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Public Statements

Congressional Progressive Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. I thank the gentleman from Minnesota, my junior in the House. When I say that, I mean we're both juniors, having served now in our third terms. We will be officially recognized, I guess if we're fortunate to make it back for the 113th Congress, that will be our fourth term. We will be seniors, and we will be permanent seniors as long as the voters allow us to be. And we certainly want to do what the voters want us to do here.

What the voters of the Fourth Congressional District of Georgia tell me over and over and over again, day in and day out, 24-7, is that jobs is the issue, and they want us to pass the President's job creation bill. They don't understand why simple proposals that will create jobs and reinvigorate our economy are something that we can't come to grips with here on the House floor. And I tell them to keep the faith, but I also tell them where the problem lies. It is not with the President. It's not with the Democrats in the House of Representatives. It's with my friends on the other side of the aisle, the Tea Party-Grover Norquist Republicans who want to balance the budget. Their main issue is balancing our budget. And certainly our budget needs to be balanced, and that's something that we should do. It's not our first priority.

Our priority right now, and I agree with the people of the Fourth District, it should be jobs. And if we don't create jobs, if we leave people on unemployment or unemployment having expired, that means less money circulating in the economy. If there's less money circulating, less economic activity, less job creation. And so there's a lot that we can do, Congressman Ellison, to help the people, especially during this holiday season.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. It certainly will not create any jobs. There is a false perception that has been bought into wholesale, unanimously, by my Tea Party-Grover Norquist Republican friends, and that is that deregulation somehow creates jobs.

Now, I know what kind of jobs are created when you deregulate the health and safety of food, water, air quality, drugs, Wall Street. I know what happens when you don't have any regulations. It means you're going to have more people going to the doctor because of unsafe and unhealthy conditions--adulterated food, water. It means that you will have more----

Mr. ELLISON. Asthma.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. People in the mortuary business who are trying to determine the cause of death for people. You will have more cleanup workers, workers who are dispatched to clean up toxic sites. You'll create those kinds of jobs. Yet, as for the kind of high-level, 21st century jobs that America needs in order to be the leader of the world economy in this global environment that we're in, there is not one measure that the Republicans have introduced that will stimulate the creation of those kinds of jobs.

So what we're doing, Congressman Ellison, is just creating conditions of great suffering so that people will vote against President Obama next November. The stated goal of my friends on the other side of the aisle--their main, central goal--is to make sure that President Obama is a one-term President. They don't care about how much pain they inflict on the American people, on the 99 percenters--and 47 percent of them are millionaires, so they don't have to worry. It's just to serve a political purpose.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Starting January 1.

Mr. ELLISON. Starting January 1, it's going to come out of their checks.

Now, Democrats have said, Let's ask the most well-to-do Americans----

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. The top 1 percent.

Mr. ELLISON. And they don't have to pay based on their first $1 million; it's just after their first $1 million--to toss a little back to the American people so that we can extend the payroll tax cuts for working class people.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. But Grover Norquist doesn't want them to do it.

Mr. ELLISON. Grover Norquist said no. They signed a pledge.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. They signed it 20 years ago.

Mr. ELLISON. They signed it. They signed a pledge, not to the American people, but to Grover Norquist.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Who does he represent?

Mr. ELLISON. Do you represent him?

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. I don't represent him, and he doesn't represent me or the folks that predominate my district. I've got a 99er district.

Mr. ELLISON. I've got a 99er district as well.

The thing that really gets me is that, if Grover Norquist lived in my district, I would feel duty-bound to at least listen to him because I listen to everybody in my district. But to sign a pledge to him to subvert the interests of the 99 percent is an outrageous thing.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. All the while, Congressman Ellison, pitting Americans against each other, trying to stoke hatred and anger amongst the 99 percenters on any issue they can.

Mr. ELLISON. Right, divide and conquer.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. That's the way it is.

So right now, Congressman Ellison, I feel like I have to say this because you're such a great example of a true American patriot, one who lives life in accordance with your inner ideals. We have the freedom in this country to do so, but there are those right here in this Congress who would try to turn the American people against you and people like you because of the religion that you have chosen to follow.

Mr. ELLISON. That's right.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. They don't have any idea that your dad is a Republican.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. They don't have any knowledge of how you grew up and what kind of values you were taught and what kind of family you had. They just want to condemn you because you are a Muslim. They want to make you a threat to America, a threat to our military, and make a threat of those engaged in the military who happen to practice the faith of Islam. It plays into this decision to put Americans through this suffering so that they will then vote against President Obama and the Democrats so that the Republicans can then throw the welcome mat out like they have done for the large corporate interests and wealthy individuals in order to control public policy in America.

Mr. ELLISON. The gentleman makes an excellent point. I mean, let me put it like this:

How are you going to get the 99 percent to vote for the exclusive interests of the 1 percent? Or a better question: How are you going to get 50 percent plus one to vote for the interests of the 1 percent? You've got to keep them divided. You've got to keep them confused. You've got to keep them asleep. You've got to keep them disliking each other for no legitimate reason.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. So you hold hearings on issues that are false issues.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. You create controversy where there is none.

Mr. ELLISON. Right.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. This is a game that, certainly, many people see is being played, but I wish far more people saw and understood what is actually taking place in their House of Representatives. I believe that it's one reason we have two groups of 99ers--the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement, those who are dissatisfied with how things are going in America.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. I do believe that you are 100 percent correct on that, and I want to give a shout out to those millionaires who are socially conscious. There are so many people who are afflicted and who are just eaten up with greed, and they already have more money than they can possibly spend in this lifetime; yet they have an insatiable quest for more and more and more.

They are the ones who are supporting people like Grover Norquist and like Dick Armey----

Mr. ELLISON. FreedomWorks.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Who is a proponent of the Tea Party movement; and those are the people, the Koch brothers, those kinds of interests that benefit from our system of government but then, ironically, they would support and encourage those who want to do away with government. They want to strip government of its power to regulate. They want to strip government of its power to protect and to create fairness and prosperity. And it is just basic. I don't care how rich you are, but if you're riddled with envy and with the need for more, you know, you just can't be satisfied, you are going to be unhappy.

And the person who is unemployed but doing their best to find a job and take care of their family and despite all obstacles is willing to do with half a crumb that they have extended to their neighbor because their neighbor is in the same shape, we're all in this together. Those are the types of ideals that we used to have in this country, we used to exemplify. But now it's this culture of greed and avarice and self-satisfaction. Reminds me of the old days of the Roman Empire.

Mr. ELLISON. Or even the old days of the robber barons, like the 1890s, you know, 1900. This was a time when industry in America was young, and there were no right--labor unions, there were no environmental protections and people would, if you lost your hand on a punch press, you just were out.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. So be it.

Mr. ELLISON. And if you actually tried to get a fair wage from your boss, you just could be arrested or thrown into jail or whatever. And if you got sick based on the smog that the smokestack was pumping out, then you just died young, I guess.

But then America went through some changes; and we said, you know what, workers are going to have the right to organize. That's a good thing. Our air is going to be clean. Companies are going to have to abide by some of our environmental regulations.

And there became an American consensus where we said, yeah, you know, we're a mixed economy, which means that we have a strong public sector, but we have a strong private sector too. And the private sector, you be innovative, you come up with good products, services that people need, and by all means we hope you do well, but after you do well we need you to toss something back----

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Give back.

Mr. ELLISON. For the common good. And what we have now is we have people who say, I don't care about the common good. And here is the thing----

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Every man for himself.

Mr. ELLISON. Every man for himself.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Only the strong survive.


The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair must ask that the Members yield and reclaim their time in a more orderly fashion so that the court reporters are able to make the appropriate transitions.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Fair enough.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. I could not have said it better; and I will say, so that I don't repeat what you've said, that when we do have a strong government, then government is there to protect the interest of all of the people, those who are the so-called job creators, who haven't been creating a lot of jobs here lately, by the way. I don't know why they still have that title, because all the jobs have been moving offshore, out of America and leaving these workers here without jobs.

We're doing ourselves a disservice by cutting government and cutting our ability to clean up the mess that has been created through decades, now, of deregulation. It has caused us to be a society where we spend more money on health care, but we're the sickest people in the industrialized world, among the industrialized nations.

We've got a financial system that nearly collapsed because of lack of regulation. And the same people who profited so mightily back during those winner-take-all days want to keep the winner-take-all days, make the big bonuses, the obscene bonuses at year end that they're getting ready to publicize now, and they would rather collect those bonuses than create jobs for Americans to clean up the environment, to reregulate Wall Street. They want to cut those jobs, so job creation, it will actually result in the job creators, or the 1 percent, being able to experience even more profit.

People should understand that if you help someone else, it comes back to you. These are just simple concepts of living that we have gotten away from as a society.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. If the gentleman would yield, what we do when we create job growth and when we spread the wealth, it means that we're able to pay down that deficit, that debt that we have. We are able to clear that out. America is certainly not in a crisis as far as debt is concerned. We borrow money at 2 percent. You can't get it much cheaper than that. And while that cheap money is available, we should be borrowing that money and investing it in our own economy, in our infrastructure, in our research and development for medical care, health care delivery, energy production, our education system from the buildings on down to the lowest piece of equipment that's in there, the teachers who teach our children. We should be investing in those areas. We'll see this economy turn around rather quickly, and we'll see that debt disappear quicker than most people believe that it will.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Thank you.

Many Americans watched in horror as the drama unfolded on the I-35 bridge, the aftermath of crashing into the waves of water below and taking out a multitude of cars and taking lives and causing people to be injured, and also resulting in an economic detriment to that area that needed that bridge in order to continue to conduct business. We can look at it sterilely on the TV from a distant location, but we should realize that the same thing that happened to you guys in Minnesota can happen to us in Georgia with our own bridges that are in disrepair due to deferred maintenance.

This is something that can happen not just in Georgia, not just in Minnesota, but all across the land. And it doesn't have to be that way, because as President Obama has proposed in the American Jobs Act--or as a part of the American Jobs Act--there is money--a small amount, but any amount is better than none--for infrastructure. I think it's $50 billion. That infrastructure, in addition to helping with our public safety issues--health, safety, and well-being of the people--would also create jobs. So we're killing more than one bird with one stone by passing the American Jobs Act.

Not one of my friends on the other side of the aisle has been able to put forth any rationale for not considering any part of that Jobs Act. We did, I'll give them credit, pass something last week having to do with veterans. They just could not find it within their hearts to avoid voting for that. But if there was some way that they could, they would have.

They are insisting that the tax cuts to the working people of this country, the payroll tax, they want that to be paid for. But nobody said anything last year about paying for the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Mr. ELLISON. Right.

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Nobody said anything and nobody is saying anything because they want those tax cuts to become permanent while they at the same time would vote to impose a balanced budget amendment, which really would just simply lock in an unfair tax rate or a tax system that is unfair, would lock it in and make it much more difficult to change it.

So, Congressman, these are issues that I'm pleased to sit here and discuss with you. I look forward to further dialogue from both people on this side of the aisle, along with my friends on the other side of the aisle, because when it's all said and done, we're all in the same boat together.


Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. I just want everyone to know that even though I stand up and talk about the Grover Norquist-Tea Party Republicans, I admire the Tea Partiers because they got up off of their duffs because they were upset about how things were going. They were misled in terms of thinking that the health care reform was not going to be good for them. It's good for them. And they will soon find out--they will continue to find out--that the things that we have done are good for them and their attention will be diverted from this President to their pocketbook. And so I look forward. I admire them for their activism. I love them. Don't take it personally when I talk about you being a Dick Armey-Tea Party Republican of the Grover Norquist ilk.

With that, I will close. I believe that my friends on the other side of the aisle are ready to delude you with some information.


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