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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lee) for 5 minutes.

Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Speaker, as cofounder of the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, I rise today to call for an immediate response to the ongoing crisis of poverty in our Nation.

The census numbers released yesterday underscore the urgent need to act boldly and to create jobs in this country, to protect our safety net, and to target resources where they are needed--basically, to communities of color, low-income communities, those communities, rural areas, who were hit hardest by the economic downturn.

It's really beyond shameful that over 45 million Americans, including over 16 million children, are living in poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world. The data also shows a wide racial disparity, with the poverty rates for whites standing at 9.8 percent, while the rates for African Americans and Hispanics remain unacceptably high at 27.6 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively.

In 2005, I founded the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus because of the rising tide of poverty. Some of us saw this unfortunate day coming. That was beginning under the failed policies of the previous administration.

Of course, we also know the terrible economic impact of the massive financial crisis that they left us on their way out of office. With the swift efforts of President Obama and congressional Democrats, we are finally beginning to dig ourselves out of the hole that was left by the Bush administration and slowly moving the poverty rate in the right direction.

Mr. Speaker, we must do more and we can do more.

One of the most critical responsibilities we have as a government is to
promote and enact policies that keep our middle class strong and provide opportunities and a safety net for those striving and fighting to become middle class and to get into the ranks of the middle class, to enhance their quality of life. But far too many Americans are continuing to suffer joblessness and have dropped out of the middle class and into poverty because of this Republican do-nothing Congress.

Republicans in Congress have continually blocked efforts to extend and expand vital safety net programs which safeguard millions of American families and children who face stark realities of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness. Further, their continued blocking of critical Federal support to our States and localities has caused widespread layoffs of dedicated public servants like teachers, police officers, and firefighters in communities all across the country.

This attack on our country's public servants has had a particularly hard impact on communities of color and on women across the country. I just have to tell you, African Americans and women have long found job opportunities in the public sector, in public employment. African Americans, in particular, often found work with the city or the State because of racial bias and barriers and obstacles in the private sector.

Mr. Speaker, the American people know that you can't have it both ways. Government spending cannot kill jobs on one hand, when spent on hiring teachers and police officers, and create jobs on the other hand. And those services are desperately needed throughout our country. We need more police officers on the street.

My colleagues on the other side of the aisle must begin to accept the reality of history. Federal investments in our Nation's infrastructure, in our schools, and in programs that help struggling families are critical to boosting our economy and spurring our economic recovery.

Tax cuts for millionaires don't pay for themselves; they create massive deficits and weaken our country.

Markets don't regulate themselves. Deregulation allows rampant fraud and creates massive bubbles that inevitably burst and threaten our entire economy.

We need a balanced approach that ensures that every American pays their fair share and is invested in a united and prosperous future for all Americans of every background. We need a balanced approach that ensures that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share so that we can reignite the American Dream for all.

How this Nation treats the least of these is not just a measure of our Nation's moral priorities, but it will directly impact whether the American Dream survives and thrives for all. Let us not forget that our greatest strength is the freedom and opportunity that our democracy created to allow us to work together to build the largest and most prosperous middle class the world has ever known.

But this means that we must reduce and we must eliminate poverty. And I hope in the few days that we're left that this Congress will come together and figure out a way to pass the President's American Jobs Act, because in that legislation we have critical investment to rehire our police officers, teachers and firefighters who desperately need their jobs, but also the services are desperately needed in our communities.

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