Sen. Brown: Ohio Frustrated Stimulus Lagging

President Obama's approval rating has dipped below 50 percent in the swing state of Ohio. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) talks with Steve Inskeep about whether the economic stimulus package is working. Brown says people in his state are frustrated because they had hoped to see results from the plan by now.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And he mentioned that survey showing some skepticism about the economic stimulus plan. One survey says President Obama's overall approval rating has slipped below 50 percent in Ohio, the economically troubled swing state that sometimes decides presidential elections. This morning, we've called Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Senator, welcome back to the program.

Senator SHERROD BROWN (Democrat, Ohio): Steve, glad to be back, thank you.

INSKEEP: So what do you think is causing less than half of your constituents to support the president's course?

Sen. BROWN: Well, first of all, it's one poll. I'm not sure that it's reflective of exactly what's happening in Ohio. But people of course are frustrated, people hoped to see stimulus - the kicking in of the stimulus and meaning more jobs and more economic activity sooner. And you also have people like the minority leader who is from Ohio saying that none of the stimulus money has been spent yet and no projects, when in fact there have been more than 50 projects already in Ohio, beginning in small towns and big cities and suburbs, highways, water and sewer.

Those things are starting to happen, but as David said, and (unintelligible) said earlier, there clearly - this economy - from the last - from what - from policies of the last 10 years clearly is worse than people thought it was going to be back in January or February.

INSKEEP: Well, the president has said he wouldn't do anything differently. Do you think the president could have done something differently?

Sen. BROWN: Well, I would have wanted to write - it's a different stimulus package, but it's the best we could get at the Senate at that time to get a bipartisan stimulus package through. I would have wanted to see more infrastructure spent more quickly. But it's clear to me now that there is a lot of money, as Wessel just said. There's still a lot of money in the pipeline. I think you're going to be seeing some better news in the future, although this recession is deep and long and we're not going to get great news in the future.

But we're going to see in the next few months more projects, more dirt fly, if you will, in these shovel-ready infrastructure projects - water and sewer, highways, broadband, all that I think we're going to see in the months ahead.

INSKEEP: Well, Senator Brown, granting that not all the money has been spent yet, it may be a bit premature to talk about passing another stimulus plan. You know that some economists think that even if all this money is spent, it's not going to be enough. That is one economic view. Do you think there is any support among your colleagues in the Senate for a second stimulus at some point in the near future?

Sen. BROWN: I think the interviews you've done this morning point exactly correctly to how people on the Hill think. I mean I think people in the House and Senate and most of the public is thinking, particularly in my state, in the northern state, near Akron or Cleveland, that let's see how this stimulus is working once more money's in the pipeline, especially in the next couple of quarters, then we will reassess.

But I don't think you make a decision on a stimulus yet when this one has not played even 50 percent out yet. You can't really make a decision on, I don't think, on what you do next of a big public investment. I mean, we plan for the future but in terms of voting both houses and the president signing a big public - a new big public investment, I think it's premature to make those plans.

INSKEEP: Are some of your colleagues looking at the months that it may take for the stimulus to work, looking at the unemployment rate and also looking at the 2010 election calendar and getting a little nervous?

Sen. BROWN: Well, there's frustration and there's, I mean, nobody - almost nobody really thought this economy would be quite as bad as it is. And my state's been in recession, as Ohio has, as has Michigan and a small number of states for a longer period than the rest of the country. But every state, virtually every state except for a small number of energy states, are hurting bad, obviously.

And the depth of this economy has frustrated people in both parties, in both houses, as it has my constituents in Zanesville and in Defiance. So I think that we clearly are not at all practicing patient (unintelligible) counseling patients.

But I think that we need to, at least for a few months, to play this out, to push this spending through the pipeline a little more quickly than the administration's done and see where we are in October, November, and if we need to consider a new stimulus, then we do.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, senator, is your party going to be in political trouble if you've still got a 10 percent unemployment rate when you get close to election time next year?

Sen. BROWN: Well, who knows? Everybody in my state, even those who are frustrated with the new president and what's happened in terms of the economy, understand that it was the last decade of economic policies that got us into this terribly deep recession. Bad trade policy, bad tax policy, deregulation of Wall Street, no real interest in manufacturing policy. Those are the things we need to medium and long-term, trade, tax and manufacturing policy, and I think that Congress is going to get very serious about that as soon as we begin to work our way out of this recession.

INSKEEP: Senator, thanks very much.

Sen. BROWN: Glad to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

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