohio that would add employees if some of those programs were pushed forward, less regulation, the elimination of various kinds of lawsuits and that sort of thing?

ANDREW DOEHREL: Absolutely. Those are all key issues to the business community. We have a legal system in this country that absolutely punishes companies, that is not paralleled in any other country in the world. What it does is simply punish people and it doesn’t make things better. That’s one of the costs of going forward.

Government regulation is a huge issue. We need to get government to be cooperative and not look to hit business over the head so that they can move forward and get things done and be productive and compete and you can’t do that if you have government on your back the whole time. There’s reasonable government regulation, and there’s unreasonable government regulation. And it’s time to sit down and understand that they have to be a partner with business and not an enemy.

RAY SUAREZ: John Ryan, how do you see that, same question, you just heard Andrew Doehrel sort of present the brief for business and how they see it.

JOHN RYAN: Well, I would agree on one point, the health care issue is really the thing on the back of businesses; small businesses and big businesses. And this is the one area that Kerry, Sen. Kerry has promised to fix. And he has said where he’s going to be getting the money to take care of the issue of health care. And that’s on that tax break, rolling it back, only on the people making over $200,000 a year.

That certainly doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t affect most Ohioans; it doesn’t affect most people in this country. And the effect of that would be tremendous because one of the biggest issues we have, both employers and workers have is that cost of health care. And so many of your viewers understand they’re paying more today than they were before four years ago on health care. Health care inflation is out of this world and something that needs to be fixed. And Sen. Kerry’s plan would do that.

RAY SUAREZ: We’ll end it there, John Ryan, Andrew Doehrel, gentlemen, thank you both.