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Public Statements

The United States Economy and Jobs

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you, Mr. Hall.

Apparently, a lot of people would agree given your extraordinary career and the work that you've done here in Congress over these many, many years and decades.

Part of what you've spent a good deal of your career working on, Mr. Hall, has been the improvement of the American economy. Tonight, I'd like to join a couple of my colleagues on the Democratic side to talk about the economy and to talk specifically about jobs and the things that we can do here in the waning days of this Congress to create some job opportunities.

We've got some very heavy lifting here in Congress in the next month and a half. Everybody wants to talk about the fiscal cliff. Some talk about an austerity bomb. Others talk about what needs to be done to lift the debt limit. All of these issues are before us--tax increases or not. Underlying all of that, foundational to all of that, is putting Americans back to work, getting Americans back into their jobs. If we do that, we will clearly increase employment. When you increase employment, you also increase tax revenue to the Federal Government, to State governments, and to local governments.

So our principal task, as I see it--and I think I'm joined by many of my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican--is to get the American economy going, to put it back in gear, and there are many reasons beyond just employment and the opportunities that families have to make it.

One of the critical elements in all of this is to protect Americans. We recently saw superstorm Sandy smash into New Jersey and New York. It had devastating results: loss of life, an incredible loss of property--both public and private--and a very, very big cleanup bill. Joining me in a little while will be some of our Representatives from the State of New York, and they'll talk about that in detail. But before Sandy ever hit the coast, there was a need here in America to protect Americans from storms and floods. We know what happens when the protection isn't there--devastating results.

In the news today, in northern California, there was in the headlines a series of storms coming to northern California--into my district, where my home is. The word is to get ready for serious flooding. I mean, this is very early in the season; although, Californians with any memory at all will know that there are a series of infamous Christmas floods in northern California. Now, this is really a Thanksgiving flood potential, but nonetheless, it's there.

I will tell you clearly that the Sacramento region, which is the second most risky region in the Nation for flooding and flood damage, is right at the center of this storm. So that's the city of Sacramento. Perhaps 100,000 or more people are in serious jeopardy. Should a levee break in that region--and those levees are not up to 200-year standards--people would have less than 20 minutes to find high ground, to get out. It's an impossible situation. So we need serious infrastructure improvement--and that's Sacramento. The rest of my new district goes further north into Marysville and Yuba City, along the Sacramento River further north, and along the Feather and Yuba River--again, communities at high risk. Serious infrastructure needs to be developed. Levees need to be improved, upgraded, enhanced; otherwise, citizens are at risk, just as they were on Staten Island.

This is our responsibility. This is not only a local responsibility and a State responsibility--this is a national responsibility. This is when we become a national community, looking out for each other--in providing the basic infrastructure to protect us. We also have infrastructure that is necessary for commerce: our roads, our highways, our Internet systems, our rail transportation systems. All of these infrastructure items are critical to the economic well-being of America in addition to the human and commerce safety of this Nation. We're going to talk about that tonight.

Joining me is my colleague from New York. He has been working on this issue for some time. He has a project and a program that he is proposing, one that caught my attention. I've asked him to come and join us.

In being from the State of New York, we are talking about something that's very, very real for you. Please tell us what this is all about.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Higgins, thank you so very, very much for bringing this issue in very stark terms to our attention. You caught my attention earlier when we were talking about this; but here on the floor, this is a $1.2 trillion program that could create 27 million jobs in the next 5 years, and those are economic analyses that have been done by the New America Foundation.

Mr. HIGGINS. That's correct.

Mr. GARAMENDI. How do we pay for this again?

Mr. HIGGINS. Well, you pay for it as you pay for transportation improvements at the local, State, and Federal level. You issue debt to finance the life of the project.

Mr. GARAMENDI. The same way we build and own our homes. We borrow the money to build that personal infrastructure, our home.

Mr. HIGGINS. That's right.

Mr. GARAMENDI. Now, the borrowing rate for the Federal Government on a 10-year note is a little over 1 percent or hovering around 1 percent now?

Mr. HIGGINS. A little over 1 percent for a 5-year Treasury note. It's one-half of 1 percent.

Mr. GARAMENDI. That's virtually free money.

Mr. HIGGINS. It's virtually free money.

Mr. GARAMENDI. Now, it does run up the debt; but we are using that money to create infrastructure, a necessary investment for the economy to grow and to protect ourselves.

Mr. HIGGINS. That's right. And according to Transportation for America, there are 69,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States. There are over 2,000 structurally deficient bridges in New York State. There are 99 structurally deficient bridges in my community of western New York. Every second of every day, seven cars drive on a bridge in this Nation that is structurally deficient.

Mr. GARAMENDI. Well, we saw what collapse can do with the Minnesota bridge and the loss of life. We saw what inadequate infrastructure protecting New Jersey and New York can do with extraordinary loss of public investment as well as private investment--and lives.

Joining us for this discussion on jobs and creating jobs is part of what we like to call the east coast-west coast team. Congressman Paul Tonko, you and I are often here on the floor to talk about how we can grow the American economy in a bipartisan way. This infrastructure notion that Mr. Higgins has brought to us I think has considerable merit and fits, I think, very easily with what President Obama has recommended in his American Jobs Act, which was an immediate $50 billion enhancement of the $60 billion that we would otherwise spend, bringing the total to over $100 billion in the coming year. Again, enormous infrastructure.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. It is all about jobs. Thank you very much, Mr. Tonko. Your personal experience in the New York Legislature and in your own community brings this issue into focus here on the floor of this House.

As we build this infrastructure, if we add one additional element to the creation of the infrastructure, something that, again, we've talked about here many times, and that is that we use our money, our taxpayer money, whether it's borrowed or directly paid, that we use that money to buy American-made equipment, so that the steel that goes into the bridges is American-made, the cement made in America, manufactured in America, that we use that American money on American-made equipment.

In other words, make it in America, so we not only are doing the infrastructure and the jobs that come with it, but we also use that to revitalize our manufacturing sector. This is a very powerful way in which we can more rapidly expand the American economy.

I just happen to have two bills that would do that, one for the clean energy industry. If we're going to use our taxpayer money to subsidize the clean energy industry, wonderful. We need to do that for all kinds of reasons, but buy American-made clean energy products, whether it's a solar system or a wind turbine.

And similarly, with regard to transportation, the trains, the buses, the steel, let's buy that in America, American manufacturing.

I noticed a lovely lady joining us from the State of Ohio. It would be Marcy Kaptur. You've talked about these issues many times. Thank you very much for joining us this evening.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. How correct you are to look back to those heroes of the past that laid down the infrastructure. You can actually go back a little bit further. George Washington, in his first year as President of the United States, instructed Alexander Hamilton to develop an industrial policy. One part of that industrial policy was the development of the infrastructure for America's commerce. And it was canals and it was ports and it was roads.

Mr. Higgins, so, how are we going to make this happen? You've got $1.2 trillion you want to put out there.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. You said earlier that the American Society of Engineers--I think that was the name--said that we have a D rating for infrastructure, and that we need over $2 trillion.

I don't know anybody in my district, where we may have a serious flood in the next 3 days, that says the infrastructure is adequate. They're looking at those levees, and they're watching the water rise, and they're going, this isn't sufficient to protect us. So in a very real sense of just safety, infrastructure is needed. But also, it's needed for employment.

You correctly raised the issue of the veterans coming back, $2 trillion--there's no doubt about the need. America knows there's a need. As the four of us have discussed here, there is a need, even a crying need, and a human safety need right now, not tomorrow, not 10 years from now, but immediately.

The question is: How do we go about making that happen? And here 435 of us and 100 Senators on the other side of this building have the ability to answer the crying need of Americans to build our infrastructure, to give us the jobs to provide the foundation for economic growth, and to protect us. We have that power.

Let's continue our discussion.

Mr. Tonko.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. There's a critical moment now. Right now. That moment is seen in the deliberations that are going on here in this Hall, in the Capitol, about the fiscal cliff, about the deficit. And there are those who would suggest that the only way to deal with it is with an austerity program, reduce government expenditures at every level.

There's some evidence cited by Mr. Higgins earlier that there's another way of dealing with this, and that is to put people to work, to use the power of government to put people to work, even if that means borrowing money at 1 percent. Putting it into an infrastructure bank to finance projects that have a cash flow, such as your sanitation facility in Toledo, Ohio, or a toll road or the St. Lawrence Seaway, all of which have a cash flow. You could maybe charge a percent and a half. You borrow at 1 percent, you charge a percent and a half, and we build. We put people to work.

Ms. Kaptur, why don't you pick this up, and then Mr. Higgins, and we'll carry on our conversation

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Mr. GARAMENDI. As you were talking so enthusiastically, I was thinking of some of Carl Sandburg's incredible poetry on the power of America and all that was done there.

Mr. Higgins, you brought this to how we can finance our infrastructure, how we can Make It in America, create jobs. Why don't you carry on with that discussion--or take that anywhere that you would like to.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Earlier today I was asked by a reporter from San Francisco about the effect of sequestration and the austerity budget proposals on research in that area. The San Francisco Bay area is one of the great research centers in the world, with the University of California, the laboratory at Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore, Stanford and other institutions in the area. The austerity program that is being proposed will devastate the research.

Years ago--actually, in the mid-eighties, when I was in the California Legislature, we were talking about how to keep the California economy going, and I developed a plan, a program. There were five pieces to it. We've talked about all of those five today. Every one of those five were critical investments that the economy, the society would make.

The first was the best education system in the world. Now, America has an enormous challenge here and we're not measuring up as we should, and that should be a discussion we should have here on the floor perhaps at another day.

The second was the best research. The austerity budget that's out there, the sequestration and other proposals that have been put forward, slash the research budgets of the United States in health care, in energy, in transportation, in manufacturing, in those areas and in those areas that create opportunity.

The third is manufacturing, making things that come from that research and enhancing the current manufacturing technologies using, as you suggested a moment ago, Mr. Tonko, the advanced manufacturing technologies which come from research, and the engineering that goes with it that Ms. Kaptur discussed a few moments ago.

The fourth was infrastructure. You have to have the foundation for economic growth. Mr. Higgins brought to our attention the potential for 26-27 million jobs within the next 5 years by really going full on into building the American infrastructure, repairing what we have and building for the next generations.

The fifth was change. You have to accept change. That means that we have to learn from past experiences here in Congress. Mr. Higgins very correctly pointed out the economic history when a recession was about to recede because of government policies but austerity was implanted and a new recession commenced. We ought to take cognizance of that.

So we have to change and grow and learn. Those are the five things I often talk about.

Let's carry on this discussion. We have about another 10 minutes. And maybe if each one of us takes 2 1/2 or so minutes, we can wrap up in time. I think I started with Mr. Higgins and then Ms. Kaptur, Mr. Tonko, and then I will say good night to all.

Mr. Higgins.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Tonko, thank you very much. Ms. Kaptur, Mr. Higgins, thank you very much.

As I was listening to the three of you and thinking my own thoughts, I'm excited. I'm excited for the prospect of America. I can see the opportunities that are there. I can see the policies coming together. And each of the three of you described specific policies that we could put in place.

I don't know if we can get 27 million jobs from infrastructure. But I do know that we can get millions of jobs from an infrastructure program and, in so doing, lay the foundation for safety, from floods, fires, from other catastrophes that could occur. I know that in doing so, we can rebuild our manufacturing sector by using American-made products in that infrastructure program. I know that we can provide the jobs that Americans desperately want today--not just cheap jobs but real middle class jobs, as all three of you have described.

I am excited. I am excited about the prospect of building America, coming home from the wars and building America, as happened when my father came back from World War II. America went after building. Ms. Kaptur, you talked about the St. Lawrence Seaway. You talked about the interstate highway, that system that President Eisenhower talked about.

We are on the cusp of a new building in America. We have the wherewithal. We can finance it with really cheap money now. And we can use these projects to repay that money. It's a very exciting time. And it's our responsibility, as Representatives of the 300-plus million Americans, to enunciate that vision, to put in place those programs. And when we do, we'll make it in America. And Americans will make it.

Thank you so very, very much for joining us.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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