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Congressman Tim Ryan On The Tariffs, Tech And The Heartland, And 2020

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Congress Tim Ryan, my pal from Warren who sadly is a D, joined me this morning to talk tariffs, his attempt to bring tech to the Steel Valley and similar communities, and the 2020 presidential race:




HH: Want to say a special good morning to Northeastern Ohio listening on Youngstown, WHK, as well in Cleveland, because Tim Ryan is in the house, Congressman extraordinaire, the only Democrat I really like to have on the show, because he and I went to the same high school. Congressman, welcome back, good to have you.

TR: Thanks, Hugh, good morning.

HH: It’s always good. You know, this is going to be the official headquarters of Harris-Ryan or Ryan-Harris, the Democratic ticket I’m most afraid of in 2020. So I hope you’ll come back, even when you’re the official nominee of the Democratic Party. Is that a commitment, Tim?

TR: I will come back as long as you want me.

HH: All right, that’s a deal. Now I was so happy to see you bring high tech people to the Valley. I’m just going to spend all the time on that, but first, these tariffs are a nightmare. And I just got done talking with Salena Zito. We’re not bringing Republic Steel back and Copperweld, Tim Ryan. What do you think of these tariffs?

TR: There’s no question I don’t think we need to have a distinction or a discussion between like we’ve got to save old line steel. Clearly, a lot of the steel jobs have gone, but we do have countries like China that are cheating. They’re violating the global trade laws. They’re violating the WTO. They’re intentionally dumping steel to try to hurt our domestic manufacturers. And as you know, because you are concerned with our nation’s defense, I think this is part of a broader strategy that they have through industrial espionage, stealing our patents, all the other kind of underhanded things that the Chinese government does, I think this is part of a broader strategy for them. And I think it’s appropriate for us in a targeted way, I don’t agree with what the President did in the sense that Canada, Germany, some of these other countries. But when it comes to China and other countries, it’s important for us to make sure they’re playing by the rules, just like everybody else.

HH: All right, everybody, stop. Tim Ryan, Democrat, Hugh Hewitt, Republican, agree 100% on this. So I just want to note that…

TR: Drop the microphone. Drop the mic.

HH: Yeah, drop the mic, walk away, and Mr. President, put down the tariff order. You know, Peter Navarro, have you met Peter, yet? He’s one of you.

TR: Oh, yeah.

HH: He’s a Democrat, right? He ran for Congress as a Democrat in the 90s, ran for the mayor of San Diego as an anti-growther. He doesn’t know a lick about this stuff, Tim Ryan. He hasn’t ever, I don’t think he’s ever been to Warren, Ohio. He wouldn’t know a steel mill if you threw him against the wall of one.

TR: I don’t think that’s true. I’ve talked to Peter. I don’t know him well, but I think he has seen communities like ours. Look, this is part of, this is part of a strategy that we should have. And the problem that I’m having, I think you’re having and other people, is that this is a tactical move without any grand strategy that we have in the United States with our economy, with our military, how we’re participating around the world. This is just a tactic that the President drummed up. Now I’ve been working on this for a long time, and I think it’s appropriate if it’s targeted to the countries that are cheating.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

TR: But it’s not part of a broader economic growth strategy that he has.

HH: I agree, and so let’s leave our agreement as it is. I like Peter, by the way. He’s a friend of mine. I’ve known him a long time. It’s just he’s one of you. He’s one of you guys. He’s not one of my guys.

TR: Now can’t we get past this, Hugh? Can’t we past…

HH: Yeah, let’s get past it, and let’s talk about getting tech to the Valley. I was very excited about this trip. I hope Amazon puts its HQ in Columbus. That’s where I want it to go. That’s the last Ohio site on the list, but that would have ripple effects up to the Valley. Who’d you bring to the Steel Valley and what were you talking to them about?

TR: So we brought 12 venture capitalists, Softbank, these are some of the biggest ones in the world that have invested into Uber AirBnB, Spotify, great companies. And the whole idea is look, there’s a lot going on out in Silicon Valley, and they, their demand signal never reaches places like Youngstown, Ohio. So over the past many years, I’ve been working to try to get them to come to our area. So we got on a bus, and we went from Youngstown to Akron to Flint, Michigan and Detroit, and over to South Bend and really tried to plug them into the technologies that are emerging from these different areas. In Youngstown, for example, we’ve got added manufacturing 3D printing, cutting edge stuff. We wanted them to see it. So basically, getting the investors connected to what’s happening in the Midwest, and it blew my mind, Hugh, to hear them on the bus ride from town to town, and then eventually to the Chicago airport, about how invested they are now emotionally and really trying to help us. They’re starting to mentor local businesses. You know, they’re talking about maybe helping out financially. There’s a great provision in the tax bill, one of the only things I agreed with, called opportunity zones and opportunity funds that Steve Case and I and others are really pushing for people to get a lot of tax incentives to put money into investment funds that have to go to distressed communities. And there’s a lot of benefit for that. So using the private sector and private investment to help turn some of these communities around, I’m super pumped about it. And anybody from these areas should be excited about, you know, what the next five or ten years may look like.

HH: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been telling my friends on the West Coast forever you need five things to win with a startup. You need roads to move your product, you need electricity, lots of it, and you’ve got to have local colleges to staff up. You’ve got to have housing your people can afford. That’s why Silicon Valley’s falling apart. No one can live there.

TR: Right.

HH: And you need water for the long term. I mean, you’ve just got to have water. So what’s that mean? That means the Great Lakes, and it means the Ohio Turnpike is just a pathway to everywhere. So did they look up, and there’s a college on like every corner…

TR: Yeah.

HH: …from your own Youngstown State to Hiram to Oberlin, I mean, they’re all, and of course, The Ohio State University, Miami, all these different schools, everyone could be Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor got the incubator going. They got Google to come in, and it’s just blown up. Do you think that’s going to happen in Ohio, in the Valley?

TR: I really do. I really do. And you know, this was like the final piece. We have like the gritty, resilient entrepreneur and innovator. They’re in the Youngstown business incubator, one of the top incubators in the world, you know, competing with 8,000 others. You have Youngstown State doing a ton of stuff through the stem college, a lot of research. They have a chief manufacturing officer that’s full time. These are the kind of things, but you’ve got to have that private investment. This is where I disagree with the Democrats a lot. Like we talk too much about just the government could do this, the government can do that. Now I think the government needs to have a big role. But if you don’t get these private sector investors involved and engaged, you’re not going anywhere. And that’s what this final piece is. And so I’m excited about what’s going to happen. There’s a lot more that we need to do with streamlining the workforce training, and getting into the schools and getting a more entrepreneurial approach to schools, but this is happening. And I’m super pumped, and I think what Steve Case is doing with Rise of the Rest is the same thing. He’s got $150 million dollar venture fund that’s focused on communities like ours. But the more we get the private sector involved, the better off we’re going to be. And we can grow. And the other piece is we’ve got to clean these communities up. We’ve got to take down the dilapidated homes. We’ve got to, as you said, rebuild some of these neighborhoods, river walks, amphitheaters, the kind of outdoor quality of life stuff is as essential as some of the economic stuff.

HH: Now your colleague across the Congress there, Rob Portman, was on with me yesterday, and we were talking almost exclusively about opioids, which is no stranger to the Valley, unfortunately. If an infrastructure bill comes through, and I hope it does, I hope you work with Kevin McCarthy on a real basis to make sure that some of that infrastructure can be earmarked for, on a district by district basis, rehab facilities, because that is, rebuilding the public health structure for the addicted community is just going to be part of the recovery of middle America. Do you agree with me on that, Congressman Ryan?

TR: Yeah, I do, and I think you know, we have military bases that have been closed down. There’s facilities like that that we can use, these stranded assets that are there. There’s no reason why we can’t use those, especially in places like Ohio where we do have facilities that would be easily renovated and moved into that direction. And I’ve been telling everybody on the Republican side, Hugh, you’ll be glad to know, to get your book, because you talk about getting this federal money down to the local community, directed hopefully by local elected officials, for the local needs.

HH: Yeah, you know, I want every Congressman to get a pot of money, because you actually, I’ll bet Tim Ryan knows what infrastructure needs to be done in the Youngstown-Warren area better than anyone inside the Beltway. And that’s not because we’re pals. It’s because it’s your district, right? Isn’t that true of every congressman?

TR: Yeah, I think so. And you have a little bit of a broader view, too. So the view I have representing Akron and Youngstown is you know, I’m 20-30,000 feet. Okay, if you give me, you know, $10 million, $100 million dollars or whatever the case may be, it would be part of a long term regional strategy that we have. It wouldn’t just be okay, we’re putting Band-Aids on things, although there’s a lot that needs to be done, and that would probably be some of it. But a lot of it would be doing what you said – how do we grow this region and what are the big investments we need to make to grow the region. That comes from that local knowledge of the local economic ecosystem. And to go and have to you know, talk to a bureaucrat in Washington and make the case, and maybe they’ll throw you $500,000 dollars, we’ve got to expedite this process, because these communities are falling further and further behind – broadband, digital divide, broken down schools, public health, you name it. They’re falling behind, and we’ve got to inject that money. The President’s infrastructure bill really doesn’t do that by flipping, you know, normally, it’s 80% federal and 20% local match. The President’s transportation bill flips that and says it’s going to have to be 80% local, 20% federal match. And I will tell you that these communities that we visited on the comeback tour in Youngstown and Warren, Ohio, they don’t have the 80%.

HH: Yeah, that is a bad idea. They’ve got to do 100% if they give it to the right people – governors and congressmen. That’s the way to do infrastructure, and county commissioners. Let me close, Congressman Ryan, by asking you about Amazon. Look, it’s not in your district. I don’t know whose Columbus district that is. But if they go to Columbus, they win. They’re looking at Northern Virginia pretty hard, and I think that’s where the tip sheet has them going. But why would you say, if Jeff Bezos comes into your office, why do you say come to Columbus, come to Ohio? You’re an Ohio State guy. You root for the Buckeyes.

TR: Yeah, well, you know, obviously we want them to come to the Northeast quadrant, but that’s not an option. Columbus has the, you know, the economic benefits, the workforce development, the quality of life that a lot of these folks are going to need. They have a beautiful new airport that they have renovated. So all the boxes that needed to be checked from what Amazon wanted, you know, Columbus can check that box. And you know, long term, too, you’re going to have a lot of people from distressed communities that will be able, they can’t move to Silicon Valley, but you know, you can work in Akron or live in Akron and maybe work somewhere in North Central…

HH: You betcha. They get their workforce, they get their colleges, they get everything they need, and the people can afford to live there. Okay, last question. You’ve got to get reelected, and you’re going to win in November. Unfortunately, people have a grip on Northeast Ohio when it comes to Congress. But when do you have to make the decision about the presidential thing?

TR: Well, any decision will be made after ’18. I’m really trying to help with the House. I think we have a good chance of taking the House back.

HH: Come on, you know that’s all…

TR: I’m going to, that’s not true. I mean, I’m going to be in Conor Lamb’s district tomorrow night in Western PA. There’s a district we should have no business winning, and I think we have a really good shot…

HH: Somebody put sand in Tim Ryan’s car. That’s what, I want you down…But how many times have you been to Iowa?

TR: Just a couple. They’ve got good pork chops out there, Hugh. Come on.

HH: How about New Hampshire? How many times have you been up to New Hampshire?

TR: A couple of times. I mean, I’ve been to New Hampshire a bunch, because I went to law school up there. So I’ve been going up there for years campaigning for people just as a kind of an excuse to go back up there and see some old friends. But yeah, and I may be giving the commencement address up there this year at my old law school.

HH: You’re a dangerous man, Tim Ryan, a very dangerous man. Ryan-Harris or Harris-Ryan. That scares me. Thank you, my friend, good to talk to you as always.

TR: Just remember, Hugh, underneath my suit and tie, I’ll have a John F. Kennedy High School T-shirt on.

HH: Go Eagles.

TR: All right, buddy, blue pride. See ya.

End of interview.


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