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Jobs and Health Care

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, once again we're back here on the floor of the House of Representatives to talk about what I believe is the most pressing problem here in the United States, and that's jobs. Americans want to work, Americans are capable of working, and it ought to be our job here on the floor of the House of Representatives to talk about how we can create jobs.

We've just heard about 1 hour of discussion from our good friends on the Republican side, the Doctors' Caucus, about how to destroy the Affordable Health Care Act. For 36 times, the Republicans have put up legislation that would essentially gut, amend, or destroy the Affordable Health Care Act, which has the promise and the probability of providing health insurance for 50-plus-million Americans that are today uninsured.

Why would you want to deny those people health insurance? I can see no reason for it.

I notice that they also did not spend any time at all talking about their effort to destroy Medicare. Medicare was a promise made to seniors by the American people that when they reach 65 years of age, they would have a guaranteed health insurance program. Yet, for the last 2 years and 4 months, the Republicans have continually put up legislation that would end Medicare as we know it and turn Medicare over to the insurance companies.

One of the last statements made here on the floor by one of our colleagues was decisions on medical services ought to be in the hands of the physician and the patient. I agree. I was also the insurance commissioner in California, a statewide elected position for 8 years; and I can assure you that under the private health insurance programs, it is the insurance companies that are making the decisions about what medical care will be given to individuals. That is wrong. We did our best in California to stop that. But if you turn Medicare over to the private insurance companies, as the Republicans want to do with their voucher plan, then it will be the insurance companies that will decide what medical services will be available, if at all, to seniors.

I'd like to put that aside and go back to the issue that I really wanted to talk about, but there are some things that you just cannot let go, things that are said on the floor that need to be at least discussed in their fullness.

Let's talk about jobs. Let's talk about the fact that over the last 30 years we have seen the middle class in America held down. The middle class in America has made very little economic progress over the last 30 years. We're going to discuss that in some detail and specifically what we can do here with public policy, with proposals that have been put forth by the Democratic Caucus in the House and our colleagues in the Senate, solid proposals to put Americans back to work and to rebuild the American Dream so that every American has the opportunity to put their foot on the rung of the ladder and climb just as high as they can do so.

Before we get to those rungs on the economic ladder, I'd like to have a more full discussion about what has happened to the middle class over the last 30 years. Joining me in that discussion is the Representative from South Carolina, the Honorable Jim Clyburn.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you very much, Mr. Clyburn, for your excellent exposition of the problem faced by the middle class, by the working families of America: the fact that over the last 40 years they've seen virtually no progress in their economic status while those very, very few at the very top have seen extraordinary wealth. It's also a shifting of wealth, and some say that this discussion is a discussion of class warfare. Well, I wouldn't call it warfare, but I would say that the middle class of America is clearly losing, while those very, very few at the top are clearly winning. And the reason is the policies of the United States are pushing the wealth to the top and literally taking the wealth from the working men and women. We need to change those policies, and our discussion here is very, very much about that.

Thank you for your excellent discussion.

I see that our colleague from Washington, D.C., Eleanor Holmes Norton, is here. Thank you very much for joining us. And, Mr. Clyburn, if you'd like to stick around, we will engage in a discussion, but I think you have other obligations.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. I thank you so very, very much for really bringing to all of our attention the extraordinary impact that the sequestration is having on American families. Jobs are being lost. Real jobs are disappearing, and Americans, working men and women, are feeling their paychecks being significantly reduced.

Now, another word for sequestration is austerity budgets. Shortly after the Great Recession began in 2008, there was the debate about should the governments of the world, the United States, Europe, China and Japan, should they take a policy of actively engaging in the economy to boost demand, which would be a Keynesian model of increasing the purchasing power within the economy, or should there be a reduction in government spending because of the deficits that were created as people lost their jobs and as tax revenues declined?

That debate was robustly engaged here on the floor of the House, with the decision being made to engage the government in increasing the demand. So the stimulus bill came forth, and it really worked. It really had an effect. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created. The decline was stopped, and slowly in 2009 and 2010, the American economy began to recover.

Now, Europe made a different decision. In Europe, they made a decision not to stimulate the economy but rather to go into austerity, to reduce the budgets of the governments. The result in Europe has been perfectly clear. They have headed into a deep, deep recession yet again. They never came out of it. And so the entire European economy has been continuing to decline over these years. Austerity has gained in Europe a very, very bad name. In fact, conservative magazines such as The Economist magazine have been for the last 2 years saying, no more austerity, you have to stimulate the economy. We now see policies in Europe that are now turning around and looking to the stimulation of the economy as we did here.

China did exactly the opposite of Europe. They followed the American model--or we followed theirs, depending on how you want to look at this--and they put into place a very heavy stimulus program, almost all of it in infrastructure, creating enormous demand and growth in China.

Now, unfortunately, here in the United States, our initial effort at stimulus was cut short. It was cut short by the 2010 election. We had a new Congress, and the American Government since that moment has been involved in an austerity program. The sequestration is but one of the austerity programs that have been foisted upon the American public by our colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle. We have had fiscal cliff after fiscal cliff, and every time we come up against that cliff, we've seen a reduction in the role of the Federal Government in so many ways.

Ms. Norton, you so clearly pointed out dozens of ways in which the Federal Government is backing away from previously important tasks, tasks such as, well, flight controllers, airline flight controllers. Now, we passed a bill to deal with that, but nevertheless, we took money out of the construction of airports and the upgrading of air traffic systems to keep the air traffic controllers going. So the austerity continued even in the airline sector.

We've seen it in my district. I've got maybe more than a thousand miles of flood levees. The Army Corps of Engineers, $250 million reduction in their ability to upgrade and to deal with the levees and to prevent flooding. On and on. I won't go through all the list that Ms. Norton put forward. But those are the continuing austerity measures that have been forced upon us.

It can't continue. It cannot continue. Our task is to create jobs. Our task is to put Americans back to work. Our task is to make sure that this incredible income disparity ends and that we find ways to rebuild the American middle class.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Well, we certainly will create a new recession. We know that 750,000 Americans will be unemployed, lose their jobs by the end of this fiscal year--that would be the first of October--as a result of sequestration.

Now, it's not that we haven't tried to do a different proposal. Our budget proposal is one that would maintain the reduction, but push it forward so that it doesn't immediately dampen the American economy. The President has made a similar proposal, but we've had no action. Right now, we are calling on our colleagues and Speaker Boehner to appoint a conference committee so that we can actually do a budget. Please, let's get that budget going. Let's get this thing out of the way of America's job growth.

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Mr. GARAMENDI. Well, that's exactly the problem. We need to get this sequestration out of the way of America's growth.

There are many things that we can do. I'd like to remind everybody that the President, more than 2 years ago, put forth an American jobs proposal, an American Jobs Act. In that proposal--which has never been taken up by the leaders of the House of Representatives--those who are in control of the House now, our colleagues here on the right side of the aisle, have never taken it up.

So what was in it? There was a $50 billion immediate investment in infrastructure. Well, what is infrastructure? Infrastructure is highways, our roads, our streets, our sanitation facilities, our water facilities, airports, flood levees, the kinds of things that upon which the economy can grow and be built. It is the foundation of the economy. They brushed it aside, wouldn't even consider it. One of the most basic things that any economy, any government must do is to make sure the foundation is in place.

The President had also proposed--and it's part of our Make It in America--an educational program to make sure that our students are ready for the jobs that are part of the American economy today and to retrain American workers.

A proposal that I have is that our tax dollars be spent on American-made equipment. Oh, my, how strange would that be. But yet we go out and buy Chinese steel to build the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. No, we don't buy American-made steel and give Americans the jobs; we turn the jobs over to China.

Wind turbines, solar panels, all of the new energy systems, our tax money supports those systems. Shouldn't we be buying American-made equipment with your tax money? I believe we should. That's my legislation.

The Democratic agenda, the Make It in America agenda, is about 30 different bills dealing with rebuilding the great American manufacturing sector. I know that if we were to carry these policies forward, if they were to become law, we would see a resurgence in the American manufacturing sector.

The reason that that is so important is this--Mr. Clyburn spoke to this earlier when he was here. I've got a little different display. This is what's happened to the American middle class, and beyond.

I'm going to use a football analogy here--I played football back at the University of California a few years ago--actually, many years ago. So we can use a football analogy.

The bottom 99 percent of America, 99 percent of every family and 99 percent of all of the workers and men and women in America have, since 1966, seen a net increase in their take-home pay of $59. This is in constant dollars. The top 10 percent have seen their income grow by $116,071 over that period, '66 to 2011.

The top 1 percent--remember the 99 percent thing? Well, this is the top 1 percent--have seen their income grow by $628,817. Now, the very, very tippy top, that is, the one-tenth of 1 percent--we're talking the superwealthy
billionaires here; Mitt Romney wouldn't fit into this category--they have seen their income grow by over $18 million annually.

So what we're seeing in the American economy is a skewing of the wealth in this economy. Literally, the wealth in the economy is flowing to the very top so that the wage increases are not among the men and women that work every day, that put in their 40 hours a week or more. But, rather, it's flowing to those at the top. This is the result of economic policies that are put in place here in the Congress--tax policies, educational policies, other kinds of policies that lay the foundation for this extraordinary inequality.

This has never been seen in America. During the Gilded Age in the 19th century, this kind of wealth disparity was not in existence. During the Roaring Twenties, this type of wealth inequality was not seen in the American economy. Only now, in the last 20, 30 years, have we seen policies put in place that have created the most inequality ever in modern American history.

What does that mean? What does that mean to the average American family? It means that both mom and pop are working. It means that they cannot afford to send their children to school. And added on top of that, the Great Recession has stripped the wealth from the 90 percent. The wealth was stripped, mostly in the housing market collapse.

So now we are faced with the situation, what can we do? Well, what we can do is to rebuild the American manufacturing sector, because this is where the middle class had decent wages. We are not talking about a $7.50 an hour minimum wage. We are talking about wages that a man or a woman could earn to protect and to provide for their family.

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