Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement following President Obama's jobs proposal, delivered this evening to a joint session of Congress.
"The Republican House promised a "laser-like' focus on jobs during the 2010 campaign, and they have failed to produce a single jobs bill. After the Republican Senate filibustered every jobs bill in 2010, this doesn't come as a surprise. However, this is too important of an issue to be bogged down in the partisan politics of the past. Out-of-work Americans know no political affiliation.
"There are many ways we can save and create jobs, if we choose to work together. There is common ground, but both sides need to have the political courage to find it. I call on my colleagues to remember why we are here in Washington, and to keep the millions of American families and businesses struggling to make ends meet in mind when we discuss these proposals.
"These last few years have been very tough for the American people, dating back to when the economy began its collapse during the last two years of the Bush Administration. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their job during that span of time. People lost their homes, their livelihood and their belief in the American Dream. President Obama and the Democratic Congress stopped the freefall in 2009, but the damage was far greater than anyone realized at the time. Since then, the recovery has faltered and far too many people are still looking for work. Sadly, they cannot look to Congress for help because recently we have shown them no reason to believe we can get past our own harmful rhetoric.
"The Recovery Act of 2009 halted the downward spiral of our economy and helped keep things from turning far worse. Of the $787 billion included in the Recovery Act, $299 billion went to tax cuts, almost half of the entire amount spent. The tax benefits come in various forms, including the Making Work Pay tax credit, COBRA Continuation Coverage Assistance, and tax incentives for businesses, in addition to the $70 billion which went to the Alternative Minimum Tax fix. I find it hard to believe my Republican colleagues continue to say the Recovery Act was a failure, despite tax cuts which help the middle class.
"Meanwhile, only 15% went to infrastructure and science, which to me was too little. I applaud the President for his commitment to addressing this disparity, and choosing to invest in our crumbling roads and bridges. Investment in our infrastructure also means an investment in our workforce. Worldwide, the United States ranks 23rd in quality of its overall infrastructure. Not only is there a dangerous safety issue at hand, which will only get worse, but there are also hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake. We cannot be pennywise and pound foolish. China currently spends nine percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year on infrastructure investments, and India spends five percent. The United States invests only 1.9 percent. This is not the way to be competitive in the 21st century.
"For example, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says that a $50 billion investment in school renovation could create half a million jobs in 1-2 years. If we fail to reauthorize the transportation bill, we would lose 4,000 jobs instantly, $1 billion in revenue in the first 10 days, and approximately one million jobs in the first year. Both the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce agree with President Obama's plan. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 42 jobs are created for every $1 million in transportation construction funding.
"A recent report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers found that the crumbling surface transportation infrastructure will cost the economy more than 877,000 jobs. Failure to increase investment in surface transportation over the next ten years will have significant economic implications -- resulting in U.S. businesses paying an additional $430 billion in transportation costs, household incomes falling by more than $7,000, and U.S. exports falling by $28 billion.
"The Recovery Act invested in medical research, not only continuing the quest to cure cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and other diseases, but bolstering employment in the health care industry. In my district alone, over 21,000 people are employed by hospitals, with over 370,000 statewide. The GOP deficit reduction proposal would slash Graduate Medical Education and eliminate thousands of jobs in New York, and many more across the nation."
"Tonight needs to be a defining moment for the 112th Congress. We can put partisan politics aside and work to put America back to work, or we can remain on the sidelines and continue to throw rhetorical bombs at each other. This will only prolong the suffering of our fellow unemployed Americans. I am committed to reaching out to my colleagues to work together and help end the misery."