COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Actor John Ratzenberger, visiting a state considered a bellwether in presidential elections, said Thursday candidates must address the problem of U.S. workers losing jobs because of outsourcing to foreign countries.
Ratzenberger, best known for his role as a know-it-all letter carrier Cliff on the hit TV show ''Cheers,'' came to Ohio on his third stop in a series of ''Keep it Made in America'' town hall meetings.
''I'm here to let people know that there's an industrial tsunami heading our way,'' Ratzenberger said in an interview before the event. ''This is what we do. This is who we are. When politicians tell us we're going to become a service economy, that's a myth.''
The town hall meetings are sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a Washington-based nonprofit group whose partners include the United Steelworkers union.
''The purpose is to empower voters, especially in key states, to ask presidential candidates tough questions about their policies,'' said Scott Paul, the group's executive director.
Ratzenberger, who hosts a show on the Travel Channel that highlights American-made products, said growing up in Bridgeport, Conn., with a mother and relatives who were factory workers cemented the idea that manufacturing is a truly American way of life.
He said politicians need to move beyond the free trade debate and simply be held accountable for not enforcing trade laws that are already on the books.
''We have to hold politicians accountable because they are selling us out,'' Ratzenberger said.
Infused in his comments on trade and manufacturing is a strong anti-China rhetoric.
Ratzenberger said China artificially undervalues its currency — a hot topic in Washington — making its goods artificially cheaper here, and making it difficult for U.S. manufacturers to sell their wares in China.
He cited recent recalls of toys made in China with dangerous levels of lead paint as another problem.
Even if it costs more to make products in the U.S., Americans will buy American goods if they think they are safer, he said.
Ratzenberger said he has been contacted by presidential campaigns that want to discuss trade policy with him. The town hall meetings are nonpartisan, and Ratzenberger said both Republicans and Democrats deserve blame for the unfairness in current trade schemes.
Ohio has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs, and a recent poll showed that Ohio voters were wary of free trade policies.
Ratzenberger said he worries that the issue isn't getting enough attention from candidates seeking party nominations for president in 2008.
''Eventually this will become a big issue,'' he said. ''If it's not this election, by the next election it may be too late.''
Town hall meetings have already been held in Manchester, N.H., and Des Moines, Iowa. Upcoming dates include stops in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y.