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Public Statements

Unemployment

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. STABENOW. In closing, I wish to take a few more minutes to stress again how disappointing and, frankly, outrageous I find what happened tonight to be as it relates to the continual 8 weeks of blocking the jobs bill in front of us, for the ability for people who are out of work to be able to get some temporary help just to be able to keep things going for their family while they are looking for that next job. There are almost 1 million people who find themselves in a situation now where they have lost their jobs and have lost their insurance benefits, insurance benefits paid in when they were working to then be able to get help when they are not working, as any of us would want for ourselves and our families.

We are in a situation where we cannot get beyond--we cannot get even beyond one, and we need two Republican colleagues--we cannot even get one to be able to join with us to overturn this filibuster. We have a bill, a jobs bill in front of us that would provide tax cuts to businesses, provide help to State and local and municipal governments to keep police officers, firefighters, and teachers on the job in our communities for our children, and the other side has said no.

Time after time, no. We are putting much needed tax cuts, money back into the pockets of middle-class families. The other side has said no. We wanted to help small businesses be able to restore credit to create jobs. They said no. We want to help people who are going back to school to start a new career, people who have been looking for work, and they have said no. And we want to make sure we are investing in the kinds of jobs that are going to rebuild America--roads and bridges, other kinds of construction efforts, good-paying jobs for engineers, construction workers. Those provisions were in this bill, and they have said no. For people who are out of work, they have gotten a great big no, no way, time and time again from colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

We know that for every $1 we put into unemployment insurance benefits, we get, according to Mark Zandi, an economist, and certainly many other economists, at least $1.40 back in investment. Why? Because somebody goes to the store and buys some food with that $200 or $300 a month in unemployment benefits. They go buy some shoes for the kids. They put gas in the car. They keep the lights on. They are able to pay their rent or the mortgage or do other things we all want to be able to do for our families, for our children. So when you give unemployment insurance benefits to someone who is out of work, they, unfortunately for themselves, have to turn right around and spend it. But from an economic standpoint, that is stimulus, which is why that is viewed as one of the best economic stimuli you can have, to be able to provide assistance for people who are going to turn around and spend it in the economy.

We are struggling now. Even though we have the majority in the Senate, we do not have a supermajority, enough to stop filibusters. And we are struggling with a perversion of the Senate rules that has taken place. I think, frankly, our forefathers would be rolling over in their graves to see the perversion that has gone on here. Instead of using a majority vote like any of us would use if we were in an election--one more vote than the other guy wins the election--here one more vote than the other guy does not get us moving forward because of the efforts to block, obstruct, and filibuster that go on every single day and require 60 votes in order to overcome.

So what are they saying no to? Why are they blocking and stopping? Why do we see this continual effort to go back to the way it was, to go back to the policies that got us where we are today? We are in a situation now where we want to go forward. We want to change things. We want to go forward. And all we get are efforts to take us back.

Well, what was happening then? What was happening at the place they want to go? Well, in the last Presidency, when they were in charge, we saw us lose jobs, more and more jobs throughout the 8 years of this former President. And there were a number of reasons: wrong economic policies; wrong investments; investing in people who were very wealthy hoping that it would trickle down; not enforcing our trade laws; not stopping the incentives to ship our jobs overseas; not paying attention to manufacturing and making things in this country; and, frankly, not paying for things; two wars, not paid for; Medicare prescription drug benefit, not paid for--nothing was paid for. Everything was put on the credit card. And now the people who got us into this ditch, amazingly, are arguing for policies to take us back into the ditch. They dug the ditch, and now they want us to give them back the shovel and get more shovels to dig a bigger one.

We have a very different view and, frankly, a different set of priorities on whom we are fighting for. We are losing the middle class of this country. We are losing the middle class of this country because of the policies that have focused not on jobs, not on things that matter to middle-class families, working-class families, but on what the privileged few care about.

The philosophy that got us where we are, which this President inherited, President Obama, was a philosophy that said that a tax cut to the wealthy solves every problem and, by the way, step back and let corporate America regulate themselves, police themselves, and everything will be OK.

Well, we saw what happened on Wall Street--millions of jobs lost, 401(k)s gone, pensions gone, savings gone. We have seen what happened in the gulf when the oil companies policed themselves. We saw what happened in West Virginia, where the miners lost their lives because the mines were policing themselves. And we saw what happened economically in terms of job loss.

This really is a bigger fight than just the jobs bill in front of us. It is about whose side you are on. It is about what your values and priorities are. And I can tell you, just as a practical matter, I am going to support whatever works for the people I represent, whatever works for the people in Michigan.

This did not work, this red ink getting longer and longer and longer. President Obama comes in; 750,000 jobs lost a month. We put in a jobs bill, a Recovery Act to focus on manufacturing and small businesses, job training, to help the people who lost their jobs. It has been slow because the hole was so deep, but we have begun to turn it around. By the end of the year, we got it to zero jobs lost, and now we are gaining jobs. Now we have to keep gaining jobs. We are returning accountability and commonsense regulation to Wall Street, to the oil industry, and to other areas where lives could be lost and there is a public interest.

So we are in the middle of a major debate in this country. And what I find most disturbing is that too many on the other side of the aisle are rooting for failure. They want the President to fail. They want our majority to fail. But in the process of that, we all will fail. The country will fail if we do not have a set of economic policies and investments and partnerships that work, if we do not focus on the people who need temporary help and support right now while they hold their family together and look for a job.

When I think about the men and women fighting overseas, fighting in two wars around the world for our great democracy, they want to know that they are coming home to a job; that their family has a house; that the kids are going to be able to go to college; that they are going to be able to breathe fresh air and drink clean water; and that somehow that they were fighting not for some craziness, some crazy political battlefield here, but for a sense of love and thought about our country and the people in our country.

Patriotism really is, when it comes to our country, against other countries in the world, it is fighting for our side--not our side of the aisle but our country, not rooting for people to fail just so you can get a short-term political advantage. I hope that does not work. Obviously, you could say for personal reasons, we do not want it to work, but I hope it does not work for our country because we have to get beyond this and be able to work together because too many people are counting on us.

In closing this evening, I want to express an apology to everyone who is caught in this economic tsunami. I am not going to stand here and apologize to BP, but I am going to apologize to the people who are out of work in this country for what has happened today because it is shameful. And over 87,000 people in my State are going to be directly affected by this by the end of next week. I apologize to them for what has happened because it is wrong. It is wrong. And we are going to do everything we can to turn this around because people are counting on us to do that.


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