On (Not) Making it in America

When I attended Netroots Nation last week, I didn’t need to drive the streets of Las Vegas to see the abandoned worksites, boarded up buildings, and closed factories. I can see that in my own district. Too many of us are not making it in America.

Congressional Democrats responded with a two-step approach. In the first half, we sought to stabilize the economy, rein in Wall Street, provide lifelines to families in freefall, and immediately put Americans back to work. We’re now nearing the second half, where our job creation strategies must be complemented by a long term commitment to bring back American manufacturing.

In California, Nevada, and across the nation, people out of work through no fault of their own outnumber new jobs available. Five people are out of work for every one job available. The Great Recession led to widespread job loss, and without a new approach to economic development, good manufacturing jobs will continue to be shipped overseas. If we don’t make it in America, we won’t make it America.

Continued infrastructure improvements, small business investments, and unemployment benefits extensions are helping turn our economy around, but we haven’t done enough. In the short term, we must continue investing in our economy to prevent a double dip recession.

The newly-minted Republican deficit hawks who supported President Bush’s unfunded tax cuts for the super wealthy and continue to support the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan (also not paid for) now insist that we can’t afford job creation and jobless benefits for out-of-work Americans. They don’t mind creating $11 trillion in deficits under the watch of the previous administration, but they’re all too willing to preach austerity to the unemployed on the verge of complete destitution. This economic approach is morally repugnant and empirically unsound.

As Mark Zandi, Senator John McCain’s Economics Advisor and Chief Economist for Moody’s Analytics, explains, there are basically two types of very effective pro-growth strategies in a downturned economy. The first provide immediate relief to the vulnerable, including food assistance for working families ($1.74 in GDP growth for every $1 invested) and unemployment benefits ($1.61 for every $1 spent). The second provide, protect, and nurture long term improvements, including infrastructure investments ($1.57 for every $1 spent) and aid to states to keep teachers, firefighters, and other public servants on the job ($1.41 for every $1 spent). Meanwhile, keeping the Bush tax cuts for the rich permanent ($0.32 recovered for every $1 wasted) would harm struggling families and the economy.

Additional stimulus is essential, but without new policies that bring back good manufacturing jobs, we’re only patching the Titanic. To thrive in the 21st century, we must “Make it in America”. Manufacturing matters.

I’ve introduced three bills to bring back manufacturing. The first, based on language in the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, closes $14.5 billion in corporate tax loopholes that reward the off-shoring of jobs, and I’m happy to report that a good small business bill likely to pass the House today utilizes this language as a cost offset. The second ends taxpayer subsidies for foreign-produced clean energy technology. The third ends taxpayer subsidies for foreign-produced buses, railcars, and ferries.

When we have so many welders, engineers, mechanics, electricians, technicians, and carpenters out of work, it doesn’t make sense to ship our tax dollars overseas. When we’re in the middle of a global clean tech race, it hurts our national security to use taxpayer dollars to pay for things that can be built here. It just makes sense to make it in America.

The House Democratic Caucus is introducing a number of “Make it in America” bills targeting different parts of our tax code, trade policy, grants policy, exports strategy, small business development, and more.   A few highlights are available on the Majority Leader’s website, but many other bills are in development. The ultimate goal for this pooling of good ideas is to create a Green Industrial Revolution in America.

It was a pleasure to see some of you at Netroots Nation, and I hope to see you next year in Minneapolis. For those of you who attended or have seen streaming highlights, I hope you had the same takeaway I did. None of us are completely satisfied with everything that’s happened in America, but we also can’t walk away from all that we’ve accomplished. From the Recovery Act to Wall Street reform to health care reform to Lily Ledbetter equal pay and hate crimes legislation, we’ve made tremendous progress.

Those of us in Congress who share your desire to lift up working and middle class Americans by bringing back good jobs, to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while making sure our returning men and women in uniform are treated with dignity and respect, to get a robust public option on the books while working toward Medicare for All, to pass meaningful climate change legislation, to end the exploitation of our fragile coasts, and to create an America that grants true equality for all its citizens, we’re still fighting. And I know you are too.

Congressman John Garamendi represents California’s 10th Congressional District, which includes portions of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties. He previously served as California’s Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Commissioner and as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.  

One thought on “On (Not) Making it in America”

  1. I remember reading a bit about economic history, and there was a German economist, whose name escapes me at the moment, who disagreed with Adam Smith’s free market theories — his essential view was that “How can I be truly successful if my neighbors are not?”  

    I have friends who have been out of work for over a year now.  I remember being out of work in the last recession, from November, 2001 until January, 2003, and not having a steady income again until 2005.  We’ve got to make jobs a priority in this country.

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