Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) participated in a press conference today with her Congressional Black Caucus colleagues to follow up on the Jan. 28th CBC Debt Commission by rolling out a white paper on the panel's findings, and to discuss the Republicans' extreme budget plans. The following remarks were prepared for delivery:
"Thank you very much. I want to thank Chairman Cleaver for convening this press conference today to follow up on the CBC Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation that we held on January 28th. And I'd like to thank Congressman Bobby Scott and my other colleagues here today for their work on these issues.
During my opening remarks at the Commission two weeks ago, I said that "The 112th Congress will be defined by the current $1.6 trillion deficit. Democrats, and Republican lawmakers, are concerned about what impact the deficit will have on the economy, on our ability to borrow funds, and on the continued financial viability of our country. However, even more concerning than the threats the deficit poses are certain proposals to address the deficit."
And during my remarks I focused on the government's important role in investing in and supporting organizations like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau & the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion; programs like Section 8 and Community Development Block Grants; and initiatives like affordable housing and helping people avoid foreclosure.
Government investment in people, education, infrastructure, and innovation can create jobs, and these jobs pay for themselves and then some by allowing people to earn, spend, invest, and save.
Simply put, we need the investments now more than ever. One of the experts at my portion of the Debt Panel, Dr. Algernon Austin, had some sobering statistics to share, which are detailed in the CBC report:
* The U.S. ranked 20th out of 24 countries in providing early childhood education;
* The U.S. ranked 12th out of 36 countries in college completion rates;
* U.S. Schools need nearly $300 billion of required maintenance ;
* 29% of all U.S. transit assets are in poor or marginal condition; and
* The U.S. ranked 15th out of 30 nations in broadband penetration .
These facts should give all policymakers pause. But we can do something about it! Construction workers, technical and transportation experts, childcare providers, teachers, students -- these kinds of populations can be supported through key government investments in jobs.
I want to take a minute to describe one concrete example of an initiative that requires government investment to strengthen communities, improve and upgrade infrastructure, and most importantly create and sustain jobs. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG):
* Helps homeowners rehabilitate their properties, including removing lead paint hazards;
* Empowers cities to pursue code enforcement, so that abandoned properties don't become safe havens for illegal activity;
* Enables cities to improve their infrastructure;
* Allows cities to enforce fair housing laws; and most importantly
* CDBG is a job creator. It funds small business incubation programs; it funds job training and job placement services; and it allows cities to leverage private sector money for economic development.
If you look at the Recovery Act website you can see information on 824 CDBG grants issued since 2009. The data shows that CDBG is creating one job for every $7,000 of federal spending -- a rate 8 times as effective as the rest of the job programs funded under the Act.
In the Republicans' extreme budget plan, CDBG funding would be slashed to $1.5 billion from $4.45 billion annually. Of course, this is just one of their excessive and indiscriminate cuts to the federal budget, but it speaks volumes about their disconnect from what government actually does.
One of the few things they do believe in, however, is that government should cut taxes for the wealthiest among us. The tax-deal that was reached by Congressional Republicans and President Obama late last year is estimated to cost almost $900 billion over 10 years, as laid out in the CBC report and reported elsewhere. That deal, alone, is over half the projected deficit we're currently facing.
So why can't we talk more about that bad deal? Why can't we seriously talk about fiscal reforms to our massive defense budget? Why can't we say if we got rid of the tax cuts for the wealthiest and if we got serious about ending the war in Afghanistan, which currently costs about $2 billion a week, we could make serious inroads toward getting our fiscal house in order?
Well, I am saying it today. We are saying it together through this report and through our commitment to the American people to not balance budgets on the backs of the least of these.
Other solutions to deficit reduction and job creation exist. We only need to summon the courage to have an honest and open conversation about all of our options.