A picture of Representative Bill Pascrell Jr.
Bill P.
Democrat NJ 9

About Rep. Bill
  • Departing Members

    by Representative Bill Pascrell Jr.

    Posted on 2014-12-10

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    PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the gentleman from Georgia, before he leaves the floor, that I wish him the best of luck, Doc. And I wish the other Doc, the gentleman from Washington who has already left the floor, the best of luck. The gentleman from New Jersey, Rush Holt, who is going to speak after me, is leaving as well.

    And I must say some things about all three of you, if I may, because you fit into these particular characteristics. The three of you are gentlemen. The three of you are real patriots. The three of you are civil in every respect. The three of you have a good sense of the Congress. The three of you have a great respect for the institution. And you will be missed.

    God bless you. Godspeed. And good luck to you and your families.

    The American Economy Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the state of our Nation's economy. I have been waiting for this opportunity, Mr. Speaker. This is the time to do it.

    Six years ago, when President Obama raised his hand on the steps of the Capitol of the United States of America and was sworn in as President, we were losing over 800,000 jobs every month, and these were mostly middle-income and lower-income Americans who were out of work. In the final 6 months of President Bush's administration, we lost 3.5 million jobs. By the time the recession was over, 8.8 million Americans were out of work. The ending of that recession technically was in June of 2009, but we did not start to create new jobs until March of 2010, and many of those jobs came from the census that was going on that year.

    Our country's gross domestic product, GDP, in the fourth quarter of 2008--the last months of President Bush's administration--decreased by 8.9 percent. That is an unbelievable number. And President Bush was not solely responsible; we all shared in our financial demise. We have been digging ourselves out of this deep, deep hole ever since, with almost no help from our friends on the other side.

    And I am glad my friend from Georgia mentioned that legislation that we passed in 2003, plan D. Because right after we lost that debate and lost that vote, we became part and parcel of that legislation which had been democratically passed in this House, although we didn't like it. We cooperated. We didn't try to undercut. We did not try to minimize. But the record will show that Democrats stood up, shook off their loss, and became part of what American democracy is all about. We cooperated.

    Now, what have we had from the other side of the aisle? We have had no cooperation. We have had very little goodwill. We have had, simply speaking, no poetry whatsoever. In fact, just the opposite. We have seen the seeds sown in division, in fear, in disharmony.

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which passed in February of 2009, our first response to the crisis, received zero votes from our friends on the other side of the aisle. We know now that this bill saved or created 3.6 million jobs in this country, although it was far too small to dig us out of the hole. But we were on our way.

    The Affordable Care Act will allow a new generation of entrepreneurs to create a business, provide incentives for small business to offer health insurance, and attract qualified employees, even cut health care costs growth to unheard of levels, freeing up cash so that businesses can invest more and hire more workers--again, zero votes from our friends on the other side.

    And then when you lose, you undermine as much as is humanly possible.

    Where was the other side of the aisle when the unemployment insurance for long-term unemployed expired, cutting off 3.6 million Americans, including 350,000 veterans, at the end of September of 2014? When we had lost over 550,000 government jobs, dragging down our economy, our entire economic recovery, instead of working to keep people on the job, my friends on the other side of the aisle were pushing more and more disastrous, job-killing budget cuts.

    And, Mr. Speaker, let me say this: The record will bear me out. We now have the lowest number of Federal employees, the lowest amount of employees, since 1966. So when our friends on the other side talk about Big Government, they ought to know about it since they created it. We have had the lowest amount of Federal workers. And for the last 5 or 6 years, many of those workers--forget about us--have not even gotten a cost of living increase.

    So you can understand very clearly why the American people are frustrated with the pace of our recovery. And in many ways, I share their frustration. It has taken far too long, and the fruits of the recovery have not been equally distributed.

    During the recovery, incomes have been flat for the vast majority of Americans while the folks at the top of the income scale are doing better than ever. No one should try to undermine anybody making a living and a good living, but everybody should be part of making sure that there are shared fruits on the line and everybody gets a chance and an opportunity.

    The stock market is up over 165 percent since the low it hit at the depths of the recession. While stocks have fully recovered and continue to set record highs, the job market has lagged behind, not recovering all the jobs lost in the recession until just 6 months ago, 5 years after the recession officially ended.

    In my home State of New Jersey, total employment is still well below where we were at the start of the recession. There are over 130,000 fewer jobs in New Jersey than in December of 2007. Our unemployment rate is nearly a full point higher than the national average. Take heed what happens to your own State, never mind what happens in other States.

    Wages have also been stagnant, stuck at around 2 percent for the last few years. If wage growth had been a more robust 4 percent--enough to factor in inflation and growth in productivity--the average worker would be making more than $3 more per hour today than they are. That is a fact. It is undeniable.

    {time} 2100 It is undeniable. This is because, for example, during the first 3 years since the end of the recession, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 95 percent of the entire country's income gains. This wage stagnation didn't just start with the recession.

    Incomes for the middle class had been stagnant for the past 15 years, and if you adjust for inflation, middle class wages are lower than they were in 1989. That is a fact. There are many reasons for the middle class to feel like they are left out, like the recovery has left them behind. It is because the entire economy is leaving them behind.

    This year, it seems like we may have finally begun to turn that corner, and our economic recovery is still and really accelerating. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy created 321,000 jobs.

    That makes for 57 straight months of job growth, the longest streak of consecutive months of job creation on record for a total of over 10.9 million new jobs. For the last 10 of these months, we have created over 200,000 jobs per month. That is the first time we have had a streak of that with robust job creation since the 1990s.

    The 321,000 jobs created in November brings the total number of jobs created just this year to 2.65 million jobs, so with 1 month to go, we have already created more jobs--get this--than any year since the 1990s. Now, those are some of the statistics about the job numbers you might read in USA Today.

    Manufacturing is the linchpin of our economy, adding 28,000 good- paying jobs just last month for a total nearly of three-quarters of a million new jobs. Wages, as I mentioned, have been stagnant. You will see a nice monthly gain of 0.4 percent.

    [[Page H9041]] We have not had a month this year when wages have fallen, and for the first time since 2008, we have had 4 months where they have grown at least 0.3 percent. The average workweek increased to 34.6 hours, meaning more workers are finding full-time employment, instead of part- time jobs.

    According to the Labor Department, we are seeing increasing churn in the job market with the highest number of employees being hired for jobs and voluntarily quitting their jobs since early 2008. This means more workers are confident enough in the job market strength to leave and look for a better opportunity.

    The first week average of weekly jobless claims has been below 300,000 for the last several months, another welcome sign, and according to the Commerce Department, construction spending increased 1.1 percent in October, including a 1.8 percent increase in home building.

    Total construction spending is up 3.3 percent from last year, part of the reason why unemployment amongst construction workers has fallen from 8.6 percent to 7.5 percent for the last year.

    I say to the American people: we know it has been a long, tough road over the last couple of years and the last couple of decades; we know many of us have been frustrated that it has taken so long to get back on our feet, but today, the American worker is the strongest in the world.

    We should feel good that not only are we on the right track, but we are moving faster. The only thing now that could hold us back is if we sabotage the economy by returning to some of the favorite old tactics, shut the place down, shutting down the government, or defaulting on our national debt. We are now only 1 day away from shutting down the government.

    The last time, the tantrum over defending affordable care cost us $24 billion. I don't know who the austere party is. I don't know who the party is that is going to watch every dime that is being spent. Twenty- four billion dollars is not chump change, and that resulted in 120,000 fewer jobs being created. We are going to have to be a little bit more creative than just shutting down the government. Maybe they will only try to shut down parts of the government.

    But this pales in comparison to the negative economic impact of brinkmanship over our country's debt ceiling. We all know just how devastating actually refusing to raise the debt ceiling could be.

    Credit markets would freeze, interest rates would skyrocket, and the dollar would crash. Even the possibility of hitting the debt limit does serious damage for our economy. The first time we did this back in 2011, consumer confidence declined to levels not seen since the Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.

    Business uncertainty is not what we need. That has led to a slowing of job growth, and our credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history. All of these economic wounds were self-inflicted.

    To his credit, the new majority leader, Senator McConnell, has stated he doesn't want another shutdown or default in our debt. However, as our Speaker, Mr. Boehner, has learned that sometimes the leader of the party will have a hard time keeping his troops in line. Every leader finds that out.

    With our recovery finally picking up steam, the ideologues must cast aside their mentality of legislating by taking the economy hostage. This includes not only our debt ceiling and averting a government shutdown, but also the myriad of other deadlines Congress must deal with in the new year: the expiration of the highway funding, preventing a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, and expiring tax provisions.

    Republicans and Democrats must come together really to tackle these issues in a way that accelerates our ongoing recovery. We simply cannot get caught up in the endless brinksmanship and bickering that has defined the past 4 years.

    Failure to do so would be an insult to the middle class who are just starting to see the fruits of recovery in their pocketbooks. Unemployment is finally down to the lowest rate in years, and we saw a big jump in hourly earnings in this past week.

    Combined with the continued drop in gas prices, not once did I ever see someone come to this floor and give the President credit for anything on the other side--not once--whether it was falling gas prices--and we know what happened when the prices went up a few years ago. Not once did we see anything about the 321 new created jobs. Not one person came to this floor.

    He has done a few things right, my brothers and sisters, believe it or not, and if you do admit it, nothing is going to happen to you. Believe me, nothing will happen to you.

    Combined with these gas prices going down, the positive impact of the President's immigration order, which will bring money into America's Treasury, we are on a track for a great year for the American worker. The best thing Congress could do to make sure that happens is simple: just get out of the way. I say that with all respect.

    Now, Mr. Speaker, it is my honor to yield to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Holt).

    A Privilege to Serve in the House of Representatives

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