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Ohio Senator Discuss Bill To Reduce Tax Cuts For Auto Manufacturers


Of course, another area of concern is General Motors' announcement this week that the company will layoff about 14,000 workers at five of its North American auto plants, including one in Lordstown, Ohio. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, spoke with President Trump this week about those cuts and an auto work bill that he's introduced, which would give buyers a discount for cars made in America and reduce tax cuts for auto manufacturers that ship jobs overseas. Senator, thanks very much for being with us

SHERROD BROWN: Scott, good to be back. Thank you.

SIMON: Day the cuts were announced, the president said, quote, "Ohio wasn't properly represented by their Democratic senator, Senator Brown, because he didn't get the point across," but it sounds, in your account, like the two of you had a good conversation this week.

BROWN: We did. I didn't reference his finger-pointing because that's sort of what he does. I found it a bit amusing. There's a - Ohio has a Republican governor. We have in this country a Republican president. You - Republican Senate, Republican House, Republican Supreme Court, and he found the only Democrat he could to (laughter) point a finger at. But that's sort of his style. We had a good conversation. I pointed out to the president that my legislation would help create domestic demand. But - and most - and equally importantly, it would take away that tax break that was in the president's tax bill that says to a company, if you produce in the United States, you pay at 21 percent. If you move to Mexico, you get a 50 percent-off coupon, you pay half that rate. We take that away, we use those dollars to encourage people to buy cars and trucks and SUVs made in the United States, it would be a game changer for the auto industry in this country.

SIMON: Now, Senator, you, a Democrat, have supported the president's steel tariffs, and there are some experts who say that cost GM a billion dollars. You still think they've been a good idea?

BROWN: I do. I do. I think they could have been done better. I would have targeted those companies that are serial cheaters - those countries that are serial cheaters - China, South Korea, Turkey - and work with our allies, which the president really didn't do. But I think you start with this - when you love your country, you fight for the people who make it work. And that's the point of better trade policy. And when I hear talk of those tariffs, what I first think is that GM spent literally 10 times that estimate - $10 billion on stock buybacks in the last three or four year; 10 times what even those who estimate the tariffs at really high, high numbers. So GM clearly has used these tax cuts not to invest in Lordstown or Hamtramck, not to retool the Lordstown plant. Instead, they use these tax breaks, these tax cuts they've gotten, to increase compensation for executives, and then take that other tax break, that 50 percent-off coupon, and use it to move - to start production in Mexico.

SIMON: It was reported this week that the layoffs GM will undertake is expected to save the company about $6 billion by the end of 2020. So what possible incentive do they have to actually give more jobs to people?

BROWN: Well, they - of course, they will say that. But they continue to move production offshore. They - it's profitable to move production offshore when they have - when you have a NAFTA that hasn't addressed these issues - even the updated NAFTA that the president claims might address these - and when companies continue to get tax breaks to move offshore. But, again, if you respect the dignity of work in this country, if Washington understood that, you would see a focus on retooling production in the United States. Our - the workers in Lordstown were raided by J.D. Power as the most efficient, most effective workers in all of the GM system. And those - they know how to work. They've had a plant there for 52 years. Retool that plant, bring the production home, don't send it overseas. And that's why the president said - at least he would - he said on the phone that he'd support this idea of the American Car, American Jobs Act.

SIMON: He said that to you?

BROWN: He said that to me three times.

SIMON: OK. Senator Brown, are you going to work with President Trump on this even though a lot of people are asking you if you're going to run for president?

BROWN: I can work with President Trump on what if - when I don't agree with him much, but he says he wants to bring these jobs to Youngstown and to the industrial Midwest. And my message of the dignity of work works in Ohio and Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania. And it's the way you should govern. And when you govern that way, the politics takes care of itself.

SIMON: Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, thanks so much for being with us, sir.

BROWN: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.