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Make It In America: The Economy

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

I am John Garamendi from California, and I am joined by several of my colleagues here tonight. We want to go through a couple of things that are of the utmost importance to Americans. I had three townhalls on Saturday in California--it was about a 450-mile drive to get to all three of them--but at each and every one of them the concerns were very, very similar.

The first overriding concern was the economy. In California, there is this desire to get the economy going. There is a pent-up energy in the people--in the businesses, in the small businesses, in the farmers. It's not just because it's spring and the almonds are blossoming--or maybe it's the ``a-munds'' depending on what part of my district you're from. It's that there is this desire to get moving forward.

They keep asking me, What's going on in Congress? Why can't you guys get it together out there?

And we explained what's happening here.

We have been through five crises over the last 18 months--manufactured crises, things that didn't have to happen. Each and every time, the entire system of America's economy and politics comes to a stop, and we lurch up to that fateful cliff, and then we move on but not with the kind of robust energy that this economy is capable of. We need to get this continuing resolution and all of these fiscal cliffs out of the way to get the economy moving, and there are some very, very good examples of why the economy is poised to take off.

One of them is found here. If you take a look at this chart, these are the job creations or losses beginning way back in 2009, 2008. All of those red lines are the collapse of the economy. When the blue came in, that's when President Obama came in 4 years ago, and things were tough. We were in a free fall here in our economy; but with the stimulus bill, we began to climb out. After about 18 months, we began to see positive job growth--we were no longer seeing those job losses--and we've seen that all the way through. This last month was a terrific month. There were 247,000 new jobs created, and that was in February.

So what happens in March?

In March, we come up against another cliff; and now we have sequestration, leaving us 750,000 unemployed Americans. It's not a gain in the economy. The unemployment rate went down to 7.7 percent in the previous month, and now we have sequestration. We passed a bill out of here last week that was supposed to solve it. It really didn't. In fact, it maintained sequestration. It took care of a few things, but we've got to get past this. We need to grow this economy, and we need to make the investments. There are really only five critical investments that need to be made year after year after year, and we need to do these things repeatedly--every month, every year, in every budget:

Education--sequestration cuts education at all levels;

Research--sequestration cuts research. In my district, at the University of California at Davis, $45 million of research projects will come to a screeching halt. Ph.D.s and others will be laid off;

Infrastructure--sequestration cuts infrastructure. Manufacturing matters. You've got to make things;

Those are the four. The fifth is you have to be willing to change, but you've got to change in a positive way.

What we're going to talk about with my colleagues here is this issue of how to move the economy forward. As we look at the past and at the success--modest, not enough, but on the right track--we need to keep in mind that it is the role of the government, dating back to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton when Washington asked Hamilton to develop an industrial plan for the United States and Hamilton did. He laid out in that plan the critical role of government in moving the American economy forward, and that was in the very first year of these United States. We should carry that tradition forward. So as we go into this, let's keep in mind that we've made progress and that we have much more to do.

Joining me tonight is a gentleman who has created many, many jobs, and now he has a new one. He is a Member of Congress from the great State of Maryland, and it's Mr. Delaney.

Thank you very much for joining us. You have an exciting district. You have a considerable amount of high-tech in your district.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you very much, Mr. Delaney. Well, you hit it right on the head: education, the technology issues that we have before us, the issue of globalization and how we deal with it here, and our energy policy. We are really blessed in the United States with energy that has suddenly come back to blossom, and that's natural gas. What an enormous asset for this country, and we need to really push that further along. And the immigration issue, all of these things are before us right now.

If we move forward aggressively with the kinds of things that you talked about, and we're spending time here on the floor, we can really move this country. And with the energy that businesses have and the experience that you know from your own experience in business, there is a pent-up demand. There's a lot of cash in the businesses of the Nation. We need the policies laid out there.

Perhaps you can take up the energy piece and elaborate a little more on how you see the use of natural gas as a bridge as you get to those clean energy issues that you talked about.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. I really agree with all you said. And as we make that bridge to that clean energy future--you talked about those 50-year increments as we change from one source of energy to another. In that process, we, American taxpayers, seriously subsidized each and every one of those transitions. We now have to shift, it seems to me, shift some of those subsidies from the old energy sources, specifically oil, and shift that into long-term subsidies, encouragement to those clean energy issues. If we do that, I think we'll see that kind of growth that you're talking about.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Higgins, you've really hit upon something that caught my attention. Also, we should be aware that this year, that is October 2012 until October 2013, we will spend $100 billion in Afghanistan.

To what effect? To have our soldiers killed by Afghan policemen? To create an ongoing conflict in that area with the people that are living there?

To what effect? $100 billion.

You talk about bringing home the soldiers, we should bring the soldiers home from Afghanistan. There will be some small unit left there to deal with al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, but it's simply not working.

Think what $100 billion could do to solve the sequestration issue, which is only $85 billion.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Higgins, you've raised, and Mr. Ryan, you've also raised the very same issue about the infrastructure. We can do this. We can really do it.

I couldn't believe that Paul Ryan's going to introduce a budget in the next couple of days that's going to take $5.7 trillion out of the infrastructure.

I often hear our Republican colleagues talk about the Founding Fathers, and we ought to hearken back to the founding fathers. And indeed we should.

His first month in office, George Washington asked Alexander Hamilton, his Treasury Secretary, to develop an industrial plan for the United States. In that plan that Hamilton produced 3 months later was an infrastructure component. It said the United States Government should support the creation of ports, canals, and roads.

So right back to the very first days of this government, we have seen the role of the Federal Government in the infrastructure sector, and that is an investment.

And one thing I'll add before I turn it back to you gentlemen is that all of that's our tax money, all tax money from all 360 million Americans, coming in in one way or another, sometimes through the Federal excise tax on gasoline or income tax or other taxes. If we used that money to buy American-made steel--I think that's near your district, isn't it, Mr. Ryan?

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Mr. GARAMENDI. So we're talking about American-made steel for those bridges, or concrete or other kinds of equipment. And so if we do that, we'd create jobs in the United States.

The manufacturing sector lost 9 million jobs between 1990 and last year. This last year we've seen an additional about 600,000 new jobs coming back into manufacturing, but if we pass Buy American or Make It in America legislation, so that our tax money supports American-made products from American-made workers made in America, we can see a boom in manufacturing. It's certainly going to be important in my district, and I'm sure it is in yours.

Gentlemen, you're right on target here. These are the investments that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton said we ought to make.

Mr. Ryan, I know you have a few other things you'd like to toss into this.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. We can use that again. The President has put it out there, too. In his State of the Union speech he spoke very clearly to the advanced manufacturing centers that you talked about, Mr. Ryan. He talked about infrastructure. He's made proposals that have just been pushed aside by our Republican colleagues here, but there are proposals that would grow this economy and give us the foundation upon which we can then have additional growth.

I see that the Representative from the District of Columbia is here. Ms. Norton, thank you very much for joining us. Gentlemen, thank you very much for this evening. Eleanor Holmes Norton, thank you very much for joining us this evening.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Well, thank you very much, Representative Norton, and for your years of service here.

You were just moving to the Ryan budget, which I suspect he'll introduce maybe in the next day or two. This is the same old, same old, but this time it's worse than the old. He's talking about an austerity budget, a very stringent austerity budget on steroids that will clearly decimate the economy as those cuts are made.

You just said if the Federal Government makes a reduction, it comes right down to cities and States laying people off. We've had this growth just last month, 247,000 jobs, and here we go.

Let's understand what is being discussed by Mr. Ryan. Who are these people on Medicaid? He proposes to cut Medicaid by a third and block-grant it to the States, which means just give the States some money. But who are those people on Medicaid? Now, we call it Medi-Cal in California, but you can see that two-thirds of the Medicaid money goes to seniors and disabled. So, Mr. Ryan, what are you doing? Who exactly are you pointing out for the reductions? You're going after seniors and the disabled.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. They think it's welfare. Well, these are seniors and disabled people that can't work, or people that are retired.

So, what does it mean? It slashes that budget for seniors that provides them with nursing homes. Principally, these folks are in nursing homes. So you're going to take a third of the money out of nursing homes. Now, just what are those seniors going to do? What are they going to do? You're taking a third of the money out by 2022.

You mentioned Medicare. Oh, yeah, Medicare. Mr. Ryan, proposes to end Medicare as we know it. He's going to give seniors a voucher. They can stay on Medicare, but they have a voucher to buy Medicare. The guarantee of affordable health care, quality health care for seniors terminates with the Ryan Republican budget.

Who are those people on Medicare? Well, let's see. About 3 percent earn over $100,000 a year; 1 percent, somewhere around $90,000 to $100,000; but down here, here's where the Medicare beneficiaries are. They're earning somewhere, $10,000 to $20,000, or $30,000--right here, 28, 20, 16. You're getting up to 50 percent right there of people below $40,000. These are not wealthy people.

Medicare is there to provide people with the ability to have quality health care in their retirement years. But Mr. Ryan would end that and give them a voucher, and shift the cost to the individuals who would then have to go out and buy private health insurance.

I was the insurance commissioner in California for 8 years and I understand what the private insurance companies are all about. The private health insurance companies are all about their bottom-line profit. It's not people, it's profit. If that's what Mr. Ryan wants to do, we're going to fight vigorously and successfully to say no, no; the promise of Medicare is here to stay.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Exactly right. When I was young, before Medicare, we lived in a rural community, there was a county hospital. My dad took me to the county hospital to visit a rancher. We were ranchers. On the other side of the hill was another rancher that was elderly and was at the county hospital. I will remember forever in my life going to that ward with maybe 15, 20 elderly people side by side in beds, the stench. The care was almost nonexistent. Poverty was everywhere. It was worse than horrible.

But in 1964 this Nation did something very, very important. Together with Social Security, they brought seniors out of poverty because it was the medical expenses that forced them into poverty. So Medicare brought seniors out of poverty. It went from, I don't know, I think it was almost 80 percent of seniors were in poverty to a situation today where maybe 8 to 10 percent are in poverty. Social Security, Medicare; absolutely critical. But any attempt to change that goes right to the heart of our values as Americans.

We will take care of our seniors. That's not to say changes are not possible. Of course changes ought to be public. For example, we ought to be negotiating with the drug companies over the price of prescription drugs. But, oh no. When the prescription drug benefit was passed, added into it and signed by George W. Bush was a paragraph that said the Federal Government is a price taker; it cannot negotiate the price of drugs. So we spend billions and billions where it's not necessary.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. I ran over and got this chart. I wasn't going to talk about this this evening, but you brought the issue up about where the money has gone and the issue of tax breaks.

This chart begins in 1979, and it shows the basic growth in income. So it starts down here in 1979, and the bottom 20 percent have really seen very, very little growth in their income. The next 20 percent, a little better, and this is the next quartile. These are the 1-percenters. We talked about the 99 percent. This is the 99 percent down here. These are the 1-percenters. These are the people that have seen extraordinary income growth. And it just happens to coincide right here, this income growth has coincided with the Bush tax cuts in the early 2000's. So we've seen this enormous percentage income, almost a 300 percent growth, 277 percent growth in their income, so that you're beginning to see the skewing of wealth in America.

This is the annual income. But if you take a look at wealth and you put another chart of wealth here, you'll see something the very same. So the rich get richer and the poor stay where they are, that old song.

Here we are. This is a result of multiple effects, but one of the principal ones is tax policy. And if Mr. Ryan's budget passes, as you have suggested, and the top tax rate goes from 39 to 25 percent, then that means that those who already have a lot will get a whole lot more. And I'm reminded of a quote by Mr. Roosevelt, President Roosevelt, and he said--this is a paraphrase. I wish I had it with me to be exact. He said: We're not measured by how much those who have get more, but rather by what we do for those who have little.

This is our great challenge. This is where the great buying power for America should be, in the bottom 99 percent, really in the bottom 50 or 60 percent.

I thank you for raising that point about the tax policy in the Ryan budget, but it will make this line just continue to go like that; and the rest, because of the elimination of the deductions, are going to see a stalling of their income.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Exactly. The President has proposed a balanced approach to sequestration, as well as to the long-term deficit plan, a combination of additional revenues, many of them from closing loopholes, and also some very wise cuts. There are things that can be done in Medicare. I talked earlier about the prescription drug benefit. But there's also the way in which Medicare is organized. The fee-for-service system encourages additional and often unnecessary procedures. There's a lot of fraud in the system. We need to deal with that. And the Affordable Care Act, interestingly enough, went right after every one of those, yet they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What are they thinking? We know the Affordable Care Act works. We know that the inflation rate in Medicare, since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, has dropped precipitously. It's still growing, but it's growing slower than the general health care inflation rate in the Nation.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. In decades. But we're seeing the changes.

The Affordable Care Act, a major part of that is an annual well person visit to the doctor, so critically important. Why? What's your blood pressure? How's your sugar? What's happening in your life? Can we prevent you from getting diabetes? Can we give you some really--some cheap pills to keep your blood pressure down, or are we going to have the blood pressure go up so you get a stroke and pay big-time for years and years with disabilities and medical care?

So the Affordable Care Act has the right incentives in it to bend the cost curve. And it is. It is actually working.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. From Washington, D.C., your leadership in this community has been known for some time. I thank you very much for joining us tonight.

I want to do two things before I end. First of all, Medicare is back on the table. The Ryan budget takes up Medicare once again and provides a voucher which will basically destroy it.

I used this last time around. I'm going to change this. It says, Medicare 1965--that was President Johnson--until 2013; created by LBJ, destroyed by the GOP. I don't think so. Seniors don't want it. Americans don't want it. In the last campaign for the Presidency, this was one of the major issues, and yet Mr. Ryan is coming back with it. Bad idea, bad timing.

I want to end with this. This is a great country. There is no other place in the world like the United States. It is one terrific country. There's enormous energy in this country, the energy where people want to get a job, they want to go to work, businesses want to grow, and they want to hire people. All of that is waiting for Congress to get its act together, to get the sequestration out of the way, which is an austerity budget that has 750,000 jobs to be lost in it, get that out of the way. Look at the balanced proposal, as the President has suggested. End some tax loopholes. Make some cuts. Make wise, thoughtful cuts. And it's possible. It can be done, and it should be done.

Along the way, we can grow the economy. We can, once again, ``Make it in America.'' Because when we make things in America, when we use our tax money to buy American-made equipment, supplies, and products, we're creating jobs here. We're putting people back to work.

George Washington said we ought to do it. Alexander Hamilton as Treasury Secretary said we ought to do it. And we, the Democrats, say we ought to do this. We ought to have a buy American.

Mr. Rahall, the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has made it clear that, as a major part of the new transportation bill, there's going to be a major ``Make it in America'' component so that we're buying American-made goods once again. He's supported by every one of the ranking members of every subcommittee, and I add myself to that list.

For the last 3 years, I've carried specific bills that say our tax money, transportation tax money, would be used to buy American trucks, buses, bridges, and steel made here in America. If you're going to put up a solar panel on your house or a wind turbine and you expect a subsidy--and you should have one--then it should be an American-made solar panel or wind turbine.

We can make it in America when Americans, once again, make it. So, that's our message. Our message is to be wise about the cuts. Yes, we're going to make cuts. Balance it with appropriate revenue increases, which should be basically the elimination of many of the unnecessary subsidies that go out even to American corporations still receiving subsidies for offshoring jobs. No more. The President was right. Give a break to American companies that bring jobs back to the United States.

All of this is possible. This is what we are here for, 435 of us in the House of Representatives, to set policy. Mr. Delaney talked about education, technology, energy policy, and we were joined this evening by our other friends, Mr. Higgins from New York, Mr. Ryan from Ohio, and Ms. Norton from Washington, D.C. It's been a good evening.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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