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Public Statements

Stimulus Package

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

STIMULUS PACKAGE -- (Senate - February 11, 2009)


Mr. BROWN. Madam President, I was glad to yield the additional 5 minutes to my friend from Iowa. Senator Grassley has always been, as far as I could see, bipartisan in my 2 years in the Senate. I thank him for that. I often don't agree with his reasoning, but I always agree with his motive. I wish to make a couple comments--and I know he has to leave and that is fine. I wish to make some comments on his comments, and then I will talk more precisely and directly about this stimulus package that we are convinced will create millions of jobs for our economy and our country.

I was joined in a press conference today by the President of the National Association of Manufacturers, a group that rarely supports me in my campaign and rarely supports the Presiding Officer in hers, as it is a group that simply doesn't agree with us. The National Association of Manufacturers thinks this stimulus package is just right. They like the spending part, the tax cuts part; they think it is the right mix. They were resounding in their support today. Also joining Senator Jack Reed and me was the president of the National Association of Realtors.

There are a lot of very important economic organizations and business groups that are supportive of this legislation. I am sorry it has become so partisan to the Republicans and that only three of them could see their way to support a bill that has gotten huge bipartisan and business support and labor support around the country and not even three people in the House of Representatives. So I have a couple comments on Senator Grassley's comments.

I am incredulous when you see people stand and try to make the 1990s economy out to have not been very good and the economy of the last decade to have been better. Yet anything good that happened in the 1990s had to do with Republican policies, and anything bad that happened in this decade had to do with Democratic policies. It goes back to something I am even more incredulous about, and that is this cottage industry that has been created in this country in the last year that Franklin Roosevelt's Presidency was a failure and that it caused the Depression and then caused the second depression and recession in 1937. It is remarkable. I am not an economic expert. I took economics courses in high school and in college, but I am a prolific reader. I don't ever recall reading--from conservative or liberal economists and people in between, such as academics or business people--that Franklin Roosevelt's economic policies were a failure, until 6 months ago when it was clear that Barack Obama was going to be President and was going to follow some of Roosevelt's ideas of direct spending to put people to work, for infrastructure, for health care, education, and a lot of things Franklin Roosevelt did, such as regulation of Wall Street, of the minimum wage and worker's compensation and unemployment compensation--all the things that Roosevelt began.

On a personal note, I add that this desk at which I stand is desk No. 88. They each have numbers on them. This desk was occupied, back in the 1930s, by future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, then a Senator from Alabama. Hugo Black supposedly sat at this desk when he wrote the minimum wage bill; he wrote it on the Senate floor, apparently, and it later became law.

What intrigues me is that there are Wall Street Journal columnists--no surprise--and Washington Times, Republican ideologues, and conservative think tanks funded by some of the wealthiest outsourcing kinds of corporations in America, who are trying to discredit Franklin Roosevelt's policies in order to discredit President Obama's policies. It is historical revisionism that sounds almost like, I daresay, the Soviet Union--this kind of revisionist history that I don't even get.

There is no question in any fair-minded historian's mind that what Franklin Roosevelt did mattered in a very positive way. He built a banking structure that kept us safe for 75 years, until the Republicans deregulated it in the last 8 years. He built a wage structure that created a middle class. He got us out of the Depression, along with others he worked with.

Enough of that. When I heard my friend from Iowa talk about the 1990s, that the Clinton policies didn't work and that, in 2001, the Bush policies did--where I come from, in Ohio, we say that doesn't pass the straight-face test. I don't think anybody believes them. These columnists and pundits and rightwing ideologues and think-tank academics keep saying it, so I guess they are talking to each other but not to the American public.

Let me talk about the stimulus. The Senate, yesterday, took a major step toward revitalizing this stumbling economy.

We passed legislation that would create jobs in construction, engineering, green energy, social work, health care, the retail sector, the service sector, and the manufacturing sector--preserving those jobs now and building jobs in the future.

These are jobs that stimulate consumer spending, which stimulates economic activity, economic activity that fuels growth and gets us out of recession. When you build a bridge, you put money in the pockets of sheet metal workers and operating engineers and laborers and carpenters and electricians.

When you build an infrastructure project, that money does two things: It goes directly into the economy because these are good-paying jobs that create a middle class, and they will spend that money on homes, cars, and consumer items. It also, as I have learned in doing roundtables around Ohio--I have done 125 roundtables in all of Ohio; I have been in all the 88 counties listening to people talk. I invite 20 or 25 people in a community, a good cross-section of people. It is not just the mayors and county engineers who say we need more sewers, broadband, water systems, bridges, highways, and roads. It is also economic development directors of the communities' chambers of commerce, the plant managers, and other business people who understand that to do economic development, you need clean water for manufacturing, you need a good transportation system, bridges, water, sewer systems, broadband, and all these things. That is what this stimulus package is about--infrastructure. It creates 4 million jobs, some directly and immediately, as we set the table and build a foundation for economic development.

The bill, I also add, invests in alternative energy. That means good-paying jobs, energy innovation, and energy independence. It means fighting for global independence and fighting global warming, a force that is threatening animal species and could only jeopardize the human species as well.

An overwhelming number of scientists say that.

This bill will not only stimulate our economy, it will make sure our Nation can regain its economic footing and does not do it just to lose it again in the future.

We cannot be dependent on foreign oil and hope to thrive in the global economy. We cannot let our transportation infrastructure erode. That is what has happened in the last 10 years.

At the beginning of this decade that some of my Republican friends brag about, the economic policy of the early Bush years, we had a budget surplus when he stood on the Capitol steps and took the oath of office. We had a budget surplus in this country. Then the President went to war with Iraq, spending $3 billion a week. The President did tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And all of a sudden, we have this huge budget deficit that my Republican friends rail against we are adding to.

When President Obama took office, the budget deficit was at $1 trillion for that fiscal year. It went from zero to $1 trillion. Madam President, $1 trillion is a thousand billion; a billion is a thousand million. If you spent $1,000 every second of every minute of every hour of every day, it would take you 33 years to spend $1 trillion. The pages sitting in front of me average in age about half that; am I correct? Sixteen years or so? They have lived about half a billion seconds. For them to spend $1 trillion, they would have had to spend $2,000 every second of every minute of every hour of every day in their young lives to get to $1 trillion. You, Madam President, would have to spend a little less, being very young but a bit older than they are.

Let me talk for a moment about what is happening with the States.

Every State in this country--unless they are energy States, unless they make money in their State treasuries from oil production, coal production, natural gas production--is faced with a huge budget deficit. My State of Ohio, for instance, as so many States, is forced to cut services. Cutting services means cutting jobs, it means laying off people, and it means hurting communities. It means all of that.

We cannot dismiss this situation. We must confront it. We must do something about it. It means as people lose their jobs, as a plant in Jackson, OH, the Meridian plant, closes or a plant somewhere else in Gallipolis or Mansfield or Toledo, OH, closes--when a plant shuts down, it is not just those workers who lose, as tragic as it is; it also puts more demands on the mental health system, more demands on the food pantry, more demands on communities that simply cannot afford it. As their tax base shrivels, they cannot afford it.

Economic recovery will not happen at the national level unless it happens at the State level. With dramatically reduced revenues, States are left with no options. They are cutting basic jobs, and they are cutting basic services. They are cutting social workers, teachers, mental health counselors, and public safety personnel. We cannot function that way. If what we do in the recovery bill adds jobs but the States take them away, we will be left treading water.

The House-passed economic recovery bill includes dollars the States can use to weather this economic storm. And if they don't weather it, none of us will.

So I hope Senators and Representatives negotiating the final bill will agree upon the House-passed State stabilization fund. It just makes sense.

This bill, as I said earlier, is endorsed by the National Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Realtors, and businesses all over the Presiding Officer's State of North Carolina and my State of Ohio. It is endorsed by small businesses, by manufacturing businesses--all those companies that create so much wealth and jobs in our society.

In my State, from Toledo to Columbus, our universities are engaging in groundbreaking research. From Cleveland to Cincinnati, regional partnerships are being formed to advance solar and wind technology. My State is well on the way to becoming the Silicon Valley of alternative energy. We are about to put wind turbines in Lake Erie--the only place in the world where wind turbines will actually be located in freshwater. We are building hydropower on the Ohio River. We have the largest solar manufacturer of any State in the country in northwest Ohio. The University of Toledo is doing all kinds of wind turbine research, fuel cells in Stark State and Canton and Rolls Royce and Mount Vernon. Fuel cell development and research is far ahead of most places in the country, with biomass, Battelle in Columbus, all kinds of coal research. We are doing things that, with this bill, we can do better.

There is $33 billion in green energy tax incentives in this bill to grow jobs by encouraging green energy production. What value is it if we wean ourselves from foreign oil by using solar but we are not producing solar in our country?

Oberlin College, which is 15 minutes from my house, has the largest single building on any college campus in America powered fully by solar energy built 3, 4 years ago. We got those solar panels from Germany and Japan. Why do we do that? We do it because in the early part of this decade President Bush pushed through this Senate and the House--I was a Member of the House--an energy bill that dumped all of its tax incentives, subsidies and incentives, to oil and gas, not to solar, not to wind, not to fuel cells, not to biomass, not to where we should have been looking. It was the same old game, same old politics, same old ``help your friends in the oil and gas industry, cash your campaign checks, and do the country wrong.'' That is why this bill is so important to do something else.

Lastly, I wish to talk about another provision of the bill which probably is the strongest provision of the bill; that is, the ``Buy American'' provision Senator Dorgan and I worked on in the last couple of years.

In a recent survey of Americans, 84 percent support the ``Buy American'' provision--perhaps the strongest statement of the public on any provision in the stimulus bill. The fact is, we are asking people in North Carolina, Ohio, and around this country to reach into their pockets and come up with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend on the stimulus package. They ask three things: first, that we be accountable in doing this right; second, they ask that the jobs be in the United States; third, they ask that the materials used for this infrastructure also be made in the United States. That is the compact we have come to, and I believe that is so very important.

I have had discussions with people at the highest levels of the Obama administration about the importance of ``Buy American'' and about enforcement. We have had some of these ``Buy American'' laws on the books since the Roosevelt years. It is part of the reason he was successful. The Bush administration simply turned its back on this law. They simply did not enforce it. They granted waivers, waivers that were not even public. For instance, the 800-mile fence along the Mexico-United States border was made with Chinese steel, probably illegally. But the Bush administration just said: OK, buy the steel wherever you want, instead of putting Americans to work.

I close with, as all of us in this body--most of us--understand, we need to get this economy back on track, we need to set the stage for a prosperous future. Partisanship at this stage is a slap in the face of unemployed Americans, families facing foreclosures, communities sinking into poverty, and, frankly, to middle-class America, who just wants an even break and wants us to get our economy back on track. Action is our only option. Let's move.

I yield the floor. Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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