BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to address several issues. First, I would like to talk a little bit about the DISCLOSE Act.
Earlier this week we had two votes on whether to end debate on whether to debate the DISCLOSE Act. The DISCLOSE Act is a very simple concept, and it is that folks who make very large donations to the political system disclose who they are so the citizens of America can know where that money is coming from. Is it coming from this particular sector or that particular sector? Is the group that is posing as Blue Skies for a Healthier America actually working to create dirty skies for a less healthy America? Is the group that says it is for clean streams actually a group that is trying to weaken the pollution control standards and put more pollution into the streams?
Citizens have a right to know where the money is coming from in a public discourse, especially very large contributions, because right now what we have are folks who are putting in millions of dollars. I ask you, how many Americans can put $1 million into a campaign? In the world I live in, $100 is a lot of money. People can't connect that there are folks out there who are saying they are going to put in $1 million, and they certainly can't connect with the folks out there who are saying: I am going to put $100 million in.
I think the Koch brothers have been bragging across this country about how they are going to buy the elections so they can control where this country heads. That is perhaps the most ill-conceived notion there is, but at least they are willing to stand in public and say what their plan is. At least they are willing to say: We are not going to hide and do it secretly. They are going to tell us they are putting in their money. Now, where they put their money and whom that money is used to attack we may not know, so even in their case we need the DISCLOSE Act.
It is confounding that so many Members of this body argued for the fact that disclosure is the disinfectant, so many Members of this body argued that citizens have a right to know, so many Members of this body said this is fundamental to fair debate in a democracy, and then when the time came to decide whether this would happen, they said: Oops. I am benefiting from this a lot. I guess I will set that principle aside and not argue for disclosure after all.
So we had two votes this week in which the outcome did not reach a supermajority because we had individuals in this body who objected to a simple majority vote to get to the bill. So we had to have a supermajority under the arcane rules of this body, and we didn't get that supermajority because we didn't have bipartisan support for debating this issue.
I must say to my colleagues who voted against it, if they believe in the debate in this society, they should at least say, yes, let's debate the bill. Maybe they do not like the bill at the end, maybe they want to filibuster the bill at the end, but at least we should be discussing it. It is such a huge factor in this Nation.
There was a time not so long ago when we had the muckraker era, and there were a series of articles that were written about how Senators in this body--I believe it was 20 articles over 20 months--were owned by different companies around this land. Those articles helped the American public understand what was going on in this body, in this very Chamber. The result was a constitutional amendment, a constitutional amendment that shifted from indirect election of Senators to direct election, to try to free the system in favor of ``We the people.''
When we came to this country, when our ancestors came to this country from overseas, they came from a system where wealth and power made all the decisions. They did not have a voice. They came to America, and they said we want to do it differently. We want to have a voice. The first three words of the Constitution captured that, ``We the people''--not we the rich and powerful who write the rules but ``We the people'' will decide how we are governed.
The Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, which allows unlimited secret oceans of money being spent with no identification, goes completely against ``We the people.'' It is going to be up to this Chamber to wrestle with this idea. That is why we should be on the DISCLOSE Act right now. We should be debating the impact. We should be debating the history of Montana.
One hundred years ago, folks in Montana said our State is ruled by the copper kings and we are tired of we the rich and powerful setting rules and we are going to take it back because we believe in ``We the people,'' we believe in our Constitution. So they changed the rules in their State and our supreme court just a couple weeks ago gave them a 100th anniversary present, which was to strike down ``We the people'' in Montana, with no debate. The supreme court, five justices, said we don't want to have any information about how Montana politics were corrupted by vast pools of money. We don't want to know that history. We do not want to know how the people of that State, exercising their power as a State, reclaimed their democracy for the ordinary person. They put their hands over their eyes, they put their hands over their ears, and they said: We summarily decide against this case, against Montana, taking no evidence.
That is a dark moment for our supreme court. It follows on from the dramatically terrible decision of Citizens United. We must debate those issues on the floor of this Senate.
There are folks here who like to say in the tradition that the Senate is the world's greatest deliberative body. Then let's deliberate. Let's not vote against even having a conversation about some of the most monumental issues of our age.
This is a conversation that must continue. We must wrestle with how to honor the very premise at the heart of our Constitution, at the heart of our Republic, and not have ``We the people'' crossed off, out of the Constitution.
I turn to another issue; that is, the bill that is on the floor right now, the Bring Jobs Home Act. We have a manufacturing sector in crisis in America. Since the year 2000, America has lost about 5 million manufacturing jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more than 42,000 factories. Today, America has only about the same number of workers employed in manufacturing as we did in 1941, more than 70 years ago. My home State of Oregon has been hit particularly hard. This trend, the loss of manufacturing jobs, strikes at the heart of the middle class because these are often living-wage jobs. These are full-time jobs. These are jobs with benefits. They provide a foundation for our families to succeed, a foundation for families to raise their children so the children will have opportunity and promise.
Put simply, if we do not make products in America, we will not have the middle class in America. We can see the middle class shrinking year by year, right now, as we lose our manufacturing base. These jobs are not disappearing into thin air. Yes, some factories shut down because of the consolidation and some jobs are limited due to automation streamlining. But in most cases, those jobs are still there; they are just not in America, not in Oregon. Indeed, those jobs have gone overseas.
China has a four-tier industrial policy that says we are going to put people to work here even if we violate the WTO agreement we have with the United States of America. That is a huge problem that we should, in a bipartisan effort, fully address.
Today, I would like share a couple letters from people who are in the frontline of the disappearance of manufacturing jobs. Virginia, from the city of Hillsboro in my State, wrote:
In February 2010, my department at my company was advised we would be laid off after transitioning our job duties to a replacement staff in India.
It felt like quite a blow. I had been there the shortest time at 10 years, the longest person there was 35 years. Half of our department was laid off within a few months, the rest of us sweated every Friday wondering when we would receive our lay off dates. We were finally all let go on March 11th, 2011.
Four months after my layoff, my husband was advised the rest of his department is being laid off after their job duties were transitioned to an off-shore site. My daughter, myself, and my husband are all looking for work.
We have four generations living in our home--I have no idea what will happen to all of us if none of us can find work. My husband served his time in the Army and he and I have always worked full-time, steady jobs, it feels like we're being punished for spending our lives working to take care of our family and keep a roof over our heads.
Americans need jobs! We want to work and need to work! We are not lazy, instead we are innovators and always have been! We need to regain our pride in our country, help each other and quit focusing on greed.
My mother reminded me that just 25 short years ago, it would have been considered un-American to take a job from an American and send it to a person in another country. People would stop doing business with any company who did choose to do so. I'm mentioning this to state there's been a definite change of the way businesses are run, which isn't all bad. Technology and business processes change. The problem is, the bottom line has become more important than the health of America and its citizens and that, I believe, is the cause of our current woes.
I love my country and want it back!!! I'll admit I'm tired of giving our money, resources, and jobs to other countries while American's lose their jobs, their homes, and their security. Please help.
Duwayne writes from St. Helens:
I worked at an Oregon high-tech company for 15 years, until I was laid off during the middle of the Bush depression. When I joined, the company had over 18,000 employees--most of them in Oregon. These were high-paid professionals and assembly workers with family-wage jobs.
When I was laid off the company employed only about 4,500 people--still mostly in the US, and mostly in Oregon. But today the company has moved virtually all its manufacturing to China, and their software engineering to India. Even though the company payroll is growing, the number of employees in the US continues to shrink. Almost all the new jobs are in foreign countries.
You want to know where all the jobs went? I'll tell you. They went to Mexico and China. That's because our government policies are aimed at helping corporations, and have little to no regard for American workers.
Companies like these need to be harshly penalized for moving their jobs overseas--but instead they are rewarded, and American workers pay the price.
The policies we are talking about on the floor are all about the issues Virginia and Duwayne are talking about. The bill ends rewards for outsourcing jobs overseas. Currently, a company can deduct the moving expenses of offshoring and actually save money on their tax that way. That would end. If a company wants to move a factory overseas, we cannot stop them, but we should not give them tax breaks to do so. I would love to be in a forum of hundreds of people and I would ask this question: Do any of you love the idea that under the Bush administration, we started subsidizing the shipment of jobs overseas?
I can tell you virtually no one would say they love that policy because the jobs in America mean so much to our families.
The second thing this bill does is it creates new tax credits to reward businesses that bring jobs home. If a company wants to take a production line from overseas and move it back to the United States, let's help them pay for the moving expenses.
This spring I went on a tour called ``Made In Oregon,'' a tour of manufacturing in my home State. It was spectacular to see how many cool things were being made. In Bend, OR, AE Solar Energy is building inverters for solar energy on roofs and putting that power into the electric grid. Bike Friday in Eugene is doing specialty, made-to-order, the best folding bikes. Ordering over the Internet, they are shipping their best folding bikes all over our globe. Kinro West RV Windows in Pendleton and Pendleton Woolen Mills had two very different types of manufacturing: Woolen mills, they go back a century, and then an RV window manufacturer that is playing a key role in our recreational business and providing these windows to manufacturers throughout the RV world, the recreational vehicle world.
Then there is Oregon Iron Works. Oregon Iron Works is building trolley cars. We are building streetcars in America again so cities putting in streetcars can buy an American-made product. They are building a prototype of a wave buoy that will generate energy as it bobs up and down in the waves off the Oregon coast. That is going to go down the river and be installed later this year, and perhaps it will lead the way for a new source of clean, renewable energy.
Vigor Industrial is building barges. Greenbrier is building railroad cars. These are the jobs, the companies that are the heart of living-wage jobs and making products in America. We must do all we can to support them.
Let's end the subsidies for shipping jobs overseas. Let's instead provide incentives and support for moving jobs back to the United States, to the benefit of our economy and the benefit of our families. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill and help bring jobs back to Oregon and back to America.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT