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Public Statements

Press Conference with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)


Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. KENNEDY: First of all, I want to thank Chairman Schumer for convening the Joint Economic Committee today on a matter of central importance to working families all across this country. And we are grateful to the leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for bringing our parties together so that we will have an effective program that will make a difference to these working families.

What is really a recession? What is this really all about? It's about hard working Americans losing their job through no fault of their own. It's a fact that these hardworking Americans are unable to maintain home ownership -- the homes that they've lived in, that they've raised their children in over a period of time. It means that the hardworking American families are losing their health insurance -- tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands every month all across this nation. And it means that men and women that work hard, play by the rules, get up every morning and send their children out to school, are increasingly facing bankruptcy all across this nation.

And they want to know why, and what can be done about it. And we, as Democrats, and we, on the Joint Economic Committee, are here to say, help is on the way. We hear their cries of aguish, and their cries of pain, and their cries of frustration, and their cries of real fear. And we are prepared to take action, and we will take action. And in the best days of the leadership of the Joint Economic Committee, it took the kind of -- made the recommendations to the full Senate and the House of Representatives, and action was taken, and help was on the way.

Just finally, these charts here make the case, very clearly and dramatically, as to what's been happening in the most recent times in terms of the unemployment. And these figures here do not reflect the long-term unemployment. If you take the long-term unemployment prior to the last recession, and the long-term unemployment prior to this recession, the long-term unemployment is almost double to what it was prior to the time of the last recession -- people that want to work and unable to work.

Secondly, if you take this here -- as the temperatures drop, home heating oil prices (for ?) 40 percent since year. In so many parts of this country families are faced with this explosion of costs in terms of home heating oil.

If we look at what has been happening in terms of families facing losing their homes, 181 percent up from 2005 -- that's 200,000 a month. Two hundred thousand families a month are losing their homes.

And if you look what is happening in terms of the bankruptcies -- up 40 percent. The interesting point on the bankruptcies, the families that are going bankrupt have a good, if not better, record for working than the average Americans. These are men and women that are working but just can't make ends meet -- and we've seen the explosion.

And finally the point that Senator Schumer and we made at the hearing today, if you look at the stimulus proposals, and the impact of the bang for the buck, here it is on the unemployment benefits: $1.73 for every dollar that is given in stimulus; $1.24 for the aids to the states; income tax down to 59 percent. Look at what our Republican colleagues have suggested: capital gains tax, nine cents; business investment, 24 cents.

The point is, we need the stimulus package to be simple, to be targeted on the families that need it most and the communities that need it most, to be fair. And to be tried and tested -- that is, existing programs that have demonstrated their impact and their positive impact. And that is what we are committed to. And we are going to work with our colleagues in our caucus and with our leadership, and we're going to do everything that we possibly can to get that program on the floor of the Senate at the earliest possible time.


SEN. KENNEDY: (Inaudible) -- just add to that. I think two elements that he commented -- one was on the investment credit and the other one was accelerated depreciation. But in his presentation to the committee he mentioned that these could be possible but they paled in terms of the stimulus impact as compared to these other items. Want to be fair to Larry Summers but also be fair to what his central message was on -- relating to these business tax cuts versus the kind of proposals that we are talking about.


Q Senator Kennedy, Secretary Gates told The L.A. Times (sic) that NATO forces in southern Afghanistan are not trained enough to fight the guerilla insurgency. Do you have any reaction to that criticism?

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, I think that's a -- the composure of the force in Afghanistan has required additional troops, and Secretary Gates has traveled to Europe to try to get -- gain those troops, and the reaction by the Europeans has been extremely slow and reticent about supplying the additional troops, and it's only been -- that's been in process probably six to eight weeks. He's spoken publicly about his own disappointment in it and it does seem to me that NATO has taken on the responsibility in terms of Afghanistan right from the very beginning. The government was actually established in -- for Karzai as a result of NATO and leadership of the Western countries.

So the Western countries and NATO have a very fundamental and basic responsibility that they have to met -- to meet. I think the extent of their training -- Secretary Gates -- I -- there's no reason to doubt what he has stated on it. I think there's going to be -- there have been members of Congress that have spoken about this issue and about the reticent (sic) of the Europeans. It's going to be an ongoing and continuing challenge. General Jones, when he appeared before the Joint Economic Committee -- this is prior -- the end of last year -- commented about the reluctance and the resistance of the Europeans to be able to meet their own responsibility and this was going to be a continuing problem. I think that it is and I'd hope that probably our armed services committee -- Chairman Levin will have some hearings on it. I would certainly hope so.

Can I just say in a final point about bringing this together? Senator Schumer and I have talked to the -- a number of those individuals who are chair of the committees that would have jurisdiction on these proposals. You have food stamps -- Tom Harkin -- his proposals. We've talked to Max Baucus that has the issues about the rebates -- the issues that deal with some of those as well. We worked very closely with that committee on the unemployment compensation -- the fuel assistances in our committee -- other health care components would be in our committee. So -- and we have talked to very -- at considerable length with Senator Conrad, who's chairman of the budget committee.

So Senator Schumer and I and -- under the leadership of Harry Reid, who has been making these calls as well, have talked to the principal chairmen of the committees that would have the prime responsibility in the development of the package, and as Senator Schumer has pointed out we are very much together on it. Obviously, people are going to want to know the specifics and we understand that. We'll have a caucus on next Wednesday -- the week (sic) and we would expect that at that particular time hopefully we'd at least get a clear indication by the membership.

But what has been very clear to us so far is the chairmen of these committees have been very supportive of the leader Reid's understanding that there's going to have to be action. Senator Reid obviously has responsibilities working with the speaker, Pelosi, and also to the president because they wrote some time ago to the president indicating that they wanted to try and work this -- that the country required the action, and his disposition is to make these recommendations and get action at the earliest possible time and that's certainly Senator Schumer and my position.


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