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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. JEFFRIES. I want to thank my good friend, the distinguished gentleman from the Silver State, for once again anchoring this the CBC Special Order, this hour of power where, for the 60 minutes that we've been allotted, we in the Congressional Black Caucus have an opportunity to speak directly to the American people on an issue of great significance, income inequality, which, as you have pointed out Representative Horsford, has increased, has gotten worse, not better, in recent years and, in fact, in recent decades. It's a very troubling trend.

The fact is, in America, we celebrate success, celebrate entrepreneurship and the ability of people to prosper. But we in the CBC think that America is at its greatest when we promote progress for everybody, when we work as hard as we can in this Congress and this country to lift the entire civic participation rates and economic participation rates of everybody in this country.

For the last several decades, objectively and empirically, the rich have gotten richer. They've seen their incomes increase since 1979 in excess of 275 percent. In isolation, that wouldn't be problematic. But when you consider what has happened to the least of those amongst us, to middle-income Americans as well, the situation is extremely troubling. The poor in many instances have gotten poorer, and working families and middle class folks and those who aspire to be part of the middle class are still struggling. In many instances, they've been left behind.

Now it has often been said that when Wall Street catches a cold, many low-income Americans get a fever. Well, we know in 2008, Wall Street, in fact, Representative Horsford, got the flu. And ever since, many low-income communities across this great country have been dealing with economic pneumonia. That's bad for the country, that's bad for our democracy, and we here in the country ought to do something about it.

Now, since the collapse of the economy in 2008, one of the things that has exacerbated the income and inequality dynamic is the fact that some Americans have recovered, but others have been left behind. We are in the midst of a very schizophrenic economic situation right now. Corporate profits are way up. The stock market is way up. The productivity of the American worker is way up. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high and wages for working families and for low-income Americans has remained stagnant.

That's why we're arguing in the CBC that what we should be doing in America right now is investing in our economy, lifting up low-income workers and working families and those who aspire to be part of the middle class; invest in education; invest in job training; invest in research and development; invest in transportation and infrastructure and technology and innovation. Invest in America in these ways. Put people back to work so we can increase consumer demand; and if you increase consumer demand, the economy is going to grow. And if the economy grows, then the deficit as a percentage of GDP will reduce itself, and everybody benefits.

So if you can't find the compassion simply to do the right thing for those low-income Americans who are struggling here in this great country, basic economic theory suggests that the right thing to do would be to provide support to those Americans who will spend that additional income that they have, put it into the economy in order to help create a more robust recovery.

So I thank the gentleman from Nevada for his leadership on this issue of great importance.

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Mr. JEFFRIES. Well, we don't need slash-and-burn budgets that reduce our investment in social safety net programs that are an important part of who we are in America. What we should be doing, consistent with the 10-20-30 proposal, is targeting our investment in a way that is nonpartisan in nature, that will direct resources to rural America and to urban America, to blue States and to red States, that will focus on the poverty problem in a way that will benefit Americans no matter where they might be. That's what we should be doing as a Congress. That's what 10-20-30 is all about, and I'm hopeful that we can find our way to a bipartisan meeting of the minds, find common ground, and engage in investing in programs that will lift people out of poverty in this great country.

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