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Public Statements

Important Issues Facing America

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


IMPORTANT ISSUES FACING AMERICA

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Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank TIM RYAN of Ohio, my neighbor and friend, and also Mr. Delahunt of Massachusetts for getting the time this evening to talk about the real issues that the American people care about that don't get enough attention on this floor as we are designating more honorary days and bills that do not have a lot of substance attached to them, when the American people actually expect us to do something here to benefit their lives and their children's lives today and tomorrow.

On the Iraq issue, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I tried to get amendments passed in our committee when Mr. Bremer was head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, when we saw billions and billions of dollars being extended to that authority with no accountability back to this Congress.

Originally, they came to us with a proposal of $20 billion with no strings attached, with no accounting back to this Congress. Eventually that was reduced down somewhat. But of the dollars that were expended, we were not able to get reports back from the administration because amendments were disallowed in our committee for the billions of dollars that have gone to who knows where over there. Now they are trying to get amendments to look at maybe $6 billion that was expended. But let me tell you, the horses were out of the stalls before there were proper accounting procedures put into place. The truth will come out. But the record is clear who sought to get amendments and those who blocked them. That is in the record in the committee. It is outrageous.

I can remember when Paul Wolfowitz, who is no longer with the government, the President's big advisor on invading Iraq, when he said we would have this all paid for by oil sales, and we surely do not see that as even part of the equation.

As I thank my colleagues for organizing this Special Order tonight, I wanted to give a very specific example of what is happening in this country, not in Ohio, not in Massachusetts, but in Iowa and Arkansas and Illinois. As we do this Special Order, I would like to pay special tribute to excellence in a top-of-the-line quality company that is closing its doors, a company called Maytag Corporation that is headquartered in Newton, IA.

Let me say for the record I own no stock in Maytag Corporation. But our family, our household, is one of those who has appreciated the excellence of their products that have served the American people and the world for over 100 years. Sadly, this legendary American company, first founded in 1893 by F.L. Maytag, 35 miles east of Des Moines, IA, is soon to close its doors. And in Iowa, as well as subsidiary plants in Illinois and Arkansas, over 3,000 Americans will lose their jobs. The generations of Americans who crafted and built and serviced this all- American product called Maytag deserve recognition in this Congress. They should be proud of the heritage of which they are a part and of their commitment to quality. For indeed, their quality and dependability helped build the America that was self-reliant here at home.

The gentleman from Ohio was talking about how the United States is becoming more and more indebted to foreign creditors. Maytag was the kind of company that built a strong America. It was an America that did not become overly reliant on imports and imported componentry to support its operations. It was an America that believed that its own identity and strength depended on domestic firms dedicated to excellence, and we led the world.

The company valued its product, its community, and its workers. And when the gentleman from Massachusetts was talking about pensions being taken away, it was the kind of company that really did build community where people could depend on their retirement income.

I feel compelled to discuss for a few minutes, to pay tribute to this historic company, truly an American icon company, and its workforce. As America says good-bye to Maytag, we also say good-bye to the type of firm that shaped our identity as a society.

That identify made the United States a world leader in the 20th century in manufacturing and agriculture. And that identity has been clouded by the very issues you are talking about here tonight by our growing over-dependence on imported products and imported capital from across the oceans, and Maytag represented that part of our history when America understood what it had to do to build the best.

The American people will soon witness the pink-slipping of Maytag's thousands of workers and sadly become part of our history. Of course, and this goes into a point that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Delahunt mentioned, the most recent chief executive officer of Maytag who brokered this closure and sale is reputed to have made over $18 million in a golden parachute on the deal.

So my remarks tonight are really directed to the workers and management staff who hoped this day would never come. Wouldn't it be nice for America's consumers like myself to be able to travel to Newton, Iowa, and Heron, Illinois, and Searcy, AR, and say ``thank you'' to these workers and their families and friends who helped build an American legend company for over a century. Let's say thank you to them tonight.

Maytag Corporation, when it shuts its doors, will be closing a chapter in our history for generations that stood for high quality and high performance when they were America's industry leader. They helped define the manufacturing heartland from which Mr. Ryan and myself come, and their company represented the words ``quality'' and ``dependability.''

I will talk later about what made their products superior, but it is really amazing to me that we live in a time when we allow this kind of gold star company to bite the dust and we cannot even talk about it here in the Congress except during this particular period of time.

Their production will disappear and it will, just like our furniture industry, just like the television industry, just like us becoming energy dependent, it will become another nail in the coffin in America becoming too reliant on others.

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Ms. KAPTUR. I am so happy to see the chart that Congressman Ryan has put up there on how much interest we are paying on our borrowing, and I will let him go into that in detail. But I will just recount a story. Back when I was first elected to the Congress during the 1980s and served on what was then the Banking Committee, now called Financial Services. That tells you something right there. We went from a nation that believed in savings to a nation that believed in borrowing, and now we owe everybody because the whole banking philosophy changed. And we, at that point, had only about 8 percent, between 6 and 8 percent of our bonds that were sold to foreign investors. And I said, hey, we shouldn't go over 10 percent. We should make sure, went to see Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, all the different heads of the Fed, and said let us work on a program so the American people can buy our debt instruments. Why should we be selling more and more of these debt instruments to foreign countries? And they said oh, Congresswoman, it is too much trouble to get the Fed to have a website and to let grandmothers buy saving bonds for their grandkids, you know, get it at the bank and so forth. And I told them, put it in the Post Office. Let's have postal savings stamps like Roosevelt used to have. Let's own ourselves. Let's not be owned by foreign interests. And I can remember Mr. Greenspan saying to me, well, you know, we like to deal with 20 bond houses up on Wall Street. And I said how much of a fee do you pay them, Mr. Chairman? How much of a fee? And why shouldn't that be owned democratically across this country rather than just a few people in New York controlling our future?

So I just put that on the table here. Now over half of our debt securities are being purchased by foreign interests, and we owe what Mr. Ryan will now explain to the country.

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Ms. KAPTUR. If the gentleman would yield on that very good point. If you look back, they say to us, the Secretary of Treasury that just left, Mr. Snow says you know the real problem with China is the yuan. If we just vary the currency exchange rate, all of our problems will be solved. That is what they said to us back during the 1980s when Reagan was President. Don't worry about the trade deficit with Japan. When the yen-dollar exchange rates gets low enough our trade balance will just automatically come back into the black for the United States. Guess what? It never has because Japan is not an open market. China is not an open market. And if you look at who is, on the prior chart the gentleman had up there, if you look at who has lent us the most money, Japan, they are earning it off of us rather than opening their markets to U.S. automotive parts, to U.S. Maytag washing machines. You have got a closed market in Japan now using China as a back door for manufacturing with imported parts that are being put into everything. And we are not competing globally on a level playing field and it is killing our workers, and Washington refuses to respond.

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Ms. KAPTUR. Well, I think that the proof is in the pudding. Every single trade agreement this country has gotten itself into, whether it is NAFTA that was supposed to give us jobs, which has cost us nearly 1 million jobs now, was supposed to yield a trade surplus and it has yielded growing trade deficits. The same is true with the CAFTA countries. Now they want to push FTAA. If you look at what is happening to our country, we are losing the ability to produce the wealth that provided the middle class standard of living for a vast majority of our people, and that was America's great achievement in the 20th century. In addition to defeating Naziism and communism, it was our great achievement in the economy where we helped lift an entire society. We provided for seniors in their retirement years. We made affordable college education possible for those who had the ability and the will. And now we look at this century and we look at those possibilities being diminished for the families that used to see rising standards of living and rising tides. And it goes right back to mismanagement of the economy, the overborrowing that is going on, the lack of production, the lack of trade agreements that really open markets so that we can sell products and earn income so that we do not go into these trade deficits and end up having to monetize that through borrowing.

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Ms. KAPTUR. I want to endorse what the gentleman says and mention that the arrests that just occurred in Toronto were due to people driving up through Ohio, through Windsor, and going up into Canada. And we have been trying to get homeland security money at the northern border, and the Bush administration has just produced a budget, with their allies here in Congress, that cut the amount of money that cities like Toledo and Detroit, Cleveland received to protect this border with Canada. We cannot even get Coast Guard patrols up on Lake Erie. Members like PETER DEFAZIO of Oregon here have fought so hard to try to get 100 percent funding. We have had amendments in our committee to examine all containers offshore before coming to this country. They are simultaneously defeated every single time that we offer them.

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Ms. KAPTUR. No Republican votes. No Republican votes. So the problem is that we cannot do what is right for this country, and all that money we paid in interest due to borrowings we could fully fund the homeland security additional needs that we have. We could take care of those kids that cannot pay their college tuition. We could take care of veterans. We could take care of the water and sewer lines that the gentleman from Ohio, ``Mr. Ryan'' was talking about. That is how big $200 billion is. Roll all those agencies together, paid for, but not when you are extending yourself by all these borrowings.

And when the new head of the Federal Reserve made a statement that interest rates might have to go up because of this capital crunch our Nation is facing because of this debt, the markets got so skittish. The stock market dropped a couple days in a row. The real estate industry went crazy because they know if those rates go up, the kind of foreclosures you are experiencing in Massachusetts and we are definitely experiencing in Ohio are going to skyrocket. So the economy is at a critical edge. We are in unchartered waters in terms of the importance of these borrowings and the down draft that that is creating inside this society. It is really a very dangerous situation.

At the beginning of the 21st century when President Clinton left office, and there was much I disagreed with him about, but we had a balanced annual budget and were beginning to pay down our accumulated debt. And I can remember Alan Greenspan saying when we are getting down to zero and we were starting to pay not just the annual deficit down but the accumulated debt, he said, well, gosh, you know, it might be dangerous for America not to have some debt. And I remember hearing that statement and I thought what? What? America's strength comes from standing on her own two feet. What kind of international investments does he have?

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Ms. KAPTUR. Could I just comment on that to say the reason we have all this illegal immigration from south of our border is because NAFTA for the Mexican people totally disemboweled their rural countryside. It was planned. We have had over 2 million people who have lost their livelihoods. Peasant farmers. It is a sacrilege on this continent as far as what is going on. And the people have nowhere to go but to try to come up here to get food. They run across deserts. They risk their own lives lives. And why? Because their farmsteads were taken away from them. They have nowhere to go.

I tried to get agricultural amendments for transition in Mexico passed when NAFTA was considered. They were disallowed on the floor of this Congress under the Fast Track procedure, and now we are reaping the wrath of that agreement.

Those folks that are coming up here, illiterate, risking everything, for why? To feed their families. That is the reason for the illegal immigration. Unless we fix NAFTA, we are not going to fix the illegal immigration problem in this country. I don't care how many fences they build.

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