Sen. Sherrod Brown called Senate Bill 5 a “huge blow” to middle class workers in Ohio, after his speech at The Faculty Club Monday afternoon.
After delivering the second Harvey Goldberg lecture to an audience of about 100 people, Brown discussed the negative effects Senate Bill 5 will have in Ohio.
“I think Senate Bill 5 is more about a political agenda,” Brown said. “If Senate Bill 5 stands, it will be a huge blow to the middle class.”
Brown said the decision to target the collective bargaining rights of public employees might result in private union employees being targeted next. Brown said students, who were considering teaching as a profession, have approached him about Senate Bill 5, but he expects the bill to be repealed.
Continuing on the topic of education, Brown said better access to higher education remains a priority despite budget cuts at the national and state levels.
“So much of our politics in this country is driven by fear,” Brown said.
The senator said he disagrees with the idea of cutting funding for education in order to balance the national budget. Brown said the conception that the United States is financially “broke as a nation” is incorrect.
“We became the first nation in the world to make high school universal,” Brown said. “Look at our … slow progress on higher education.”
Brown connected the growing gap between classes in America to the condition of education.
“Class lines in our country are more calcified now,” Brown said.
Brown said it’s important to allow for greater access to higher education and to make sure students complete their degrees without accumulating a large amount of debt. He added that there is a disconnect between the job skills employers want and the skills taught in higher education institutions.
Brown said discussions between college presidents in Ohio will help to decrease this discrepancy and reduce the “brain drain” effect in the state.
However, he was not as optimistic about preserving foreign aid and funding for international education.
“Those are all … in more trouble,” Brown said. “Anything that’s got ‘international’ attached to it is more difficult to get funded.”
The health care law, the war in Afghanistan and the national budgetary crisis were also popular topics for Brown.
The senator compared the criticism surrounding the health care law to the criticisms of Social Security and Medicare in previous years.
“These are always difficult debates,” Brown said. “Society will then benefit for the next generation or two.”
He added the importance of looking at politics in a historical context.
Phil Ratcliff, a financial adviser at AXA Advisors, LLC, said he enjoyed the interactivity of the discussion.
“I always wonder how much of what people say is what they feel,” Ratcliff said.
Ratcliff said he agreed with a lot of Brown’s speech, but questioned whether or not Brown was catering to the left-leaning audience of Ohio State students and professors.
“When you think about it cynically, a lot of the life-long politicians are aristocrats,” said Ratcliff. “You’ve got almost an upper-class crowd.”
Hunter Price, a fourth-year graduate student in history, said he didn’t think Brown was catering to his audience. Price said he was most interested in Brown’s pessimistic views on the fate of international research programs, because he wants to be a professor.
“Education is my future career,” Price said. “It’s a high level of importance to me.”