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Jobs and Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CLYBURN. I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague, Congressman Garamendi, for his leadership on this very important issue.

Just a few minutes ago, we received some breaking news: the stock market just closed, and for the first time in the history of this great country, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 15,000 at 15,056. Standard & Poor's also closed at a record 1,625. So much for a socialist President.

Now, during my 20 years of service in this body, I have often reflected upon my experiences growing up in a church parsonage in the little town of Sumter, South Carolina. Early on, I internalized an Old Testament scripture, Micah 6:8: To do justly, to love mercy and walk humbly.

Today in this great country, we are experiencing an injustice that continues to get worse, one which I believe demands our attention. Indisputable evidence continues to show that income inequality has worsened over the last 30 years. The Congressional Budget Office released a report back in October 2011 on the distribution of household income between 1979 and 2011.

On the distribution of household income during that time, you might remember that report came out just a few days before the so-called supercommittee held its first public hearing. I served on that special panel, and I raised concerns with the CBO director about the ever-widening gap between America's rich and poor.

This chart is from that CBO report, and it shows that over the past 30 years, the wealthiest 1 percent have enjoyed income growth of more than 275 percent, while the lowest 20 percent have experienced only 18 percent growth.

Working families across the country have seen their wages stagnate and decline as earnings for the wealthiest few continue to soar. In fact, earnings for the top 1 percent during the current economic recovery have risen 11.2 percent, but declined for the other 99 percent by 0.4 percent. I'm going to repeat that.

The 99 percent have seen a decline of 0.4 percent--that is a negative--while the upper 1 percent, a positive growth of 11.2 percent.

Now, my friends across the aisle will talk about the American Dream and the ability of every American to work their way up to the top. But numerous studies have shown that there is less economic mobility in America than most people think. The fact is that if you work hard, play by the rules and take responsibility, it is currently harder to get ahead in America than it is in many parts of the world.

Let me cite an example. Thirty years ago, CEOs made an average of 42 times as much as rank-and-file workers, 42 times as much.

Today, a newly released report confirms that last year, CEOs of the biggest companies in the United States made 354 times what the average worker made, 354 times. That is the widest pay gap in the world.

Do most Americans believe that our CEOs work 354 times harder than their average employees?

Here is another example. Over the last 45 years, average income for 90 percent of Americans went up just $59--almost no change at all. That's over 45 years, an increase of $59. For the top 10 percent, average incomes rose roughly $116,000. For the top 1 percent, average income rose $628,000; and for the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, the average incomes rose $18.3 million.

The numbers are so staggering it's almost difficult to comprehend. So if we convert the dollars to distances, the vast majority of Americans, 90 percent, saw their average income increase by 1 inch. The top 10 percent went up 168 feet; the top 1 percent, 888 feet; and the top 1 percent of 1 percent, their incomes rose by almost 5 miles relative to that 1 inch.

We are recovering from one of the greatest economic recessions in American history. As I said in the beginning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average just a few minutes ago closed for the first time in history over 15,000. The stock markets are setting record highs, but working families continue to struggle.

Wages have stayed low, and unemployment is still too high. It does not have to be that way, and it should not be that way. This Congress can and must take direct action to restore a just economic system for working people.

We need to raise the minimum wage. We need to boost Pell Grants, Head Start, and other support for public education. We need to invest in innovation and infrastructure to create jobs now and foster broad-based economic growth and prosperity. And we need to pass a budget that reflects the values of working Americans.

It is time to "do justly.'' It is time to refocus on the American Dream, on building ladders of opportunity, on restoring fairness in our Tax Code, and on creating good, high-quality jobs so that every American who wants a job can find a job.

I call on Speaker Boehner to appoint budget conferees as soon as possible so that we can get to work on a budget that puts America back to work.

I thank my colleague from California.


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