U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, came to Tiffin Friday to listen to constituents. The congressman set up shop during the morning in the Seneca County Courthouse Annex.
"A lot of people think it's going to be like a town hall meeting," Latta said. "What it is, we meet with constituents one on one. They've got a Social Security problem, a veteran problem, you name it. Or people just want to come in and talk about what they think is wrong with the country. We try to allot as much time as we can for folks to do that. We've seen hundreds of people across the district."
Latta said Seneca County was the 12th county he visited for the courthouse conferences. He spent Friday afternoon in Sandusky County for a courthouse conference.
"My district is all or part of 16 counties, 140 miles east to west," Latta said. "I could be down in the far southwestern part of the district in Mercer County and be blindfolded and taken to Ashland County and not know it, and I would hear the exact same thing across this district.
"Our district is the largest manufacturing district in the state. We're the largest agricultural district in the state. We've got really very serious problems out there."
Latta said he saw some similarities between the current recession and the recession that occurred during the Jimmy Carter presidency. He said during 1982, the country experienced double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and double-digit unemployment. The recession of 1982 was different, though, Latta said. People were able to return to work in that earlier recession. He said he is concerned workers might not have jobs to return to with the current recession.
"We've got situations now where we're competing against such a large global market now," Latta said. "It really concerns me."
Latta said China is now the No. 1 manufacturing country in the world. China is spending money buying natural resources, including contracts for oil. Latta said China could have an economic and manufacturing advantage later as the world economy improves.
At the same time, Latta said he is concerned about a cap and trade plan promoted by President Barack Obama.
"I think every person needs to learn that phrase, cap and trade," Latta said. "I think what it will end up being is a cap and tax. Companies, utilities, everybody are going to have to buy carbon credits. His first estimate was that it's going to cost $646 billion. After some revised numbers, it could actually cost $2 trillion."
Cap and trade is a plan to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by manufacturers. Cap and trade was credited by some for reducing sulfur dioxide emissions that caused acid rain in the past. Large scale emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would be limited - "capped"- at a certain level of emissions with permits issued. The limit would be reduced over time.
Some emitters would be able to reduce emissions easier and quicker than others. Those companies would be able to sell- "trade" -credits to other emitters who are exceeding their emission limits. The expectation is the cap and trade system would reduce overall greenhouse emissions for the country.
The permits would have a cash value and likely would be auctioned to businesses by the federal government, and could be sold - traded - from company to company.
Because there is a cost involved, Latta said he is concerned about the impact on companies and American households. He said each household could end up paying between $1,600 and $3,500 annually for a share of the overall cost to reduce greenhouse emissions. As manufacturers and utility companies pay for the cap and trade process, they likely are to pass the cost on to consumers, Latta said.
"The utilities are going to get hit hard," Latta said. "They are going to have to pass those rates on. Manufacturers, whatever they make here in Ohio, they are going to have to pass that on. The food producers, everybody."
Latta said China and India already have announced they do not intend to pay to limit greenhouse gases. China and India have said consumers who purchase the products they manufacture should pay the cost, Latta said.
Latta said Ohio could be hit hard by the effects of cap and trade. He said Democrats in the Senate are beginning to take a new look at cap and trade plans. Republicans have been raising concerns.
Latta said he would like to see Ohio become a leader in the production of wind turbines and other alternate energy sources. To do so, the state would need to consume high levels of energy to produce the materials and operate manufacturing plants, Latta said. Cap and trade could make that tough, he said.
"It's going to take us a long time to get out of this mess," Latta said. "No president has ever spent as much money in such a short time as (Obama) has. We had a $10.6 trillion national debt. That national debt by the end of this fiscal year in September will be $12.7 trillion. People were complaining about Bush's $460 million budget deficit. Well, at the end of this year, Obama will have taken us to a $1.8 trillion deficit."
Latta said the federal government has options that could help. He said the government should lower taxes and spend less money. He also offered another old idea.
"What we need in this country is we need a balanced budget amendment, and the president has to have line item veto authority," Latta said.