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Public Statements

Jobs and the Make it in America Agenda

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CICILLINE. One of the things I know that we all share as new Members of the Congress, as freshmen, is that we've been here for about 4 months, Madam Speaker; and we've had conversations and debates about cutting Pell Grants and cutting Head Start. We've endured attacks on women's health and NPR, attacks on the environment, and most recently, efforts to end Medicare as we know it. We really haven't had before this Congress a jobs agenda, at a time when Americans are suffering from some of the highest unemployment in a generation.

We all recognize that we need to cut spending, we need to be responsible in our management of the national debt. One of the key ways that we can do that is to grow

our economy and get Americans back to work. And I believe, Madam Speaker, that one of the key ways that we can do that is to rebuild the manufacturing base in our country. There is no way we can maintain our position as a great economic power without making things in America. Making things in America is really a key part to rebuilding the economy of this country.

My home State of Rhode Island is one of the States that have been hardest hit in this economic downturn. Rhode Island was the first New England State to enter the recession, and it's currently facing the fifth-highest unemployment in America. But Rhode Island has a strong tradition of manufacturing. It's the birthplace of the American industrial revolution. This helped build the middle class and provided good-paying jobs for working families. In fact, Rhode Island used to produce one-third of the costume jewelry in the entire United States, yet our manufacturing sector has been really hard hit, especially in these particularly difficult economic times. According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, there were 71,100 manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island in 2000; and by the year 2008, that number had dropped to 47,900. Rhode Island lost 15 percent of its manufacturing jobs during the period of 2008 to 2009 alone. And from 2001 to 2008, Rhode Island lost 10,500 jobs due to trade with China.

When was the last time, Madam Speaker, that you went into a store and found something made in America? Manufacturing jobs all across this country have seen a steep decline, from 20 million jobs in 1979 to about 12 million today, and the middle class has been left behind. And that's why this past week, when we launched the Make It in America agenda, I became so hopeful about this Congress' attention on manufacturing. This agenda is really about reversing manufacturing job loss. It's about investing in good-paying jobs, world-class education, top-notch research, and sound infrastructure. We need to create an environment that encourages American manufacturers to innovate, grow, keep, and create good jobs here in the United States. When we Make It in America, our middle class will succeed. This agenda is based on the conviction that when more products are made in America, more families will be able to ``make it'' in America. The agenda is really intended to create the conditions to help American businesses produce goods here, to innovate, and create jobs.

It also includes being smart about the investments we make, to out-educate, to out-innovate, and out-build our international competitors. The President has already signed six Make It in America bills into law, many of them which enjoyed bipartisan support because business and labor leaders alike recognize that the Democratic agenda of making it in America is good for our country and is central to the future of our competitiveness, our jobs, and our leadership in the world.

This past week, we outlined a series of bills that represent really a cross-section of the legislative package, a dynamic agenda that will continue to evolve during the 112th Congress but is really focused on how we support the manufacturing sector again. Some of these bills have already been introduced. Others will be introduced in the coming weeks. The agenda includes the development of a national manufacturing strategy, directs the President to work with industry leaders, labor leaders, other stakeholders to develop a national manufacturing strategy for our country, to set appropriate benchmarks and measurements. Every other nation we're competing with that is serious about manufacturing has a national manufacturing strategy. The agenda also includes the Build America Bonds, expanding the Build America Bonds, the creation of a national infrastructure development bank.

If we're going to compete in the 21st century, we need to have an infrastructure which supports that competition. We need to have roads and bridges and transit systems and the ability to move information to compete in the 21st century. It includes making the research and development tax credit permanent and more generous to encourage job creation. It includes the creation of small business startup savings accounts, a reform of the Chinese currency system to give our American manufacturers a fighting chance to compete in the global marketplace. And it includes the Make It in America Block Grant, which I have drafted. This is a block grant which will help American manufacturers retrofit their factories, retrain their workers, buy new equipment, increase their exports, and make their facilities more energy efficient so that they can compete more successfully in the 21st century.

It's an ambitious agenda, but it's really about recognizing that we have got to start making things again in this country; that manufacturing was an important part of the history of America, an important way we built up the middle class in this country and became a world economic power.

We can no longer act as if manufacturing is not important. We need to make things here again so people can go into stores and buy things made in America. We need to start exporting goods made in America all over the world because we make the best products, we have the best workers, and stop exporting jobs.

This is an agenda which I hope will earn bipartisan support, that will be a key to helping rebuild the economy of our country and rebuilding our strong manufacturing base.

Madam Speaker, I think the most urgent priority we face is getting Americans back to work. Americans have been very hard hit in this recession. Members hear it all the time from constituents back at home. What are you doing to get people back to work, to get this economy back on the right track?

This Make It in America agenda, I believe, provides a real opportunity to again rebuild the manufacturing base of this country so that we can make things here again, and so that American families can make it as well.

At the same time, in addition to investing in this agenda, we also need to invest, as the President said, in education so that we can out-educate, so that our kids can compete, not just with the kids in the neighboring town or the next State, but kids in China and India and Germany and all over the world. That's who they're competing with in the 21st century. And we need to make sure they have the tools and skills necessary to compete successfully in the global economy.

In addition, we have to invest in science and research and innovation so we can continue to make the new discoveries, make the new inventions, create the new products that will allow us to lead the world and to again maintain our position as a world economic power. And that's why we think about the balance that we have to strike in managing the serious responsibility of reducing spending, eliminating programs that don't work, cutting waste, and at the same time, investing in the things that are necessary to keep our country strong--education, innovation and infrastructure.

And so, Madam Speaker, I hope that this Congress, the 112th Congress, will be known as the Congress that restarted and reinvested in making things again in America.

I know that my colleague the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Keating) has focused as well on creating jobs, bringing some balance to our Federal budget, and understands the urgency, particularly in coming from one of our great New England States, of rebuilding and manufacturing.

I'd like to yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.


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