U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown: Make things in America, bury the term ‘Rust Belt’

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2022

For generations, manufacturing was the lifeblood of communities across Ohio and throughout the country.

It was heavily unionized and the jobs paid well – and it’s not a coincidence that those two things go together. Those jobs allowed generations of Americans to build a middle-class life.

But beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, we stopped making things in America.

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Look at places like my hometown of Mansfield.

Companies like Westinghouse, Tappan Stove, Ohio Brass and General Motors closed down, one after another. Go to any town in Ohio, and people can name a similar list.

Corporate America wanted cheap labor, wherever they could find it. And they lobbied Congress – very successfully – for tax breaks and bad trade deals, so they could hopscotch the globe in search of lower and lower wages.

Ohio has paid the price for years, in the form of lost jobs and lost opportunity.

And now the whole country is paying the price – higher prices, supply chain delays, losing entire high-tech industries to our competitors like China.

Look where we’ve ended up.

Ohio invented the light bulb. Yet today, 99 percent of LED bulbs are made in China. America invented the semiconductor. And forty years ago, the U.S. produced nearly half of the world’s semiconductors. Today it’s just 10 percent – now about 75 percent are made in East Asia.

And look what happened: during the pandemic, companies across Ohio and the rest of the country shut down production lines and laid off workers because they couldn’t get enough semiconductors.

Whether you’re Ford in Lima, Whirlpool in Clyde, Kenworth in Chillicothe or Navistar in Springfield – you need these chips.

It’s why the Senate MUST fund the bipartisan CHIPS Act. We already agreed to authorize this program. Now we need to fund it. It’s critical to my state.

At the end of January, Senator Portman and I flew to Columbus to join Intel to announce the largest ever domestic investment in semiconductor manufacturing.

It’s going to create 10,000 good-paying jobs. Union tradespeople are going to build the entire facility.

As we were flying in on the plane, I looked down on Columbus and thought, “Today, in Ohio, we are finally burying the term ‘rust belt.’”

And it’s all possible because we are on the verge of passing this historic investment in American innovation and manufacturing, including the CHIPS Act.

(…) I also urge my colleagues to oppose a motion to instruct that supports a broad exclusion process for 301 tariffs for goods from China.

Those tariffs are in place because of China’s unfair trade practices targeting our industrial base and Ohio jobs.

The AFL-CIO opposes it, USTR opposes it and the Alliance for American Manufacturing opposes it.

They know that any removal of these tariffs needs to be part of a broader strategic approach to trade policy with China.

We cannot let China undermine the investments American manufacturers make in workers and communities here in the United States.

If we do this bill right, it will mean we finally make more in America. It will help us bring supply chains back home. And it will help us bury the term “rust belt,” once and for all.

— Excerpted from U.S. Senate floor remarks on Wednesday

Sherrod Brown is a Democrat and the senior U.S. senator representing Ohio. His office can be reached at 212-224-2315.