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Public Statements

Make Serious Investments in this Country's Future

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. YARMUTH. Mr. Speaker, tonight the President of the United States will deliver the State of the Union address, as we all know. If the reports are accurate, what he will talk about today is the need to make serious investments in this country's future.

Now, we have just heard from a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and we have heard from many Republicans over the last few days, concerning the issue of spending and whether or not we need to be spending any more money in this time of admittedly dire financial circumstances.

You know, most families, when they borrow money, they do it for two reasons: either for survival--they need to eat; they need to feed their children; they may need a house for their family; they need to clothe them--or they borrow because they see an opportunity to invest and to make their lives better down the road.

Now, I know that many people don't think of government spending as investment. But if we look back not too long, just over recent history, the last few decades, we have seen numerous instances in which government investment has not only created jobs, it has spawned entirely new industries.

As a matter of fact, even though people made fun of Al Gore many years ago, the fact is that government investment actually created the Internet. Government investment, through the Defense Department and other research institutions, has created literally billions and billions of dollars in private sector growth and created thousands and thousands and thousands of new jobs.

We face a very difficult choice right now. We can sit back while the rest of the world advances, or we can make the tough choices right now to make serious and important investments that will not just create new industries but may, in fact, solve some of our most intractable problems. I am talking here about medical research, for one.

We now invest $6 billion a year in cancer research. Cancer treatment and the cost to society because of cancer amounts to literally hundreds of billions of dollars each year. It costs Medicare. It costs Medicaid. It costs the private system. If we spent $20 billion a year on medical research for cancer and over 10 years finally cured it, made it manageable in an inexpensive way, the long-term payback to this country would be enormous.

One of the problems with analyzing our health care reform proposal, now in the law the Affordable Health Care Act, is that we weren't able to factor in the long-term benefits of preventive care, research, more efficient operations, because they are not quantifiable.

But we know that if we could just deal with two major diseases, diabetes and cancer, then we would probably solve our long-term health care financial issues. So tonight the President will lay out choices for us. And I think this is a very, very important aspect of our public dialogue right now. We need to make sure that not only the American people, but also every Member of Congress, really understand what our choices are. Because it's very, very easy to stand up and say we're going to cut spending by $100 billion in the Federal Government when you're not willing to talk about what specifically you're willing to cut. And my colleague from Minnesota just said the President may not be specific. Well, the fact is, Republicans haven't been specific either.

We need this laid out for the American people. We need it laid out for us. We have difficult choices. We need to make them. I think the President is on the right track. We cannot cut back right now on medical research. We cannot cut back on the type of research that will create new industries, particularly in the energy field. We cannot cut back right now in education when the rest of the world is passing us by in terms of the achievement of their students. And we cannot cut back right now on investments in our infrastructure when much of it is crumbling around us.

So I look forward to the debate we're going to have over the next few months. It's an important debate. It's probably the most serious debate we've had in this country in decades, because we are at a crossroads. We can allow this country to become a secondary international power, or we can maintain our status as not just the world's largest economy, but the world's most ingenious economy, the world's most innovative country, and a society which cares about making life better for every American citizen.

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