A picture of Representative Paul Tonko
Paul T.
Democrat NY 20

About Rep. Paul
  • Middle Class Economics

    by Representative Paul Tonko

    Posted on 2015-02-03

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    TONKO. I thank the gentleman from California for leading us on middle class economics and on infrastructure and on growing the jobs and growing the economy. That can be--must be--our top priority, making certain that the dignity of work and the strength of drawing a paycheck are the American Dream that we want to help individuals and families across this country tether so they can move forward, utilizing their skills and talents and passions in order to be able to maintain a household, raise a family, and provide for the American Dream. It is always a pleasure to join you when we are speaking on these issues so forcefully, and to know there is a solution out there. There is a way to grow this economy, and looking at some of the items mentioned in the budget is important, and we should pay respect to that.

    Certainly infrastructure that you just made mention of, and thank you for leading us in a recent motion to recommit to make certain that those who will staff those boats, transporting that cargo of LNG, create American jobs. We need to be very much disciplined in how we create a working agenda for America's families, and that is one step in the process.

    But to the greater issue of infrastructure, I would suggest that we are well beyond that deadline when we should have responded to America's needs. We have a very deficient infrastructure. There are many bridges in this country that are rated deficient and weak. There are a number of situations with the grid system that was designed for a monopoly setting, and we now know that we transmit, we deliver electrons not only from region to region, former monopoly region to monopoly region, but State to State and country to country. It requires an upgrading in investment in our electric utility grid and certainly broadband. For our communication's sake, we need to wire neighborhoods in remote areas in communities across the country to enable us to strengthen the outcome, the commerce end of it all, to give businesses those needs that are so important.

    Let me just close with this, because I see our friend, the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur) has joined us. I believe it is the Ninth District of Ohio.

    I recently held a press conference at home after a week of being on the floor here, and it was about the child care and dependent child care credit, tax credit, and it was amazing to hear the real-life stories of parents who struggle, trying to work. They need two incomes and are impacted by the high cost of child care, quality child care. They need that comfort zone to know that as a coparent, in a way, with the given agency that they are in a secure setting, so that they can be productive at work and know that their children are well cared for.

    And it brings great benefits. There are social and cognitive and educational skill sets that are introduced into the lives of those toddlers and children that makes them all the more ready for that pre-K to K to elementary setting, so it has great benefits. But when you think about the fact that the average cost is $10,000 per year for child care, and when toddlers can be as high as $16,000 and a 5-year old as high as $12,000 per year, that is an immense cost to families.

    So as the President addresses this issue in the budget, he triples that benefit to some $3,000 per child under 5 per family. For families making as much as $120,000, they can get that full benefit, and there is a scaled-down benefit for family incomes as high as $210,000.

    So there are efforts here to grow the economy through middle class economics. The middle class has taken it on the chin for far too long. We have seen the growth of this economy post-recession and all of the added wealth that has come since that turnaround, that upward movement that has gone to a relative few in our society. Now it is time to share the wealth with the great numbers of us in the middle class, and that is the engine that runs America.

    If you give more purchasing power to the middle-income community, you give it to the working poor, give it to those looking to ascend into the middle class, that will drive a strong economic recovery, even more powerful than what we have seen since the President took office in 2009, when we hit the lowest point in March 2009. From that recession that President Obama inherited, we have done really well. We could have done much better with infrastructure investments, which would have put many people in the trades to work and where we would have responded with a much stronger outcome for purchasing power for the great many of us in that middle-income community.

    So, Mr. Garamendi, it is always a pleasure to join with you and our colleagues to make certain that we bring to the public's attention direct assistance that we can provide, items that have been introduced in bill format or included in a proposed budget from the President that can make a difference in the fabric of this community called America, where we can tether that American Dream in more noble and measured terms, and where we can make certain that we not only grow the climate for job production but grow the economy.

    So it is within our grasp, but we just have to be bold in our attempt to go forward and to be progressive in our thinking and in our policies.

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