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Public Statements

The Congressional Black Caucus Hour

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RANGEL. Once again, I want to thank Judge Congresswoman Fudge for taking the time out as well as our leader, Barbara Lee, for showing the depth of commitment that we in the Congressional Black Caucus have not only for our communities, which traditionally, historically have borne the blunt of historic economic setbacks, but for the entire country, because in my experience, it appears as though our great Nation's national security is at stake.

We can talk about the terrorists, we can talk about those that are out to destroy our way of life, but we can destroy our own way of life because what made America great is not the bankers. It is those people that thought in this great country that they could aspire, that they could work hard and there would be no limits on what they can achieve.

But unemployment is more than a statistic. Loss of a job means more than losing your house and losing your health care. It also means losing your dignity. And I cannot foresee how it's possible to have an economic recovery and have a jobless state of the economy. It seems to me that more important than the exchange of stock showing that America is willing to take risk is, what does America think about its hope, its future for its children? It seems to me that what makes America so great is what we think we can achieve. And whether you talk about current unemployment, you have to consider those people who had no hope before the setback. What happens to a person that is not included in the statistic? What happens to a person that knows there's no job at the unemployment office? What happens to a person that has given up hope?

Even if the so-called economy recovers, where will their will be to exercise the skill that perhaps has been lost? And how do you regain hope once that is lost.

And so what I hope that we understand as a Nation is that it is not just those who are suffering out there, who are losing sometimes their family as well as their jobs, but it happens to be something that's going to affect the well-off, because the more we expand those people who have no money to spend, the more our small business people have no reason to be in existence.

And so we can talk about the stock market, but the world is not turning on our stock market; it's turning on the will of the American people. Internationally, if we begin to look, as we have in so many communities, as a developing nation, not having the will, not having the resources, not being able to feed our children, not being able to provide health care for our children, what is the difference in a mother or father's heart whether you are in a developing country, whether it's in the Middle East, whether it's in Africa; the love for your children has to be the same no matter what country you're in. If you can't feed your child, if you can't encourage your child, if you can't educate your child, if you can't point out how great your country is in terms of opportunity, then what makes us different as a great nation from those who are trying to achieve economic leverage?

And so, even though the hour is late, and I am late in getting here, make no mistake about it that you will be hearing from the Congressional Black Caucus every day, whether it's going to be on the floor, whether it's going to be in our districts, because there is something that brings us here more than just our conscience; it's that most of us know exactly what unemployment and the pain of unemployment is, the loss of dignity of unemployment. And then we have our families, and then we have our communities.

And so we really believe that for those people that believe that we don't understand, before this Congress ends, the President and this Congress, we truly understand that this is a threat to our national security, and as Americans, as patriots, and as those who advocate a strong economy and a strong workforce, we will be glad to let you know that we will be doing all and everything that we can, and we've got to get the job done.

Thank you so much for yielding me this time.

* [Begin Insert]

Madam Speaker, the recent November jobs report offers encouraging signs that the Recovery Act is indeed working and that the economy has started to grow. Over the last three months, job losses have come down to the lowest level in two years. But the report is also a sobering reminder of the need to continue to advance policies that stimulate job creation and support the needs of American families and businesses that are struggling.

Nearly 16 million Americans are jobless, up 558,000 from last month. Unemployment is more than just a number--it's a measure of suffering. It's that many more children living in poverty. It's that many more families subsisting off of food stamps, which now feed 1 in every 8 Americans and nearly 1 in every 4 children.

An economic recovery plan focused on salvaging Wall Street, credit-frozen banks, and slumping American automakers--while all right and good--is not a meaningful recovery if it does not help struggling families.

That's why the Obama Administration, in addition to all of its great work in turning this economy around, hosted a jobs summit last week aimed at putting Americans back to work, and I am looking forward to working with the President to do just that. President Obama's Recovery Act has already resulted in as many as 1.6 million Americans gaining jobs.

But unemployment remains at crisis levels. In New York City, the jobless rate for people 16 and over has increased over the past year by 73.7 percent. Half of the city's residents who are near poverty report experiencing three or more hardships at once, including falling behind on rent, not filling a prescription, or being unable to purchase enough food. The President's efforts to stave off depression and economic collapse have helped, but millions of Americans are saying, ``Tell that to my landlord.'' Rebounding economic statistics mean little when so many Americans are still struggling economically.

Over the course of the next few weeks, creating jobs will be my first and foremost priority. I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues in Congress, including members of the Congress Black Caucus.

African American and Latino families are among those that suffer the most from a recession because they are disproportionately impacted by a weak economy and do not have the safety net enjoyed by others. The unemployment rate for all African-Americans is about 50 percent higher than the nation as a whole, and more than 1 in 4 low-income Latinos in New York reported losing their jobs in the past year. We must offer fresh and bold solutions to cultivate an economy that works for us all. Not just the wealthy. Not just the politically connected. But all of us.

Not only is America hurting; so are our kids. New York City has 200,000 disconnected youth on its streets, kids ages 16 to 24 not in school and without employment. New York houses more kids in state prisons than it does on college campuses. Nowadays, it isn't just high school dropouts who are out of work. Americans from all economic groups are falling prey to a shrinking workforce, whether it's the hospital worker laid off after toiling at the same job for decades, or the college graduate having a tough time finding a job. In fact, Black college graduates are having a tougher time finding employment than their White counterparts, both those with and without a degree. We are all vulnerable, and we all deserve a helping hand in pulling through these difficult times.

There can be no excess of good ideas to combat this crisis sweeping our nation. One thing we can do, and do immediately, is extend unemployment insurance. It is urgent that we provide out-of-work Americans with instant relief. Additionally, the White House has committed itself to expanding green job opportunities through the Recovery through Retrofit program. These are good green jobs that can't be outsourced.

We must enact aggressive measures aimed at employing our young people at this critical time. The Administration is launching its ``Educate to Innovate'' campaign to improve participation and performance in the sciences through partnerships with foundations, nonprofits, and science and engineering societies. National service programs must be well funded, and we must develop an ambitious strategy to urge our youth to participate in them.

In the House, I am working with my Democratic colleagues on a jobs package that would include additional funding for infrastructure projects, like highway construction and renovation, bonds for building schools, and the expansion of the successful Build America Bonds program, already funding several infrastructure projects across the country. These projects are designed to put Americans immediately to work, all while making America safer and stronger.

In an effort to boost small business creation and tackle credit-freeze, we are anticipating expanding small business loans, providing fixes for community banks, and extending small business and bonus depreciation provisions from the stimulus package. Even the creation of green empowerment zones--those areas where at least 50 percent of the population has an unemployment rate higher than the state average--would provide tax incentives to businesses that hire individuals who live and work in those areas that are most suffering.

We are in the midst of a national emergency, but as a unified people, looking after each other, we will get through this stronger and far more prosperous.


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