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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. TONKO. Sure. And, Representative Garamendi, thank you for bringing us together for an hour of discussion on what is very important: growing jobs, strengthening our economy and strengthening the fabric of our communities by addressing public safety via investment in infrastructure, a very sound investment. It is always a pleasure to join you. It is an honor to serve in the New York delegation with Representative Higgins, Brian Higgins, who served with me, or I with him, perhaps better stated, in the New York State Assembly where I sat on the Transportation Committee. And I was seated on that committee right in 1987, in the shadow of the collapse of a New York State thruway bridge where 10 people perished. We recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of that event. It was very tragic, and it was in the heart of my home county, a small county of 50,000 people, Montgomery County, New York. And the impact economically that that devastating occurrence brought to bear was incalculable.

So when you talk about, and I listened with interest to the exchange that you and Representative Higgins had about how do you pay for it, one way you don't want to pay for it is through an impact on the economy of your local region. The commerce hit that was taken was severe. The loss of dollars to the community was just incomprehensible, and of course the loss of lives which surpasses anything in importance. And interestingly, many of the individuals who were on that victims list were not from the region. So we're all impacted by weak infrastructure no matter in which State that might be because you never know when you're traveling over a situation that is unsafe.

So I think it is a wise investment to go forward and put to work tens of millions of skilled laborers who can make a difference in public safety in our communities, making certain that the soundness of investment and improvement, absolutely essential for our quality of life, for our public safety, for the strengthening of our commerce. And we know that infrastructure improvements--you and I have talked in the past about the infrastructure bank bill. We have talked about ways of leveraging dollars to weaken the impact on the public sector, on the taxpayer. There are ways to do that in very strident terms that allow us to go forward with the commitment and with the investment that is required.

But certainly with the aged infrastructure in this country, and to the earlier point made by Representative Higgins, if we can build other nations, and thank goodness that we have helped people strengthen their situation for their own people, but, my gosh, we should take advice, our own advice here, and understand that there is a strong bit of economic growth that occurs when you strengthen your infrastructure--from traditional roads and bridges to rail to communications, wiring our communities, and to the grid.

The grid system has had several tests--designed to run in a monopoly situation, and now being used to wield electrons from region to region, State to State, country to country. So there is a huge, vast involvement of infrastructure there that begs our investment. And I think for sound reasons, for public safety reasons, and for economic recovery purposes, it makes sense; and let's put the people to work, and let's build a stronger community.

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Mr. TONKO. Representative Kaptur made an interesting point that there was a sense of vision when they pursued the efforts with the St. Lawrence Seaway. There was a sense of vision in my district as a donor area and in Representative Higgins' when Governor DeWitt Clinton perceived this Erie Canal as a way to transport goods and to open up the westward movement to spark an industrial revolution. That gave birth not only to a port called New York City, but birth to a necklace of communities called mill towns that became the epicenters of invention and innovation.

So it's that spark of vision that is the first step. And we're going to denounce any of these creative opportunities to invest in nation-building by denouncing it as socialism? Was President Eisenhower a Socialist? Were all those who preceded him or followed him that came up with these great visions--a space program that gave us an unleashing of technology? No, they were thinkers. They were visionaries. They were leaders. That's the first step. And then we develop policy from that vision. We tether it into real terms, and then we invest in the implementation of that policy. That's America at her finest.

If we look back at the Erie Canal history, when they did that, it wasn't easy times. They were tough times. They were tough economic times. And so they stepped up to the plate and said, We're going to do this. It's not easy to launch, but we're going to do it because it's the way through the tough times.

We have tough times now, chronically high unemployment that, for many, preceded the recession. They need opportunity. Our economy grows when we invest in those workers of whom Representative Higgins spoke, in those materials and goods that allow for our Nation's businesses to prosper, add jobs, become part of a recovery. So that is all very critical.

I talked earlier about the bridge collapse that spans the Schoharie Creek in upstate New York that you can walk across in the summertime. It was flowing equal to the efforts, the CFS, of Niagara Falls. So there are some economic impacts coming from Mother Nature that are driven by global warming and climate change. So when we do some of these visionary things, incorporate all of the policies so that environmental concerns as policy formats with economic recovery terms, with energy terms, with transportation can all be woven together and you solve some of our ills where we're being impacted by Mother Nature with natural disasters that are draining our infrastructure, as we witnessed with Sandy all along the east coast, where now tens of billions of dollars of recovery are required.

Let's add the policy dimensions that allow us to reduce the threats from Mother Nature, build our economy by adding jobs and providing for public safety, and creating a state-of-the-art economy driven by transportation, communication, energy transformation with renewables and the like that will cut down on the emission of particles and dangerous substances that are toxic on the ozone layer. That's America at her finest.

And if we do that simple thing of providing vision, followed with policy, followed with resource advocacy, we will have achieved, and brightest, best days lie ahead, not denouncing that thinking as Socialist.

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Mr. TONKO. Representative Garamendi, again, thank you for bringing us together again.

You talked about that austerity budget that some would advance. I have to tell you another disaster last year, Irene and Lee, that hit as a hurricane and tropical storm, impacted the several counties I represent, from Schoharie in upstate New York, to Montgomery, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Albany. These counties were severely impacted. To talk to the people directly devastated--I mean devastated, lost their homes, everything for which they ever worked--and to tell them we're going to change the rules in the middle of the game on disaster aid, it took fights galore to win that argument on this floor. That austerity approach didn't cut it with folks who might have believed it before the disaster, but certainly not in the midst of.

So we need to be there for situations, not only disastrous situations, but the investment that occurs so that we can effectively compete. We know in our heart, we know in our minds that there are ways to do this.

I know, just listening to the magnanimous description of the situation in the auto industry that Representative Kaptur defined for us, on a much smaller scale, but equally significant, I watched some of the businesses in my district retrofit and do that through research in incubator programs and providing for our advanced manufacturing which allows them to add that competitive muscle that enables them to compete in that global marketplace. That made a total difference.

Folks like Kintz Plastics in Schoharie County, New York, where they were engaged in an incubator program with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Some very smart science and tech minds came up with ways to automate what they were doing and trained through the community college their workers to pick up on this new phase of activity within their assembly line process. Today they are successful, but it took investment, investment of capital infrastructure, physical infrastructure, and human structure, training the worker and providing for those relationships to prosper. Everyone wins in that situation.

So we know we have it within us to make this all possible. It talks to investment. It speaks to investment. It speaks to the opportunity that we can provide so that people can have that American Dream tethered in reality, so that it can be within their grasp, so that they can continue to build upon this Nation's significance.

A great nation stays great if it continues to stretch itself. It's about the churning and the turning and becoming more mighty through investment of research, development, retrofitting our manufacturing base. We can win this by doing it smarter. We don't necessarily have to do it cheaper. Do it smarter and you win those contracts that then equate to jobs. Research equals jobs. I see it all the time. It gives birth to new ideas, new product lines, better efficiencies. It drives an economy.

You can't walk away from this tough moment and talk about austere responses. You need creative responses--not just throwing money at a situation, but thinking it through, thoughtful, analytical, economic approaches that then provide for the best policy formats.

The President has offered several ideas that were not taken up in this House. We could grow that economic recovery, which has been slow and steady with 32 consecutive months of private sector job growth. We can expand upon that, and we can create much stronger numbers if we do it wisely.

So I think the American people have spoken. They've spoken to an investment in the middle class, the investment in the American Dream, the investment in ideas and research. We know--we've all talked about it on this floor--where research occurs, that's where manufacturing will network. It will migrate toward that research element. So we are wise to invest in research and to invest in the human infrastructure, the worker. The important significant part of the equation: having that trained, skilled, educated workforce that can make it all happen.

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Mr. TONKO. Again, thank you, Representative Garamendi. It's great to join with our colleagues here this evening to share thoughts about how we move from a very trying, difficult time into perhaps America's glory days.

I think it's important for us to first acknowledge that every Member elected to serve in this wonderful Chamber of the House of Representatives and those down the road here at the United States Senate, each of us is challenged, required, and responsible to polish that American Dream and make it within the grasp, provide it to be within the grasp of America's working families and those who will grow into the middle class and those who are being further empowered by work, the dignity of work, and stronger outcomes with correct policy formats.

I think that this journey that we've asked to embark upon, by putting our names on the ballot, begins with us: being a people of vision, being a House that provides a vision for America. That tells me we only need to look to our history--recent and some not so recent. But that will instruct us. Our history will instruct us.

We have built a strong Nation. We have provided for growth around the world. We know the secret to the success. We know how we built a Nation. And it took a vision, a New Deal that provided for housing, for manufacturing, for a strong defense, for the opportunity for us, as a Nation, to respect its labor force and insert a value-added connotation for that workforce. That was us in our glory days. And we're going to be even more gloried because of investments that we can make by sound thinking.

The research that we need to provide will enable us to compete. We will create products not yet on the radar screen. And if we think all the products ever needed by society have been conceived and designed and manufactured, then the story's over. But we know better than that. Product lines are coming up as we speak that allow us to use our resources much more wisely.

We are a Nation of abundance. But that means we can't be wasteful. We need to be resourceful. That challenge is out there to us. And as we become resourceful, we become more efficient, and we become more profitable by sound policy. We can do it. We have ways to invest in our infrastructure, invest in research, invest in workforce development, invest in housing, invest in communities. And that investment will earn lucrative dividends. It's not spending. It's investing with the expectation--the rightful expectation, mind you--that we will get that just return.

And so tonight I feel hope for our Nation, driven by a sense of ideals carved by the richness of our history.

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