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Public Statements

Competing Budgets

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address an empty House, but perhaps a few are watching C-SPAN.

We've just heard a fascinating 4-hour discussion on economic policy. A fundamental part of our work here in Congress is to set the economic policy for the United States. As we listened to that 4-hour debate and discussion, there were a lot of charts and a lot of economic theory on both sides: small government versus an active, investing government; the growth of taxes, or the lack thereof; a discussion about jobs and the like. I'd like to first start my discussion this evening on what we ought to be doing. That is the purpose of all of this.

I harken back to the 1930s, a period of time when the Nation was in a very serious Depression, unemployment was rampant, and there was a lot of pain and suffering throughout this Nation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the President at the time. Today, we are in a somewhat better situation, but still there's a lot of pain, a lot of unemployment, and a lot of families in desperate situations. Back in the thirties, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put forth his New Deal. He articulated--at least a part of it--with what I call ``The Test.'' He said:

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.

That's a value statement. That's a statement about how he saw the role of government, and I agree with him.

Our task here today, as we debate tomorrow and the next 2 days what the economic policy of America will be, we ought to harken back to what Franklin D. Roosevelt said in the 1930s: ``The test of our progress.'' ``The test of our progress.''

What are we to do? Are we to follow policies that would enrich the wealthy even more? And we have one such proposal before us; it's the Ryan Republican budget. It would slash the top tax rate from 39 percent to 25 percent and add another quarter of a million dollars of income annually to those who are making over 400--or over $1 million a year. I think that goes counter to what Franklin Roosevelt said:

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much.

The remaining portion of that proposal by Mr. Ryan would put a greater burden on the working men and women and the poor, and it's done in two ways. One way is to remove those tax write-offs that the middle-income, that the working men and women have, significantly reducing those and cutting off those programs that people without jobs depend upon--from unemployment insurance to food stamps and to other benefits that they have--so much so that their actual tax burden would rise by somewhere between $2,000 to $3,000 a year. Franklin Roosevelt said the test of our progress is ``whether we provide enough for those who have little.''

So if we are to believe that our role in government is to provide, to assist, to help, to bring up those who have little--the men and women who are unemployed, the families that have lost their homes, those who are searching for a well-paying job--if that is the test of our progress, if that is our value and our purpose, then I think we'd better think about a different economic policy than is presented to us by the Republicans. I would like to spend some time discussing that this evening.

First of all, there's an immediate situation in which the sequestration--which I have voted repeatedly to end, and many of my colleagues have also--is inherent in the Republican proposal. That sequestration will bring pink slips to 750,000 Americans in this year, the 2013 year; 750,000 Americans will lose their jobs. So if the test of our progress is to help those who have little, well, the Republican budget adds 750,000 people to those who will have very little. They would lose their job.

So why would we do this? Why would we do any economic policy that would add 750,000 people to the unemployment rolls? It makes no sense if you want to grow the economy. If you want to reduce your tax revenues and increase your deficit, I suppose this is one way to do it, but it's not a very good way.

I will tell you that in my district, at Travis Air Force Base, where men and women are going to lose their jobs, where 20 percent of their pay will be cut, it's a very serious problem for our Nation's defense. Because from that Air Force base, the big C-5As and the C-17s that carry men and women and equipment across this globe to fight our wars, to protect our Nation, they will be

sitting on the ground. They will not be doing their training. They will not be prepared to carry out their task in defending this Nation.

Why would we do that? It makes no sense to me. Whether it has to do with the test of our progress or our values or our Nation's defense, why would we want to move a policy that would send 750,000 people through the unemployment lines? It makes no sense to me at all.

I was home in my district this last weekend and I was talking to some elderly people that attended one of my meetings. They were asking me, Is it true that you guys are going to cut Medi-Cal?--which is the Medicaid program in California. I said, No, not us guys; but, yes, there is a proposal in Congress to seriously cut Medicaid, and therefore Medi-Cal. They said, Don't they understand that that's how my husband is supported in the nursing home? What are we to do if those cuts force him out of the nursing home?

Well, the reality is that that could happen, because we have a budget on the floor that 435 of us will be voting on in the next couple of days that actually will reduce the Medicaid--and, therefore, Medi-Cal in California--by a third, a third cut. Therefore, that lady who was concerned about her husband's care in the nursing home will find a problem.

She and perhaps many, many others--not perhaps, definitely--many other senior citizens are going to find their opportunity to have care in a nursing home removed. It's a very serious issue because who are those people that are going to see their Medi-Cal, or across this Nation, Medicaid support significantly reduced by one-third? Well, here they are. Two-thirds of them are seniors and people with disabilities. We're not talking about welfare and all that goes with that. We're talking about seniors and men and women in this Nation that have such disabilities that they cannot care for themselves. These are the people that are going to be hurt. Another 20 percent of them are children.

Why? Why would this House vote for a budget that would harm seniors, the disabled and children? Why would we do that? Perhaps the argument that you heard over the last 4 hours is, well, we need to deal with the deficit. Yes, we do. But do we need to deal with it in this way, that we go after seniors, we go after people with disabilities that cannot care for themselves and children and take it to them? And at the very same time in the very same piece of legislation give the superwealthy an additional, extraordinarily large amount of money that the average worker in the United States would have to work 5 to 6 years to equal the tax reduction given to those who are earning a million dollars? And for those that are earning a billion dollars, it is add three to four more zeros to their tax reduction.

Why would we do that? It makes no sense. It is not the American value. It's not what FDR said should be the test of our progress--seniors, children and disabled. Why would we do that?

When you look at that budget and you look at that proposal a little more, what do you see? The seniors, not those who are in nursing homes without income, but seniors, the average senior. The average senior in the United States has a median annual income of $22,800--median. Half of the seniors in this Nation have an annual income of less than $22,800. Half of them have more than that.

So where are we with the proposal that we'll be voting on in the next couple of days from our Republican colleagues? It is a proposal that will end the Medicare program as we know it, and all Americans who are not yet 55 years of age will never see the Medicare guarantee that is available to those Americans that are now 65 and 55 years or older, the Medicare guarantee of a health care program that has, since its inception in 1964, taken nearly all of the seniors in this Nation out of poverty when together with Social Security.

Before there was Medicare in 1964, there was rampant poverty among seniors. I've said on this floor before, and I'll say it again tonight, one of the searing memories in my mind was a trip when my father took me to the county hospital in Calaveras County in the 1950s to visit my neighbor, a rancher, who could no longer take care of himself. He didn't have the money, he was poor, and he wound up in the county hospital. There was a ward, perhaps 20 seniors in the worst possible condition without adequate medical care, simply lined up bed to bed to die.

What are we doing here? What are we doing? Why would we set up a program to end one of the most important, valuable programs to every American citizen? That is the promise of Medicare, a comprehensive medical program for them to take care of their health in their senior years. Why would we end that and turn it over to the health insurance industry?

Now, I was the insurance commissioner in California for 8 years. I know the health insurance industry, and I know their number one purpose: it's profit. They continually will put profit before people, and yet the proposal that is given to us by the Republican majority is to take every American under the age of 55 and give them a voucher so that they can go to those rapacious health insurance companies and try to get an adequate health insurance policy.

The guarantees that are in the Affordable Care Act would be wiped out by their legislation. The guarantees of an adequate insurance program, the end of discrimination based upon age and preexisting conditions, gone, wiped out. What are they thinking? What are they thinking? Do they understand what the American senior is going through? I think not. I think not. When you consider who those seniors are, I don't understand. I do not understand.

Now, there's an alternative, there's an alternative put forward by our Democrats on this side. You've heard it discussed here in the previous 4 hours. It is an equivalent that is a reflection of the basic American value of taking care of each other, of helping each other, the value of a community, a small community perhaps like I live in in California, the community of Walnut Grove, or the large community of all of us, over 300 million Americans, where we care for each other, where we test our progress by making sure that all of us are lifted up, not just the superwealthy, not just those who have everything they could possibly need--I understand they may want more--but rather to provide the basic needs of these who have nothing or little--health care, food, shelter, and clothing.

That's where we're coming from. We do it in a way that actually reduces the deficit over time, brings back into a reasonable balance the annual appropriations and the revenues of this government, does it in a way that meets the needs of this generation and future generations, does it in a way that makes the critical investments that grow the economy, rather than stifle the economy by pulling out of the economy, as our Republican colleagues would, the essential elements of economic growth.

There are five of them. I've talked about this for more than 25 years in California and beyond. Those critical investments in present and future economic growth are simple, but they are powerful, and they are absolutely necessary. They are education, research, infrastructure, manufacturing--making things here in America--and change. Those are the five elements. And now that we're here at the Federal level, we must add to that our Nation's security, defense and others.

Let me put a couple of things up here. Growing the economy: growing the economy requires that we invest in infrastructure. This is both immediate and long term.

When we invest in infrastructure, we put people to work now. We can do this. Men and women and companies and contractors are ready to go to work. The skilled labor force is there. All they need is for this government to fund a substantial infrastructure program, and that's precisely what the Democratic budget does. It adds $50 billion now to the appropriations for this year and creates an infrastructure bank so that we can have a public-private partnership to build those infrastructure programs that have a cash flow: sanitation projects, water projects, toll bridges, toll roads, airports. Many of the infrastructure programs that this Nation desperately needs can be financed with an infrastructure bank. For those that cannot be financed with a public-private partnership, we can and we must use our general fund revenue to build the infrastructure.

For every dollar we invest in infrastructure, we immediately return to the economy $1.57. Don't take my word for it. Take Mark Zandi's word, an economist for Moody's Analytics.

Nobody has debated that point. So why don't we invest in the infrastructure? When we do so, we will be safer. We'll have safer airports; our roads will be safer, they'll be paved; and the potholes, not all will disappear, but over time. We will improve our highway system. And our bridges, many of which are deemed to be insufficient and unsafe, can be repaired and rebuilt. And in the process, we've laid the foundation for future economic growth.

On the education side, it is exactly the same. On the education side, if we educate our children, if we have the best education program in the world, something very good will happen to this Nation. First, we will be competitive.

If we fail to educate our workforce, there is no way that we can be competitive. Yet, the budget being proposed by our Republican majority slashes the education programs in this Nation. And for those who are in college or have graduated, they would double the interest rates on student loans. What are they thinking?

On the other hand, our Democratic budget would actually increase funding this year for education, keeping teachers in the classroom, giving schools the opportunity to improve. In the infrastructure program, there are facilities and the opportunity in higher education to continue to keep students in school.

For those who need additional training in the work programs, the Workforce Investment program would be augmented, and we would be able to provide the upgrade in skills and education for those who are unemployed so that they would have a chance to get a job in a growing economy. We envision a growing economy where jobs are created. We know that this year the difference between the budget that we're proposing and the budget that our Republican colleagues are proposing is a difference of 1.2 million jobs.

With the continuation of the sequestration, 750,000 jobs will be lost. We end that. That's 750,000 on the plus side. And with the investments in education and infrastructure, we would add another 400,000 to 500,000 jobs. That's 1.2 million jobs. There's a big difference here: Americans going back to work and Americans being laid off.

We also know that the future economy demands that this Nation become and continue to be the most aggressive, robust research Nation in the world. We are today. No one, no other country, no other university in any other country can match the research that's done in the United States. It is that research that has kept this economy ahead, has kept us moving forward, yet here again we see a departure in how to grow this economy, how to create jobs.

Our budget, our proposal would continue to fund the research programs and, in fact, augment them more than what is currently available in today's appropriations. On the other hand, there are slashes to the research budget.

Today, farmers from my district, today researchers at the University of California at Davis, today the head of the Northern California Resource Conservation District organization came to my office and said, We need your help. We need your help to deal with a very real problem in California. Over the years for a variety of reasons, the aquifers, the underground water tables of California have been contaminated with nitrates, nitrates from the farm, nitrates from fertilizer, dairies and the rest.

There is a requirement, in fact a necessity, to reduce that contamination and, in fact, to eliminate it. However, in order to do so, fundamental research in the way in which plants take up nitrogen needs to be undertaken so that the nitrogen fertilizer that is applied to the fields matches the amount of nitrogen that the plants actually need. And that varies from soil condition to soil condition. Yet, in the budget that's been proposed by our Republican colleagues, there is a $45 million diminution, reduction in the available research money at the University of California at Davis, critical research needed by farmers so that they don't unnecessarily fertilize their fields, so that they accurately match the needs of their plants to the amount of fertilizer they apply. In so doing, they reduce the contamination that is a serious health problem in many parts of California.

Which path do we go on? Do we invest in energy research critical to this Nation? It was, in fact, past research conducted by the United States Government, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy that created the knowledge and the techniques for fracking, which has opened up a vast resource through this Nation, a gas resource, natural gas resources, as well as oil.

Research is fundamental: energy research, agricultural research, research in health care, research in the way in which we conduct our communications system. All of these things are fundamental, yet a choice will be made in the next few days which path we go on.

The fourth point I wanted to make is this: Manufacturing. Manufacturing matters. Manufacturing is where the middle class is. Manufacturing is where we built the great American middle class, making things, cars, refrigerators and the more advanced things such as high-speed trains and the like. We need to return this Nation to a manufacturing Nation. This is the creation of wealth. Using research, new products, new technologies, new ways in which we can make things, advanced manufacturing technology, we can rebuild the great American manufacturing sector.

We lost 9 million manufacturing jobs in the last 20 to 25 years. America can't afford that. We need tax policies. We need policies that encourage manufacturing in the United States. It was 2 1/2 years ago that we passed legislation that eliminated many of the tax breaks that corporations had to offshore jobs. We need to finish that job. The President said clearly in his State of the Union message we need to provide tax breaks for on-shoring, bringing those jobs back to America, and end the remaining tax breaks that corporations get for off-shoring. In so doing, we build our economy and we help to balance the budget by bringing tax revenues back to this Nation.

Manufacturing matters. Billions of dollars of our tax money are spent every year on goods and services, many of which are not made in America.

Why in the world would we spend our tax dollars on steel that's manufactured in China to build the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge? This is 43 million tons of steel, maybe 3,000 to 6,000 jobs in China, not in the United States--American tax money spent. It goes on and on. We need a strong Make It in America, Buy It in America policy so that our tax money is spent on American-made products and services, not on foreign made. Now, if you want to spend your own money out there, fine--buy whatever you want to buy--but if you're going to spend American taxpayer money, then we should spend that money on American-made equipment.

That is precisely the policy that we are offering here in the United States as we move our infrastructure programs forward and as we move forward with our energy development--our solar and our wind and other advanced energy systems. It is to use our tax money to build American manufacturing, once again, here in our Nation. So manufacturing matters, and we will Make It in America when, once again, it is made in America. It is very fundamental.

So these are the things: education, infrastructure, research, manufacturing, and change. We have to be willing to change in many, many of our policies.

How can we pay for this? Here is one novel idea. We can end those tax breaks that are given to individuals and to corporations that are no longer necessary.

The oil industry over the last decade earned $1 trillion in profit. This is the Big Five. It's not all the small ones. It would be much higher if you added the small ones. We are in the midst of an energy boom right now--oil, natural gas. We are producing more energy of natural gas and oil than we have in the last two or three decades. Also, the oil companies are doing pretty well, yet they continue to receive billions of dollars a year--perhaps as much as $5 billion, $4 billion for the Big Five in the oil industry--of your tax money to support them as their profits have added up to over $1 trillion. This is just the Big Five in the last decade.

Why would we do that? Why would we continue to use our tax money to support the oil industry? They get enough at the pump from us. They don't need a tax break. Let's take that tax break, turn it around and put it into tomorrow's energy systems, into supporting the green technologies--the solar, the wind, the conservation programs, the electric car systems, the batteries that will power those systems in the future--as we transition our economy from where we were to where we must be in the future. That's just one example of the tax breaks that are not necessary, and there are numerous other ones.

Why would we give Wall Street hedge fund billionaires an additional tax break where their real income--I mean, not capital gains, but their earned income--is taxed at capital gains rates rather than at an income tax rate? Why would we do that? We should end those kinds of tax breaks that are not necessary for economic growth and shift that money into deficit reduction or into assisting those future industries that we need to have or, perhaps, into research or education.

These are all strategies for the future, and they affect my communities that I represent. The infrastructure programs are crucial to my communities. I represent 200 miles of the Sacramento River. The second-most flood prone part of this Nation, the second-most at-risk cities in this Nation are in my district.

One proposal would reduce the infrastructure money needed to upgrade the levees to provide the protection for human life and property. Another proposal is to invest in infrastructure. One proposal is to cause layoffs and to take out those civil servants who are working in the Army Corps of Engineers and to say, For 20 percent of the time, you're going to be furloughed; you're not going to work. So the Army Corps of Engineers' work necessary to design, to oversee and to push forward the projects that I need in my district in order to protect my citizens will be delayed. It will be delayed through the next storm season.

We pray we won't have a flood, but why should we even have to pray when our proposal on the Democratic side would fully fund those civilians in the Army Corps of Engineers who are necessary to push forward the projects to protect Sacramento, to protect Marysville, to protect Yuba City, and to provide the money--the Federal share of the cost--of rebuilding and upgrading those levees? I'm not the only place in this Nation that is faced with that. We saw recently Superstorm Sandy, and we know the horrible impact that that had on New Jersey, New York, and the surrounding areas. We need to rebuild. We need to put that infrastructure in place because we know there will be additional superstorms in the future.

We are looking at a fundamental policy here, a fundamental question of our values as Americans. Are we going to have an investment strategy that grows the American economy and puts people back to work and protects Americans? Whether they are poor or impoverished, whether they are children or seniors, are we going to put in place policies that meet their basic needs? And for those future seniors, will they have the promise of Medicare? That is a question before the House of Representatives that in the next 3 days will be answered.

I pray and I work with my colleagues to see to it that we have a growth agenda, that we have an agenda of jobs, that we have an agenda to care for those who have little, and that we honor this value:

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back my remaining time.

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