A picture of Representative John Garamendi
John G.
Democrat CA 3

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  • Jobs

    by Representative John Garamendi

    Posted on 2014-01-07

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    GARAMENDI. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

    It is good to return from our 3 weeks back in our districts. I suspect that most of us spent time talking to our constituents, observing the good and the bad and the cold and the wet--not in California, where we have been in the midst of a drought--but working, as we should, back in our districts and also spending some time with our families along the way. For me, it was one of those periods of time where we were reaching out, trying to gain an understanding of the challenges that face our constituents.

    As I returned here today, I realized that in 1964, Mr. Speaker, right below you on the podium where one of our key assistants is now standing, a fellow by the name of Lyndon Baines Johnson gave a speech-- here is a picture of him--on January 8, 1964, speaking to a joint session of Congress. I think it was his first speech after becoming President, following the tragic assassination of President Kennedy. There he stood. And among the things he told America was that it was time for a war, a war on poverty, and he urged the United States to take on the troubling and continuing issue of poverty in the United States.

    I remember that speech. I was in college at the time. I remember him standing there, and I remember that challenge, following shortly upon the challenge that President Kennedy had given us to ask not what our country could do for us but, rather, what we could do for our country.

    So those two things came together, and they have been with me these many, many years, together with one other very famous and very important challenge. And this was from Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is etched into the marble in his memorial here in Washington, D.C. President Roosevelt 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 too little.

    That ethical moral position was taken up by Lyndon Baines Johnson when he declared the war on poverty 50 years ago--50 years ago--at a time when seniors in the United States, 47 percent of them, were impoverished.

    I remember well during those years when my father took me to the county hospital to visit a neighbor, the poverty, the ward, the odor, the hopelessness.

    So what did America do? What did America do to face this challenge? Well, Social Security was already in place, one of the fundamental pillars to deal with poverty among seniors. In this Chamber, in the Senate Chamber, the men and women who then represented the American people put forward an extraordinary effort to deal with poverty in the United States. And one of those major second pillars to address poverty was the establishment of the Medicare program for seniors. Men and women over 65 years of age were guaranteed that, if they lived to 65 in the days and years following, they would have a health insurance program, which was an incredible step forward.

    Many other things were done. Programs were put in place for jobs, job programs across this Nation, in Appalachia, in the Central Valley of California, and all across this Nation. There was an outpouring of sympathy, an outpouring of the basic morality of this country took place.

    In 1967, 29 percent of the children in this country were in poverty. In 2012, it was 19 percent, one out of five. That is [[Page H14]] far too high. It is a challenge for our generation.

    How did they bring it down from 29 percent to 19 percent? They did it with government programs of many kinds--Head Start, food stamp programs, programs dealing with earned income tax credits, which, by the way, was added during the Nixon period. All of those things together reduced the poverty. Today, take away those government support programs for children and we would have 30 percent of the children in the United States living in poverty.

    I would just like to remind my Republican colleagues that what they have attempted to do this year in their budgets, in their appropriation proposals, is to reduce those programs that 30 percent of the children of the United States--nearly one out of three--depend upon to stay out of poverty. That is not a good idea.

    If this is one of our moral compasses, adding to the abundance of those who have much or providing for those who have too little, if that is a moral compass, how are we doing? Well, let's look at it. Let's look at how we are doing.

    One of the things that FDR said from the four freedoms: the freedom from want. As a result of the Great Recession in 2010 and beyond, 46.2 million Americans live below the poverty level, the highest number in 52 years. Food lines in America today are as they were in the 1930s. Men and women are lining up at the various food programs to get food. That is America today.

    How about the children? How about the children today, those one in five? Well, let's see. If FDR says the test is not how well the wealthy are doing but, rather, how the poor are doing, in 2012, the wealthiest Americans took home the biggest share of income--the biggest share of income, in 2012--ever recorded in America's history. One out of every four children in America go to bed at night not knowing where their next meal comes from.

    In my own area, Sacramento, California, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, the capital's newspaper, the bottom 20 percent of the region's people lost 27 percent of their income between 2007 and the beginning of 2013. The bottom 20 percent earned less than $23,000 a year, yet they lost 27 percent of their income. The next 20 percent, those making $43,000 down to $23,000 lost 22 percent of their income. The next 20 percent--we are now up to 60 percent--those making between $43,000 and $71,000 in annual income, lost 15 percent of their income. This is America today in my area, where the bottom 60 percent have not moved forward but, rather, have moved backwards. Oh, but if you are in the top 20 percent, these folks here, they took in 50 percent of all of the income generated and earned in the Sacramento region. The bottom 20 percent took in 3 percent.

    So Franklin Delano Roosevelt, how are we doing with our moral compass? How are we doing? Are we adding to those who have little or are we adding to those who have much? It is clear that, not just in the Sacramento, California, region but across this Nation, those who have much are doing extraordinarily well while those who have little are falling further and further behind. Hmm.

    Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Baines Johnson stood right there and he declared a war on poverty. And where are we today? We are not winning that war at all. But there are solutions. There are ways in which we can deal with this, and one of them is to put a stop to this kind of situation.

    This is a photo taken outside of a workshop that I conducted in Fairfield, California, for the unemployed. It is a jobs workshop. In a town of less than 100,000, 1,000 people showed up seeking a job. Unemployment is very real, and unemployment is a specific cause for the statistics that indicate growing poverty in America.

    These folks want a job. But yet on December 28, 1.2 million Americans--some of them here in this line--lost their unemployment insurance. So are they wealthier having lost an average of $265 a week on a long-term unemployment insurance check or are they poorer? What are they going to do? Of every one of these people, 2.9 of them are looking for the one job that exists. So one out of three will find a job, maybe.

    The long-term unemployed have an even greater challenge, and we will talk about that tonight. We have an enormous challenge here in America. We have got to put people back to work.

    In Solano County, where Fairfield is, 2,640 of the folks that stood outside searching for a job in early December--by the way, the temperature there was not below zero, but it was below freezing--they were standing in the cold, below freezing temperatures for more than an hour to get in just to have a chance to talk to the 50 or some employers that were there.

    By the way, 50 veterans did get an opportunity to get a job that day. 2,640 long-term unemployed lost their unemployment insurance, and they don't have a job today. So what of them? Colusa County, which I also represent, is one of the poorest counties in America and is also one of the wealthiest counties for those at the top. A population of 21,244 people lost their unemployment insurance.

    {time} 2045 The stories are in the faces of these people desperate to go to work. We're going to talk today a little bit about that with my colleagues.

    A second way in which we can deal with this poverty issue is to deal with the minimum wage. Yesterday, I had a meeting of my agricultural advisory committee. I have a very big agricultural district, $3 billion farm gate. One of the farmers, a conservative fellow, came up to me, and he talked to me about food stamps. He said, hey, listen. I know you're working on the farm bill, and I know this issue of farm subsidies is very much in play, but I'm telling you where I'm coming from. You can reduce the subsidies, but make sure people have food. Make sure that the SNAP program, the food program, is in place. I'll trade the subsidies so people have food. He said--and this was the interesting part, because I had not heard it from a conservative before--he said, and raise the minimum wage. Raise the minimum wage.

    Interesting. Today, the Federal minimum wage is $7.25. If you were to use equal dollars, take out the inflation, $7.25 equates to a minimum wage in 1978--this is Ronald Reagan period, 1978--of $10.60. So in equal dollars in 1978 the minimum wage was $10.60. Today, it is $7.25. So you wonder why, why is it that in America today we have food lines? Why is it in America today that one out of four children goes to bed hungry worried about where their next meal is going to come from? Why in America after 50 years with LBJ standing right there and declaring a war on poverty, that we are where we are today? Does minimum wage have something to do with it? Oh, yes. Does unemployment have something to do with it? Oh, yes--and it's going to be worse tomorrow, as it was on December 29, January 1, January 5, 6, today the 7th and tomorrow the 8th, when 1.2 million people don't have that unemployment check and unemployment insurance is gone. By the way, it will get worse unless this Congress acts on the unemployment insurance. The statistics are there--right there. By the end of this year, unless Congress acts to put people back to work--and we can, and we will talk about that tonight--unless Congress acts to extend the unemployment insurance, 4.9 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance, and this will be the face of America: hungry children. This will be the face of America: hungry adults and families without jobs.

    This is America. This is the place where we can solve problems. We have it within our capability as a nation and as an economy to put people back to work. We can do it if we have the will to do it. It's up to us to look into the faces of poverty in America, to look at the children of America, and say, we can address this issue.

    We can put people back to work. We can do it now by rebuilding America's infrastructure. We can pay for the unemployment insurance by not spending nearly $90 billion this year in Afghanistan for the most corrupt government on the face of the Earth, $6.8 billion needed to keep Americans with food, shelter, and clothing. We can take it out of the pocket of Mr. Karzai and his cronies and still meet the challenges that my colleague spoke about earlier this evening.

    We're making choices here. We can build our infrastructure. We can pay for the unemployment insurance. We can educate our children. For those [[Page H15]] long-term unemployed that need a reeducation, need to have that job skill, we can do it. When we do it, this economy will grow. The taxes will flow into the governments of the United States, including the Federal Government. The deficits will shrink. You leave that long-term unemployment as high as it is today, and we have put an anchor out the back of the great economic ship of the United States, and we will not be able to move forward in a way that addresses this issue, this fundamental, moral issue of America. Are we providing enough for those who have too little? Today, we are not, but we can.

    Joining me tonight are two of my colleagues. From the east coast is Paul Tonko. You and I have spent many hours here on the floor discussing these issues. Joining me is our new colleague from the State of Nevada (Mr. Horsford). I'd like you to start. I know you had an experience this last week in your district when you met with people that were unemployed. Please share with us your view of this issue from the State of Nevada.

    Mr. HORSFORD. Thank you. First, I'd like to extend my appreciation to my colleague, Mr. Garamendi from California, for laying out the case for economic mobility. I'm glad that we're beginning to have this discussion at the beginning of this second session of the 113th Congress because it's the discussion that the American people desperately need this Congress to focus on, and you touched on it. Are we providing enough for the people who have too little? Are we focused on those who are in the middle class and are striving to be part of the middle class? I'm from Nevada. Nevada is currently tied with Rhode Island for the highest unemployment in the Nation at 9 percent. This is not something that we're proud of. We like boasting about being the entertainment capital of the world and the fact that we have some of the most magnificent natural resources. Unfortunately, the prolonged recession has hit our State and the people of Nevada to our core, and it's because, in large part, our economy was a growth economy. For nearly 20 years, year over year, we had double-digit growth, and people were moving to the great State of Nevada to help us build and to grow. During the recession, that changed. So, now, thousands, over 100,000, Nevadans are unemployed and have been, primarily from the construction, engineering, and architecture sectors of our economy.

    Thousands of Nevadans have spent more than a year now doing what many of us here in Congress maybe haven't had the perspective of experiencing. So my question to my colleagues tonight is, have you ever been unemployed? Do you know what it feels like to have to go to a work center or to spend your days full-time looking for work? Do you know what it means to submit resume after resume, never to get a call back, not knowing if it's your skills or some other issue as to why you're not getting that interview? Well, thousands of Nevadans have the full-time job right now of looking for work, and I recently held a meeting at a local work center, Workforce Connections, and met with constituents who are affected by this prolonged recession and the discussion that we're having here tonight about the need to have a priority and a focus on creating jobs in America again.

    They've been affected by the downturn in the economy, and they've been affected by the expiration of unemployment benefits, many of them. I promised that when I came back to Congress today that I would share the story of several of these constituents because too often we talk in this Chamber as if there aren't people behind the numbers.

    There are 1.3 million Americans, our neighbors, who are without unemployment insurance. Think about that term--insurance, of the unemployment insurance program, who are relying on this Congress to do its job so that our neighbors, our friends, and some of our family who are unemployed cannot be left out and without.

    So I just want to share the story of several of these constituents because I want to put a perspective on who we're talking about. One of the constituents, her name is Pauline. She's worked in a warehouse customer service position. She has a degree in bookkeeping. Unfortunately, after more than 20 years in serving as an accountant, her skills are outdated, and so as she has looked for current jobs, she hasn't been able to land one. She was laid off because technology devalued her position, and there was no longer a need for her services. She currently lives at a home with her husband and two adult offspring, who are also looking for work. One of her daughters just got hired, actually yesterday, as a teacher. She was very proud of that. So do you know what she is doing after 20 years? She has enrolled in a training program to update her skills in QuickBooks so that she can add that certification to her resume, because that's one of the things that the employers that she's applying for say that they want her to have, this certification. She's using the unemployment insurance as a bridge while she's in training to allow her and her family to meet their basic obligations to keep a roof over their head, to provide food on the table and to keep the lights on. Those are the basics that are being funded because of unemployment insurance.

    Then there is Alfordeen. She was laid off from the medical industry after more than 20 years as an administration person. She handled all of the admissions for this local medical company in southern Nevada. She is currently looking to obtain her certification for her to meet the minimum requirements for current positions in her field. She is also a cancer survivor. She found out she had cancer after she lost her job, the job that provided her health benefits. She was thankful because of the Affordable Care Act she now can get insurance again that she lost because she lost her job. After more than 20 years of caring for people in the health care industry, she is now relying on unemployment insurance as a bridge so that she can meet her obligations while going to school so that she can get back into the career that she loves, helping other people.

    Teresa also was laid off from the medical industry. She is in need of updated skills and certification in order to find gainful employment. One of the things that struck me about the stories, listening to Teresa, Alfordeen, and Pauline, is they all expressed the same concern that because they've been in the workforce for 20--one was in the workforce for 30 years--that they feel that they're not being given an equal shot now in competing for jobs when they go to apply, that they feel like because of their age, maybe, that they're being looked over for possible positions.

    I think that's a real issue that this Congress needs to confront. I know that there is legislation by people like Representative Schakowsky and others who want to bring this issue to this body, and I ask the Speaker to allow that legislation to be considered.

    {time} 2100 There is James, who worked also as a customer service representative and who is enrolled in a training program to become a medical biller because he knows that is a demand occupation right now and there are a ton of openings. Again, he needs to have a certification in order to get the job.

    Then there is Susan, who is currently unemployed, and her unemployment funds stopped 3 weeks ago. She is a single mother who is caring for her daughter and receives no child support. She has no family to rely upon, and she is not eligible nor seeking welfare.

    All of the Nevadans that I have met with have had their unemployment insurance lapse, and they are scrambling to make ends meet. No one, none of them, wants to live on unemployment insurance forever. In fact, they all said to a person that they wanted to go to work. Some of them were in training, and they were using unemployment as a bridge. Others go to the Workforce Connections office on a regular basis every week looking for jobs to apply for. None of them are lazy, Mr. Speaker.

    When unemployment insurance expires, it doesn't just mean those struggling to find work won't be able to put food on the table or pay the rent; it means money that is pumped into our local economy will also be lost, and that is a serious drag on the economy. So if you don't want to listen to me talk about the people who are affected behind the 1.3 million who are losing their unemployment insurance, the 20,000 Nevadans, then maybe you will [[Page H16]] care that this is a drag on our economy, and you will do the right thing by extending the unemployment insurance.

    Overall, failing to renew the emergency unemployment compensation program will cost the economy 200,000 jobs this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, including 3,000 jobs in my home State of Nevada. The expiration of Federal unemployment insurance at the end of last week is already taking more than $400 million out of pockets of American job seekers nationwide and in local and State economies. In Nevada, the total economic benefit lost during the first week of the insurance expiring was $5.4 million. For every $1 spent on unemployment insurance, it grows the economy by $1.52, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. So there are some 17,600 unemployed workers in Nevada who have lost their unemployment benefits because this Congress failed to do its job in December when we had an opportunity to do it.

    I urged the Speaker, along with 170 of my colleagues, to not adjourn, to not go on recess until we completed the work of extending the unemployment insurance, but that request was not acted upon. So we are here, and as my colleagues have said, there are things, there are solutions that we can do to extend the unemployment insurance.

    If you want to offset it, if you want to have pay-fors, I would like to offer a couple of suggestions on how to pay for it. In order to offset funding for unemployment insurance, Congress could close a number of corporate tax loopholes, such as eliminating tax incentives for companies to move jobs overseas. Why is it that we continue to incentivize major corporations, based on U.S. tax policy, for shipping jobs overseas when we have Americans who are desperate for work right here? Why should big CEOs get corporate bonuses at the end of the year for sending our jobs to other countries when the people in our own neighborhoods could be performing that work? The United States loses an estimated $150 billion annually to tax- avoidance schemes involving tax havens. Many of our largest and most- profitable corporations paid absolutely no Federal taxes at all in 2011. So Congress could also find revenue by placing caps on commodity payments or eliminating or reducing subsidies to mega-farms in the farm bill that is currently being negotiated. So for whatever reason, if my colleagues on the other side of the aisle think that it is the constituents I talked about, who get $300 or $400 a week, who are the problem with the Federal budget, that they are the reason that we have a Federal deficit, then I would urge you to consider these pay-fors. Let us end the corporate tax subsidies. Let us end the policies that ship our jobs overseas, and let's start investing in America and Americans again. There are reasonable solutions, but that means we have to come together to get it done. We can't let rigid ideology trump the practical need to help those in need.

    I thank my colleagues, Mr. Garamendi and Mr. Tonko, for being here tonight, and I am hopeful that the Senate, under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and my U.S. Senator, Republican Dean Heller, who is a cosponsor on the unemployment insurance bill, extend it for 3 months. They are working in the Senate to reach an agreement. I hope that the Speaker and my colleagues in the House will take it up and vote on it so that none of our neighbors go without unemployment insurance to provide for themselves or their families.

    Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Horsford, thank you very much for bringing to us the message from Nevada, the message of compassion and the message of hope and the challenge that we face. This House is fortunate, as are the constituents that have elected you, to have your voice heard on the floor and heard across America.

    Now, over the last 3 years, my colleague from New York and I have talked about jobs, talked about making it in America, and talked about this problem of unemployment. So joining me now is Paul Tonko from the great State of New York.

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