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Public Statements

We Can Do Better

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DeFAZIO. Too many Americans are out of work. The stimulus certainly preserved some public sector jobs and was of benefit to public education and filled in some other gaps. But the rest of the spending has not been of great impact, particularly the $340 billion in tax cuts insisted upon by three Republican Senators. And unfortunately, the Obama administration, at the urging of its chief economist, Larry Summers, caved in to those demands for yet more ineffective tax cuts, something that failed miserably during the Bush era to put the economy back on track, and failed again.

If you don't have a job, a tax cut doesn't do you much good and doesn't put you back to work, does it? So it's time for a new approach, considered, unfortunately by some, old school. That would be rebuilding the infrastructure of America.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we have a $2.2 trillion infrastructure deficit in this country. One hundred sixty thousand bridges on the Federal highway system are either load-limited or functionally obsolete. Our transit agencies across America have an $80 billion backlog.

Now, the chief economist for the President, Mr. Larry Summers, an academic, doesn't think that infrastructure investment's a good thing. He cut it back in the stimulus last spring. But you know, actually, the 4 percent of that huge bill that went to infrastructure created 25 percent of the jobs. So perhaps Mr. Summers was wrong yet again, like he was when he prevented the Clinton administration from regulating derivatives, which caused our world collapse of the economy.

But he thinks that infrastructure takes too long to spend out. What he doesn't understand is, when you have a massive backlog, you have projects that can be put on the ground or to work immediately.

I'll use an example that's kind of close to home for the President. The Chicago Transit Authority, they have a $6.8 billion backlog in their transit system. They testified before my committee that they could spend $500 million tomorrow, tomorrow, productively, bringing that system back toward a state of good repair. It would still take another $6.5 billion, $6.3 billion, and it would take quite some time.

Now, they got out of the stimulus $240.2 million for their transit backlog. They spent that money productively in 30 days. They bought buses. Guess what? You buy a bus, people who make buses have jobs. People who make parts for the buses have jobs. We have a ``Buy America'' rule. Those jobs are actually here in the United States of America, and then those people work and they pay taxes and there's revenues to the government; sort of a good old-fashioned way of stimulating the economy and helping the deficit. Unfortunately, the President's chief economist doesn't believe in this. It's time for him to reorient his thinking.

We need a massive investment in our infrastructure. It is so degraded that we have projects ready to go all across the country in transit districts, in States with bridge replacement. These aren't things that require five to 10 years of planning and a long spend-out and those things that those ethereal academic economists think about when they think about transportation infrastructure.

No, when you're in deficit, like the United States of America is today, when you're headed toward a Third World transportation infrastructure, while our competitors like China are spending hundreds of billions of dollars for high speed rail, what are we doing? We're struggling to keep Amtrak running at 19th century speeds. That's kind of pathetic.

We can do better. But it will take a commitment, a push by the White House, a reorientation in the thinking down there, or perhaps ignoring some bad advice they're getting, and have the President champion the creation of jobs and the rebuilding of our infrastructure. And you know, we can do this in a way that actually wouldn't have to add to the deficit.

They've done a great job of bailing out Wall Street. Goldman Sachs is going to be paying bonuses that average $700,000 this year. Whoa, good times are here again, except not for an America that is suffering very high unemployment. So maybe it's time that Wall Street just gave back a little bit. We could reinstitute a tax we had from 1916 to 1966, a modest transaction tax.

Congress, in the last Great Depression, they had the guts to actually double that tax. Disaster was predicted on Wall Street. Guess what? The economy only went up from there, and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people were put to work building a new America, an infrastructure that needs rebuilding today.

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