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Public Statements

The American Economy

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. KAPTUR. I thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

I am very pleased to join my colleagues this evening, including John Garamendi of California, to talk a little bit about the standoff that appears to be happening in discussions between the Senate and the House and the seemingly irresolvable issue of whether or not average American families are going to be able to maintain a tax benefit on their payroll tax deduction relating to Social Security contributions for the average family, which is about $1,000 a year; or whether that money is going to be taken away from them and, instead, tax breaks given to multimillionaires and billionaires in our country.

It appears that the Republican Party is quite averse to having everybody in this country pay their fair share, so I just want to go on record as saying, at this point in our economic recovery, nothing could be more important than keeping that tax benefit in the hands and pockets of America's families. They're the ones who actually take those dollars every month and buy essentials, not extravagant purchases. They make their car payments if they're fortunate enough to have cars; they buy enough food for their families; they buy clothing; my golly, during the holiday season, they might even be able to buy a little bit extra--something special--for their holiday dinners; and they pay down some of the debt their kids have in trying to pay their college or after-high school training bills.

It's really amazing to me that in the richest and most powerful country in the world that we continue to have this tremendous friction here in the Congress to do something that is so reasonable--that is just so eminently reasonable--and would contribute to economic growth. We know that consumer spending is the most powerful instrument to help lift this economy out of its doldrums.

We see the automotive industry recover, this industry that the Obama administration and certain Members of this Congress worked so hard to fight for the recovery of; and we got more signs of that today in Ohio with a wonderful announcement by Ford that it is moving its truck line from Mexico back up to Avon Lake, Ohio, and that it's making over a $128 million investment there. We see car sales increasing, and that's because people have spendable income.

So why at this point in our history would you want to allow those who have the most not to pay their fair share and take away $1,000 a year, on average, from middle class families who would spend those dollars in helping to propel economic growth?

I can guarantee you that at firms that I represent, like Chrysler, Jeep, Fiat, that the Wrangler, that the Cherokee, that the Liberty are selling very well and that General Motors' Cruze vehicle, which is largely a northern Ohio-made car, is selling like hotcakes because people are able to make those monthly payments. So that particular part of the discussion here in Washington makes such eminent sense.

Why in the world would you want to penalize middle class families because you want to just take care of the top 1 percent? It simply isn't fair. It simply isn't fair.

It would seem to me, in the holiday spirit, that the tax-writing committees of both Chambers should get together and figure out a solution that is fair to all families. It's pretty clear to me what that is, and it's pretty clear to me that with corporate profits at all-time highs and with those who run these corporations and sit on their boards that they have been doing quite well, thank you, and it's time for them to do something for the Republic.

It's not that big a deal. Who is going to miss an eighth home or a seventh yacht? But the average family is having trouble meeting its credit card debt, paying its children's bills, having enough, as prices go up, to pay for food on the table, and taking care of elderly relatives sometimes who need extra medications.

So I would urge those in both Chambers who are on these budget and tax-writing committees to spend the time that's necessary and not burden the American people with unnecessary delay. Instead, give the economy the boost that it needs by maintaining the middle class payroll tax cut and by making those in the top 1 percent pay their fair share.

Many, many years ago, they paid a lot more percentage-wise than they do today, and we had lots of job creation in this country. It simply eludes me why those at the very top of the income scale, who have taken most of the benefit of growth in the last 20 years and who are doing so well, are so averse to helping our

country and to making sure that everyone has a chance to prosper because, when everyone prospers, so does the top 1 percent. That's where this consumer spending injection from the middle class payroll tax cut plays such a significant role in the economy.

Now, as we buy for the holiday season, nothing could be more important than buying ``made in the USA'' goods. Why is that important? It's important because, when you see that label, ``made in the USA,'' you know that those dollars flow back to that company and to those workers and that you actually help build wealth in this country.

Last weekend, when we were doing some shopping for the holidays, we went in one store. I kept looking at labels, and it was China, China, China; and I'd put them back on the shelf. It was actually staggering what percentage of those goods--a majority of the goods on the shelves--were actually made someplace else. I made a point of going to a craft fair in our region and was able to buy several Christmas gifts that were handmade. I felt really good about that because I knew that those were people who had taken their artistic abilities and that they had created tableware, table linens and other items. There was jewelry that was handmade. I knew the profits would benefit those families and that they would go to the communities that they came from. It shouldn't be so hard to find ``made in the USA'' goods on the shelves of our major retailers.

So I would just urge our citizens--and I know sometimes it's hard--as you're doing your holiday shopping to really try to look for that label ``made in the USA'' and to help your own community. Find small businesses and find products in your community that are made here so that those dollars recirculate over and over and over again and so they help to build the real wealth of our Nation that made America great.

I would urge you to look at candy-makers in your region, at those who are making cookies, at those who are small entrepreneurs of different kinds, making scarves. I was able to go to one potter in our region, and I ordered several items for this holiday season. That's a local artist who has her own shop and makes her own goods right there. She exports out of that shop, and I know that that's going to help our region grow. So we can do a lot in our own lives and in the way that we spend those precious dollars to really help job creation in our regions, in our country, at a time when we really need it.

I see that some of our other colleagues have joined us here on the floor. I want to thank Congressman Paul Tonko of the great State of New York for joining us this evening. He is such an outstanding and really relentless voice on job creation and economic recovery in our country.

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Ms. KAPTUR. Congressman Tonko, I want to thank you so much for coming to the floor tonight to again express your deep and abiding passion for jobs in our country. And I wanted to follow on something you said.

This is actually a chart which shows our trade deficit with China. Like your community, our communities are just loaded with goods that are coming in here from China. And if we just look back at the last decade, the enormous rise in those goods on our shelves, when you really put the math of it on a chart, it looks like an avalanche. It is just crowding all this money--in 2010, over $273 billion of hard-earned American money was actually used to purchase Chinese goods, and that money then went back to, not the United States, but to China.

And you think about the displacement of production in this country, for everything from tableware to sometimes food products now, and I had an experience over the weekend because I like to work with small businesses,

and I ran into a woman who was blending coffee, she's called a master roaster, and her product is called Bea's Blends, Bea's Blends from Toledo, Ohio.

And she was asking me, I want to expand my company but I need a very small loan, and I don't want to go into debt and, oh, gosh, what should I do next? And I told her I would try to put her in touch with the Small Business Administration.

But it was really, when you said the optimism that you have, I'm meeting companies all the time that are inventing new products--incidentally very good products--and trying to counter this trend of more imports versus our exports. And her product is a product that can be sold locally, it can be sold interstate, and ultimately it can be sold internationally because it's vacuum packed.

And I was thinking about the creativity of this individual American trying to make it in a very tough economy. And then a couple of days later I was over at a coffee shop in Lakewood, Ohio, and I happened to tell the owner of that shop--also a woman--that I had met this master roaster. And she said to me, well, you know, Congresswoman, it's interesting you should say that. I'm trying to bring together all these master roasters across the coast.

I said, gosh, we have coastal roasters or roaster coastals? But the point was people were thinking, they were creative, they were bringing something new to the market, beautifully labeled, an excellent product, and trying to counter these trends.

And because small business is located in our communities, it's interesting to look at the last several years as well, which conform to the rise of Chinese imports and other imports into our country. And look at the distribution of income of people in our country. And what's happening is what the American people obviously know, which is why we need to maintain the payroll tax holiday and to make those in the top 1 percent pay their fair share.

The divergence between people who are in the lower income spectrum and the upper has just exploded. It is just that before, those who had much and those who had just enough and those who had little were not so far apart. But the gap has just widened to a level where the American people know something is fundamentally wrong, and that the ship of State is very out of balance, and that somehow we have to begin to make sure that all boats are lifted in this society and not just some boats get lifted.

And we know that job creation, business growth, business startups, business expansion of American-made products are essential; products that can be exported, that can help to close the trade gap but also then begin to narrow the income gap that we see as we allow more income to be earned by those who are in the middle class and who are in some of the categories of income where they're stretching just to make it every day, every week, to put enough food on the table.

This is really almost un-American. This looks more like an old, stratified society from times past that was very, very undemocratic, places where we wouldn't want to live, the kinds of places that our relatives fled because they couldn't get enough to eat, because they didn't have a chance to earn a fair day's wage.

We are joined this evening by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from the great State of Texas, such a hardworking and able Member who is such a voice for citizens across our country and our world every day.

We thank you so much for joining us this evening.

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Ms. KAPTUR. I want to thank you so much for bringing this family's plight to light here in the Congress on behalf of all of America's families who are suffering at this holiday season.

Isn't it an indictment on the legislative branch of this country at the national level that when people need unemployment benefits, we have to run out the clock right to the bitter end, right to the bitter end for benefits that have been earned--earned.

In church on Sunday, a couple came up to me and the husband asked: Congresswoman, if you know of any other jobs, please let me know. What's going to happen with unemployment benefits? This was a family that obviously needed help, a family that had spent their entire life, the man and wife, both working.

He didn't want to ask about the unemployment benefits; but he knew that for that family, maybe it was all that would be there in the near term.

I'll give you a couple of figures I would like to put on the record this evening. One, I called the head of one of our major railroads the other day because I was trying to get the word out across my region--not everybody is plugged into the Internet--that there were 4,000 jobs that CSX was offering around the country. I wanted to make sure that people in our region knew that they were available. The chief executive officer of the company said, Well, you know, we've had 500,000 applications for 4,000 jobs
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The American people want to work. It is not that they do not want to work, as some of our friends on the other side infer. No, no. They're looking every day. They're just not finding the jobs that existed in past generations. And we know that those jobs have been displaced by imports from places like China. And company after company that used to be located in our neighborhoods aren't there anymore.

So it's harder to find jobs. We have to create new jobs. But the new ones aren't coming on stream fast enough. The level of desire to work in our country is so much higher. Millions more people want to work than there are jobs available right now. And so for many families, unemployment insurance is all that's left for them. Again, this Congress is just waiting to the bitter moment rather than acting responsibly to help families who have literally built this country and who have a very good work ethic and want to work.

So I want to thank the gentlelady from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee) for bringing this subject up and putting a human face on what this unemployment really looks like out in the country. If anyone has any doubt, come to Ohio. Come meet these families who want to work and are looking every day.

Of course, the way it works, you can't go into a company. They tell you, Well, we might have a hundred jobs but apply to us through the Internet. It's like you go into this faceless system where you can't really find a human being.

They're trying out there in the country. All the economic figures show us--and the last thing I will say here for this segment--Mark Zandi from Moody's has classified every single expenditure that one can make that gives the economy more than a dollar for every dollar expended. Would you believe that if one looks at things like unemployment insurance and payments to the unemployed, that produces the biggest bang to the economy? Well over $1.35 for every dollar invested as opposed to, let's say, tax credits or something like that, these arcane tax provisions, where less than 30 cents is actually reinvested in the economy.

So unemployment insurance extensions also make sense for economic growth at this very tender time because the people who receive those benefits spend them on essentials that drive the economy.

I yield to the gentlelady.

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Ms. KAPTUR. If the gentleman would just yield, I'd like to add that I agree with you completely. Every small business that I walk into tells me, Marcy, bring me customers. Customers are a function of having spendable income.

There are no more important decisions we could make as a country, right now, as we finish the month of December, than to make sure that middle class families have spendable income by not raising their taxes; middle class families, who've been holding the line here without real additional spending power over the last decade, and to make sure that we extend unemployment benefits to those who've earned those benefits because that has the maximum bang inside the economy when people spend those dollars on basics, on essentials.

Those are two practical decisions from an economic standpoint no rational human being would disagree with. And they contribute to economic growth. They contribute to keeping us on an upward path as we move forward here in our country after coming out of this deep, deep, deep recession.

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