President Barack Obama announced a new trade action against China during a Cincinnati campaign stop on Monday, where he also took the opportunity to attack Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The U.S. filed the case at the World Trade Organization on Monday and claims that China offers “extensive subsidies” to native automakers and auto-parts producers.
The Chinese government filed its own complaint before the WTO on Monday, challenging tariffs the U.S. imposes on Chinese products ranging from steel to tires. The tariffs are meant to protect American manufacturers against what the U.S. government claims are unfair trade practices by China.
“(The U.S. action is) against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto part manufacturing jobs overseas,” Obama said before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at the Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest.”
“It’s not right, it’s against the rules, and we will not let it stand. American workers build better products than anyone. ‘Made in America’ means something. And when the playing field is level, America will always win.”
Obama went on to criticize his Republican challenger, saying Romney made his fortune in part by uprooting American jobs and shipping them to China. Obama accused Romney — who has criticized Obama’s foreign policy, saying the president apologizes for American interests — of talking the talk without being able to walk the walk.
The Romney campaign countered with an email after the rally, saying that Obama’s economic policies were hurting the private sector and harmed manufacturing.
“The President’s misguided, ineffective policies have hampered the private sector and allowed China to flaunt the rules while middle-class families suffer,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.
“As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a fresh start for manufacturers by promoting trade that works for America and fiscal policies that encourage investment, hiring and growth.”
The email pointed to reports from Bloomberg finding that manufacturing and production have shrunk recently.
Before the Obama rally several Ohio Republicans held a news conference behind a Romney campaign bus near Eden Park, where they focused more on the deficit than foreign trade.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said it was “laughable” that Obama considers himself a budget hawk. He pointed to the decline in budget negotiations between the president and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, saying Obama “walked away” from talks with Speaker John Boehner.
“Basically as president from that time last August until now, it’s been all politics,” Chabot said.
Chabot also attacked Obama on foreign policy, claiming the president has left Israel hanging in the Middle East and is not serious with Iran, who he says is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons.
The president in his speech said he did have a plan to reduce the federal deficit, and would reduce it by $4 trillion over the next 10 years without raising taxes on the middle class.
Monday’s visit to Cincinnati was Obama’s second of this campaign and his 12th trip to Ohio this year. Romney has visited the state 18 times during his campaign.
Obama was scheduled to fly to Columbus Monday afternoon for a campaign appearance there.
The Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday approved new summary language for Issue 2, which would take the decennial redistricting out of the hands of politicians and task a nonpartisan commission with redrawing congressional lines. The Dispatch reports that the new summary removes factual inaccuracies and included previously omitted information about who would select members of the new citizens commission. Secretary of State and Ballot Board Chairman Jon Husted said the board tried to make the language as generic and concise as possible, but Democrats and voter advocates say the new language is too long and technical and would confuse voters.
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld became the first elected official in the nation to host an online town hall. The Enquirer reports that Sittenfeld is taking questions on the online tool CrowdHall and by next Friday will have answered them via text or video. He is also asking Cincinnatians to post suggestions as to how they would balance the budget or spend the new casino revenue.
Rush Limbaugh on Thursday theorized that Al Qaeda colluded with President Barack Obama to give up Osama bin Laden to help Obama look good and win reelection.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defines “middle income” as $200,000 to $250,000 a year. The Associated Press reports that Romney made the comments during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Census Bureau meanwhile reported this week that the median household income is just over $50,000. CityBeat’s reporting staff wishes management would promote us to middle income level.
Speaking of ABC, they’re being sued by Beef Products Inc. for $1.2 billion over a report of the beef filler “pink slime.” The beef company says the defaming report disparaged the safety of pink slime.
Obama again apologized for America called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and called on him and the Muslim Brotherhood to stand with Washington against protesters who are attacking the U.S. Embassy in what The New York Times called a “blunt phone call.”
Jimmy Kimmel took the iPhone 4S onto the streets, telling people it was the new iPhone 5, proving that Apple cultists enthusiasts will love anything the company puts out.
More bad news for Secretary of State Jon Husted. The Ohio Supreme Court told Husted his approved ballot language for Issue 2 contains “factual inaccuracies” and must be rewritten by the Ballot Board. Voters First previously contested the language as misleading to voters. If approved by voters, Issue 2 will put an independent citizens commission in charge of redistricting. Under the current system, state officials redraw borders, sometimes using the process for political advantage. In Cincinnati’s district, the Republican-controlled process redrew the district to include Warren County, giving the district more rural voters that tend to side with Republicans instead of urban voters that tend to side with Democrats. Voters First mocked the process with a graph showing how redistricting decisions can sometimes be made in 13 minutes with no questions asked. CityBeat covered the redistricting process here when Issue 2 was still in the petition process.
Ohio’s median income dropped last year, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. But rates of poverty and uninsured rates remained the same. Nationwide, uninsured rates dropped from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011, meaning 1.4 million people gained health coverage. Some of that is attributable to health-care reform passed by President Barack Obama.Former University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams is getting a pretty nice going-away present. The Board of Trustees approved a package for Williams that adds up to more than $1.2 million. It includes a bonus, retirement benefits, consulting fees, a year’s salary and a contract buyout. Williams abruptly left UC on Aug. 21, citing personal reasons.
Homeless shelters will cost more than expected, says 3CDC. The nonprofit group said it will cost about $40 million to build three homeless shelters and help finance others.
With the support of Democrats and Republicans, the Ohio legislature approved pension reforms yesterday. The reforms lower benefits, raise contributions requirements, increase the retirement eligibility age, establish new cost-of-living guidelines and set a new formula to calculate benefits, all for future retirees. For the most part, current retirees are not affected. Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, said, “We know the changes are not popular, but they are necessary.” Before the changes, the system was losing $1 million a day, according to a statement from Rep. Robert Hagan, a Democrat.Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is pushing against banks that take advantage of college students. In a letter to Higher One, Brown told the bank to rework its contracts with universities. Brown wrote in the letter, “Federal student aid programs should help students prepare for the future, not extract fee income from them.” He went on to ask the bank to redo its contracts so they are “consumer-friendly and consistent with reforms that Congress enacted for the credit card market.”
Ohio’s inspector general found ODJFS wrongly reimbursed organizations in central Ohio with federal stimulus funds when the organizations did not follow rules.
Vice President Joe Biden was in Dayton yesterday. During his speech, he spoke about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Biden vowed justice will be served.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney unleashed a big foreign policy gaffe yesterday when he politicized the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. The attack was revealed to cause the death of Stevens after Romney made his comments.
Math shows homeopathy, a trend in medicine, is implausible.
DAYTON – Vice President Joe Biden took time at the beginning of his Wednesday campaign stop in Dayton to condemn an overnight attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, while praising the work and courage of American diplomats and promising to bring to justice those who carried out the attack.
“(This) brave — and it’s not hyperbole to say brave –— ambassador was in Benghazi while the war was going on. Our ambassador risked his life repeatedly while the war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on,” Biden said.
“These men are as brave and as courageous as any of our warriors.”
The Tuesday attack took place during a protest against an amateur short film made in the United States that protesters say insulted the Prophet Muhammad. U.S Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff members were killed.
“Let me be clear — we are resolved to bring to justice their killers,” Biden said.
The vice president made no mention of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which he characterized as “akin to an apology” and a “severe miscalculation,” but the vice president quickly segued into politics, alluding to Romney’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy.
“The task of a president is not only to defend our interests and causes and the cause of freedom abroad, it is also to build a nation here at home, to which the entire world can look and aspire to be like,” Biden said. “Whether we do that and how we do that, that is literally the essence of the choice we face in this presidential election. It really is that basic, and foreign policy is not some sideline to all of this.”
The Romney campaign in Ohio was quick to respond, calling Biden’s remarks “hypocritical” in an emailed statement.
“Vice President Biden’s appearance in Dayton only served further damage to his credibility as he reprised hypocritical and widely debunked attacks against Mitt Romney. Not only did the Vice President mislead Ohioans, but he attacked Mitt Romney for supporting the same tax policy the Obama Administration supported just last year,” Romney Ohio spokesman Christopher Maloney wrote.
“With today’s Census report showing nearly 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty and incomes continuing to decline, it appears that misleading attacks are all the Obama campaign has left to offer 400,000 Ohioans looking for work.”
Maloney’s email also fact-checked a claim made by Biden during his speech. Biden said that he opposed the so-called “territorial tax,” which he said would allow American companies that invested abroad to avoid paying taxes in the United States.
The email included links to an Associated Press fact checking article that concludes that Romney’s proposal was aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S. rather than overseas.
Biden spoke to a packed house at Wright State University in Dayton, with overflow crowds estimated in the hundreds viewing in separate rooms in the Student Union.
The vice president reiterated many of his usual stump speech points — the Romney tax plan’s negative effects on the middle class, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration’s commitment to manufacturing — but much of Biden’s speech focused on education. He said a president Romney would cut funding for Pell Grants, meaning many students in the audience would have to leave school. He also lauded President Barack Obama’s administration’s enactment of a tax break of $2,500 for every family that sends a child to college.
The usually bombastic Biden wasn’t without his gaffes. Twice he referred to Wright State as “Wayne State,” which is in Detroit, despite a large Wright State University banner displayed in the conference room where he gave his speech.
The crowd was quick to correct him after the second time he misspoke.
“Wright State, which also includes Wayne State,” Biden said after he was corrected, eliciting laughs from the audience.
Ohio’s inspector general released a report today criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for improperly reimbursing federal stimulus funds to hired organizations that did not follow rules.
In a statement, Inspector General Randall Meyer’s office said ODJFS “failed to adequately oversee federal grant funds applied to the Constructing Futures jobs training initiative for Central Ohio.”
The report released by Meyer’s office today, which focused on stimulus programs in central Ohio, outlined a few instances of ODJFS failing to oversee proper standards. In total, the department, which was put in charge of carrying out job training funds in Ohio from the stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009, wrongly reimbursed companies it hired for $51,700.81.
In central Ohio, ODJFS hired two organizations to carry out the job training program, or Workforce Investment Act: Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and Construction Trades Networks (CTN). At ABC, the inspector general found limited problems with faulty reimbursements involving a newspaper subscription, travel and mileage totaling less than $100. The money was not accounted for as a questionable cost since it was so small.
However, at CTN, the faulty reimbursements piled up. The organization was reimbursed $560.61 for phone calls made prior to being hired as part of the federal grant. It was also reimbursed $1,613.62 for its invoices, even though documentation was not provided to link phone calls as necessary to the grant program.
Under the federal stimulus rules, CTN was required to provide 25 percent of its own funds for the program. CTN planned on using $91,800 of in-kind funds — payment that isn’t cash — by paying for trainee wages. The organization paid $60,927.70 by the end of the grant period, and the organization was reimbursed for $49,526.64 by ODJFS, even though the charges were supposed to be carried by CTN. The inspector general requested CTN give the money back to ODJFS.
When the inspector general contacted the organization to explain the findings, CTN attributed the requests for faulty reimbursements to confusion caused by multiple administrative changes at ODJFS.
“In addition, monitoring visits by ODJFS were not conducted until after the grant period expired, even though the partnerships were told the visits would occur as grant activities were underway,” the report said.
Meyer’s office concluded ODJFS should review the questioned costs, work to keep consistent guidelines through administrative changes and monitor grant funds during the grant period.
The full inspector general report can be found here.
A report was released for northwestern Ohio was released on May 10, and it also found wrongdoing. It can be found here. A report for stimulus programs in southwestern Ohio will be released later.ODJFS could not be immediately provide comment on the report. This story will be updated if comments become available.
UPDATE (3:28 P.M.): Benjamin Johnson, spokesperson for ODJFS, provided a comment shortly after this story was published.
“As the report mentions, these were expenditures by local entities, not by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services,” he says. “We appreciate the inspector general bringing this to our attention, and we'll work to resolve the matter.”
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber released its positions on this November’s ballot issues. The chamber supports the Cincinnati Public Schools tax levy and Hamilton County mental health and services levy, but it does not support extending City Council’s terms to four years. The chamber also opposes Issue 2, which would place the redistricting process in the hands of an independent citizens commission instead of a commission run by politicians. The chamber said it opposes Issue 2 partially because it excludes “some Ohioans” from the redistricting process. The excluded Ohioans are lobbyists and politicians, who have a vested interest in redrawing district boundaries in politically advantageous ways in a process known as “gerrymandering.” In Cincinnati’s district, the district was redrawn by the Republican-controlled commission to include Warren County, which puts more emphasis on the rural vote that tends to vote Republican instead of the urban vote that tends to vote Democrat. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting issue here and here.
Related to Issue 2, the controversial ballot language that was approved by the state seems to be weighing down the amendment. Public Policy Polling said voters are confused by the ballot initiative.Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost found Value Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy, a charter school in downtown Cincinnati, to be wasteful and unethical. According to a state audit, the school had multiple instances in the 2010-2011 school year in which it made excessive payments in possible conflicts of interest.
In another audit, Yost also criticized his own political party. Yost found the Ohio Republican Party accepted prohibited contributions and improperly spent money.A recent police chase that resulted in a crash and the the injury of minors is coming under scrutiny. The cop involved was found to be in violation of department procedure.
Even though he resigned abruptly, the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees is considering separation payments for former UC President Greg Williams. Board Chairman Fran Barrett says the payments will tie up “loose ends” and buyout Williams’ tenure.Gov. John Kasich is asking public colleges to collaborate on a funding formula. He says the schools should have a better idea than the state government of what they need. The schools previously collaborated on a construction wishlist, which apparently impressed Kasich.
A proposed state policy will force schools to keep better
track of who is kept in seclusion rooms and for how long, but the
details will be closed to the public.
The fired Democrats suing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will be getting their day in court. Yesterday, a federal judge agreed to a hearing on Sept. 21. The fired Democrats are suing Husted after he dismissed them for attempting to extend in-person early voting, which broke Husted’s uniform rules on voting hours.
Even Republicans are now demanding more substance from presidential candidate Mitt Romney.A North Dakota college football player says he got kicked off his team for kissing his boyfriend.
State Auditor Dave Yost released an audit today looking at Value Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy’s 2010-2011 school year, and the findings are not pretty. The charter school, which is located in downtown Cincinnati, was found to be potentially overpaying in multiple instances — including potential conflicts of interest.
“Those who are entrusted with taxpayer dollars must take special care and spend them wisely,” Yost said in a statement. “This school appears to have management issues that must be addressed quickly.”
In a potential conflict of interest, the school paid Echole Harris, daughter of the school’s superintendent, $82,000 during the school year and $17,000 for a summer contract for the position of EMIS coordinator, who helps provide data from VLT Academy to the state. Mysteriously, the school did not disclose the summer contract in its financial statements. The school says the superintendent abstained from all decisions related to Harris and presented the summer contract to the school board. Still, Yost referred the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The audit also criticized VLT Academy for approving a $249,000 bid for janitorial services that were owned and provided by a school employee. The bid was the most expensive among other offers ranging between $82,000 and $135,600. According to the school’s own minutes, “Each company states that they can deliver a work product that will meet or exceed the standards provided in our checklist,” adding little justification to the high payment and potential conflict of interest. The school insists its pick was the best qualified because it offered additional services. The bid approval was also referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The school was found to be overpaying its IT director as
well. Keenan Cooke’s salary for the 2010-2011 school year was supposed to
be $55,000, but the school overpaid him by $3,333 with no record of
intent. The state asked for Cooke and Judy McConnell, VLT Academy’s
fiscal officer, to return the excess payment to the state. The school acknowledged McConnell's responsibility.
To make the potentially excess payments worse, VLT Academy had a net asset deficiency of $412,754 as of June 30, 2011, according to the audit. The school promised the auditor it will cut costs and find revenue generators to make up for the loss.
Secretary of State Jon Husted has not had a good year. He’s dealt with his party's early voting policies, which are only defended by racial politics and costs, and he was sued by President Barack Obama’s campaign to restore in-person early voting for the weekend and Monday before Election Day — a lawsuit he lost. Now he’s being sued by two Democratic Montgomery County Board of Elections officials he fired.
Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie filed a lawsuit today claiming wrongful termination. The election officials claim they were wrongly fired when Husted suspended then fired the men for refusing to follow uniform in-person early voting hours he established.
In a statement, Lieberman said Husted was setting a bad example with the terminations: “We believe SOS Husted was wrong when he unjustly fired us. He violated our free speech and the free speech of other county elections board members. SOS Husted fired us and then dared other election board members to try and stand up for the voters in their community.”
The Montgomery County Democrats refused to abide by
Husted’s uniform voting hours because they did not include weekend
voting. The Dayton-area officials saw the hours as a step back.
“Dennis and I did nothing wrong,” Ritchie said in a statement. “We knew that 11,000 Montgomery County residents voted during early weekend hours in 2008. The county has the money to pay for the extended hours. We were only trying to give people a fair chance to vote.”
However, the Montgomery County Democrats did break the rules. The whole point of uniform voting hours, which Husted established due to outcries from Democrats about county-by-county voting hour discrepancies, is uniformity. If any county gets more or less hours, the entire premise is broken.
Husted's office could not be immediately reached for comment over the lawsuit. This story will be updated if comments become available.
UPDATE (4:50 P.M.): Husted's office issued a statement in response to the lawsuit after this story was published, crediting the statement to Husted: “Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Ritchie were fired for breaking election law. They are free to say what they want, but they are not free to do what they want.”Republicans have had a difficult time defending their anti-early voting policies. Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. John Kasich and Franklin County Republican chairman, defended the policies perhaps too bluntly when he wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
Republicans have also cited costs. But as Ritchie said, Montgomery County has the money to pay for more early voting. A previous analysis from CityBeat also found extending early voting hours comes at a fraction of a percent of Hamilton County’s budget.
An investigation by nonprofit journalism group ProPublica has uncovered the identity of one of the secret super PACs funding advertisements attacking U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and promoting his challenger, Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel.
The group is the Government Integrity Fund and is headed by Columbus lobbyist Tom Norris. Norris’ lobbying firm Cap Square Solutions employs former Mandel aide Joe Ritter.
Ritter declined to comment to ProPublica about his role with Norris’ lobbying firm or whether he is involved with the Government Integrity Fund.
The race between Brown and Mandel is considered vital to Republicans who want to take control of the Senate and Democrats who want to hold on to their majority. It has turned into Ohio’s — and the nation’s — most expensive race.
The Associated Press reported in August that outside groups — like the Government Integrity Fund — have spent $15 million supporting Mandel, while similar groups have spent $3 million for Brown.
It’s unknown where the money is coming from because federal regulations and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case allow the groups to spend unlimited amounts of cash on political ads without disclosing their donors.
Such groups are classified as non-profit “social welfare” groups, which don’t have to release donor information or register with the Federal Election Commission. They’re supposed to be “primarily” engaged in promoting social welfare.
Super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with campaigns, but it is common for them to hire politicians’ former aides.
According to ProPublica, Ritter was first hired by Mandel as an aide when the candidate was in the Ohio Legislature. He was then the field director for Mandel’s state treasurer campaign and then became a constituent and executive agency liaison when Mandel won that race. He left the treasurer’s office after six months to work for Norris’ lobbying firm.
Ritter was part of an ethics complaint filed after a Dayton Daily News investigation into Mandel’s practice of hiring former campaign workers for state jobs. Ritter has contested the charges.
Norris' ties to the Government Integrity Fund was discovered by ProPublica through documents filed with Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT. The Federal Communication Commission requires TV stations to keep detailed records about political advertisers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today released a disappointing job report. Unemployment fell to 8.1 percent in August, and 96,000 jobs were added nationwide. But economists were expecting about 150,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell largely due to people giving up on the job hunt, which means they are no longer counted in the labor pool.
One of the reasons for disappointment is the drop in public jobs. People are quick to look at the private sector when these kind of numbers come up, but the public sector employs people, too. And the public sector lost 10,000 jobs at state and local levels, according to today’s jobs report.
That follows the trend of the past few years. The public sector has been doing poorly since the Great Recession started, according to this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
The chart shows state and local payrolls since the beginning of the recession. It proves quite clearly that governments have been making cuts to public jobs.
Ohio has not avoided government job cuts. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported July’s unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, which was unchanged from June’s unemployment rate. The biggest loss in jobs for the month came from government, which lost 5,300 jobs statewide. In comparison to July 2011, July 2012 had 4,400 fewer government jobs.
Instinctively, it makes some sense. As the recession kicks in and families and businesses are forced to budget for lower expectations, it might seem natural to expect the government to do the same.
However, many economists argue it should be the opposite. They say the government should be used to balance out the private sector. In other words, when the private sector is performing poorly — recession — the government should step in to make up for the drop. When the private sector is performing well — boom — the government can relax and run budget surpluses.
Paul Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist, has advocated for this approach time and time again. In his New York Times column and blog, Krugman has pushed for more stimulus efforts from the federal government, and he called for a much larger stimulus package than the $787 billion package President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009.
The data seems to support economists calling for more action. Last month, the Brookings Institute conducted a study that found June’s national unemployment rate would be at 7.1 percent if governments hadn’t made cuts.
What this means is if governments truly want to fix the economic crisis, they might want to kick the debt can down the road. But considering many cities and states have constitutional amendments requiring balanced budgets, that might be hard to pull off.