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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.  

Recovery Act: Saving and Creating Jobs, Laying Foundation for Economic Growth

(An update on the Stimulus from Rep. Miller – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

One year ago, our nation was headed toward an economic collapse, shedding an average of 600,000 jobs a month. State and local budget cutbacks were putting teachers’ jobs – and our students’ education – in peril. Our economy was in need of emergency triage that would immediately begin to save and create jobs and lay the foundation for longer-term economic growth. One year after its enactment, it is clear that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is meeting these core goals.

Edit by Brian: See the flip for more…

To date, the law has already created or saved two million jobs and helped our economy grow at its fastest rate in years. It has funded more than 300,000 education jobs, keeping teachers in classrooms and children and students of all ages learning. It has helped minimize harmful cuts at public colleges and universities and provided students with larger Pell Grants to pay for college.

The Recovery Act has provided a much-needed lifeline for workers who lost their jobs – and their health insurance along with it. Millions of Americans have received extended or increased unemployment benefits and many got help paying for their COBRA premiums because of the Recovery Act. We can’t underestimate the difference this has made for laid-off workers struggling to put food on their tables, heat their homes, or pay for a visit to the doctor.

The Recovery Act is also making strategic investments in our future. Recovery programs are training displaced workers for high-growth jobs in our health care, biotech, clean energy and manufacturing sectors. The Race to the Top program is leveraging key education reforms that will better prepare our children for college, competitive jobs and a global economy.

The footprints of the Recovery Act run across my own district. It’s funding the construction of a dental clinic in Vacaville and a community health center in West County that will create 250 construction jobs immediately and longer-term health care jobs. It’s keeping teachers employed in Mt. Diablo, Martinez and West County school districts, or hiring new ones, like Jessica Pozos. It’s giving laid-off workers with families who depend on them, like Brandi Britt of Richmond, new hope by training her for a new career.

As President Obama and Congress have repeatedly said, the Recovery Act marked the beginning of our efforts to rebuild our economy and our middle class. Too many workers continue to lose their jobs or have trouble finding new ones. Our work will not be over until every American in need of a job can find one.


  • 2 million: the number of jobs created or saved by Recovery dollars thus far, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • 300,000: the number of teaching and other education-related jobs saved or created.
  • $500: the increase in the Pell Grant scholarship eligible students received for the 2009-2010 year due to this law alone.
  • $2.4 billion: the amount of Federal support that helped colleges and universities keep teaching, even as enrollments grew, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

The State of a Better Union

Last night, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address – my first as a U.S. Congressman. You’ve heard a lot of instant reactions from the Beltway and beyond about the President’s message, but it’s my hope we can take a step back from the minutia and develop a better sense of recent history.

Let’s remember where we were when the President delivered his inaugural address last year. When the President took office, America had just endured the worst year for job loss since 1945. In the last three months of 2008, our country was hemorrhaging an average of 673,000 jobs per month. By the last three months of 2009, that number was reduced to 69,333, a 90% improvement. To be sure, the state of our union needs to be much stronger, but because of the efforts of President Obama and Democrats in Congress, we’ve endured the worst of the Bush recession and we’re creating an economy that once again creates jobs for the middle and working classes.

More over the flip…

The central piece of legislation responsible for our recovery is without question the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). To date, the ARRA stimulus package has infused $154.9 billion into the American economy, saving or creating 640,000 jobs, including 110,000 in California. In the last quarter of 2009, ARRA had added between 1.5 and 3% in real GDP growth to our struggling economy.

In my home state of California, ARRA has brought more than $63 billion in investments and tax incentives to California with billions more on the way, including $9.7 billion for education, $7.9 billion for health and human services, and $5 billion for transportation.

Indeed, we are in the midst of the most significant infrastructure revitalization since the 1950s. There is no better example than the Caldecott Tunnel expansion in my district. It is the single largest ARRA transportation grant in the nation, a $197.5 million allotment that will create 6,000 to 7,000 jobs while easing congestion for travelers between Alameda and Contra Costa counties. With state funds drying up because of systematic budget failures, Bay Area residents have ARRA to thank for this important project.

ARRA was Congress’s most important economic accomplishment last year, but it did not stand alone. Let us not forget, 2009 was the year CHIP health care was expanded to four million low-income children. And for students torn between a college education and looming debt in this economy, Congressman George Miller’s College Cost Reduction and Access Act revolutionized student aid in America, increasing Pell Grant availability by $600 per semester, and substantially lowering future interest rates and monthly payments.

Considering where we started, we’ve made incredible progress in America. But I recognize that we still have a long way to go to get our nation back on track. Unemployment rates are at an unacceptably high level. In my state of California, unemployment hovered at 12.4% last month. We still have a lot of work to do to get people back to work.

In December, the House passed two bills that deserve immediate attention from the Senate. The Jobs for Main Street Act is in many ways a second ARRA, delivering an additional $35 billion for roads and public transit and $20 billion for education, saving or creating 25,000 jobs in education alone. It would recruit 25,000 new young people into AmeriCorps and create work study and summer job employment opportunities for 500,000 young workers struggling to find employment in this tough economy while also extending unemployment insurance. The House also passed the Wall Street Reform and Accountability Act, legislation that would help stop predatory behavior on Wall Street while providing relief for homeowners, renters, and small business owners. If signed into law, these bills will surely strengthen the state of the union in the years to come.

But as we move forward in the fight for job creation and accountability in the financial sector, we still must finish what we started. I joined Congress with a pledge to fight for comprehensive health care reform, and I plan on finishing the job.

Indeed, health reform isn’t just about quality and affordable care; it will also help strengthen our economy if done right. We know that health care costs make up 17% of our economy. If we let the status quo continue, that number will rise to 37% by 2037. And what are we getting for this expense? According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranks at the bottom of 19 industrialized nations in the number of preventable deaths from common illnesses.

If we pass health care reform now, three things will almost immediately happen: patients will not be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions; adult aged children will be given access to their parents insurance until the age of 27; and health care will be portable if you lose or change your job.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to fight hard for the things I care about in health care reform, including a robust public option and generous affordability protections for seniors and the middle class. And let me be clear, I’m not the least bit concerned about using majority rule in the Senate to pass meaningful health care reform. Congress has employed reconciliation in the past to make major policy shifts, including the passage of welfare reform and the Bush tax cuts, and the fact of the matter is this country will find itself in serious trouble if we do not act now. No one Senator should feel entitled to veto power over 17% percent of our economy.

So as we reflect on last night’s State of the Union address, let’s remember how far we’ve come after only one year into President Obama’s term and also remember how far we still must go.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) represents California’s 10th Congressional District. He previously served as a Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton and was California’s Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Commissioner.

Recovery: The Proof is in the Pudding at the Worksite

In my last post, I cited a New York Times story that indicated that most economists think the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping to create jobs and stimulate our economy. Earlier this week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed the economists’ findings.  

According to the CBO, in the third quarter of this year alone, 600 thousand to 1.6 million jobs were directly created or saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, reducing our country’s unemployment rate by 0.3 to 0.9 percent. This is an especially important finding for my home state of California, which at 12.3 percent, suffers from the third worst unemployment rate in the nation.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that the CBO report does not measure indirect job creation. Jobs created through most sub-contractors and vendors are not included in the report nor are the jobs created at local businesses when 1.6 million Americans have sufficient wages to put their money back into the economy.

They say all politics is local, and that may or may not be true, but it’s certainly the case that all jobs are local. When I talk to constituents, I hear from understandably frustrated people who think the stimulus has been ineffective. I understand that 1.6 million jobs created is just a statistic when you are still unemployed, when your family is still struggling, when your phone is ringing off the hook from relentless creditors, when you’re falling behind in your rent or mortgage payments.

More solutions over the flip…

Even for these individuals, the stimulus passed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats back in February has improved things. When 1.6 million more people are gainfully employed, the challenging job climate for those still unemployed is a little bit easier. When 1.6 million more people are able to put food on the table from their own wages, the reduced usage of government and non-profit assistance means more resources are available for families still struggling in this difficult economy. When half the stimulus package has yet to be distributed, many families are not yet aware that help is on the way.

Nevertheless, when 15.7 million Americans are unemployed, including well over 30,000 people in the 10th Congressional District, I know our work in Congress is far from done. Yesterday, I joined my Democratic colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to highlight the findings of a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) that identified 9,500 “ready-to-go” highway, bridge, transit, port, rail, and aviation projects worth more than $69 billion that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs if we funded them in Congress.

We know that in an economic downturn, governments are well advised to invest in their infrastructure, employing people in the present to lay down the building blocks for future economic growth. In California, AASHTO identified 120 projects worth more than $4 billion that, with federal approval, would get thousands of newly employed boots on the ground in 120 days or fewer.

Crumbling roads throughout my home state are delaying commutes, slowing down freight traffic, impeding the attractiveness of bus travel, and discouraging area residents from engaging in commerce. A more robust investment in our public transportation networks would also do much to reduce congestion, better integrate public transit, and help us reach our carbon emission goals. In the three town halls I will be hosting this Saturday in my district, I know the deteriorating status of our region’s transportation infrastructure will be a frequent topic of discussion from constituents.

Today, President Obama holds his jobs summit, and based on public reports, the importance of more investment in transportation will not go unnoticed. My Democratic colleagues in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have alerted the President of our desire to move ahead with many of AASHTO’s recommendations. Working together, we will produce a number of bills in the coming months that will continue our important work rebuilding an economy left in shatters following eight years of neglect and misguided priorities.

While you may not agree with every bill passed by Congress or every decision made by the President, when I say that we take our responsibility as incubators of a better economy seriously, I hope you’ll take me at my word. If not, the proof is in the pudding of the lunches of the 600 thousand to 1.6 million people now employed because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) represents California’s 10th Congressional District. You can follow Congressman John Garamendi on his new Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Because Recovery Works, 3.5 Million Americans to Work Too

In the months following the end of George W. Bush’s disastrous term as President, my Congressional colleagues and President Barack Obama worked tirelessly to create an economic recovery plan that could begin the difficult process of creating jobs and rebuilding our economy. Had I been in Congress at the time, I would have gladly voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and as a recent New York Times article by Jackie Calmes and Michael Cooper reveals, “the accumulation of hard data and real-life experience has allowed more dispassionate analysts to reach a consensus that the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working.”

They continue: “The legislation, a variety of economists say, is helping an economy in free fall a year ago to grow again and shed fewer jobs than it otherwise would. Mr. Obama’s promise to “save or create” about 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 is roughly on track, though far more jobs are being saved than created, especially among states and cities using their money to avoid cutting teachers, police officers and other workers.”

“It was worth doing – it’s made a difference,” Nigel Gault, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a financial forecasting and analysis group, explained in the article. “I don’t think it’s right to look at it by saying, ‘Well, the economy is still doing extremely badly, therefore the stimulus didn’t work.’ I’m afraid the answer is, yes, we did badly but we would have done even worse without the stimulus.”

So despite the consternation of some pundits, it turns out the President was right. Stimulus relief worked, and Democrats in Congress keep working. Since I joined Congress earlier this month, my House colleagues and I have backed a number of bills that will strengthen small businesses and create more jobs.

More over the flip…

For example, H.R. 3738 by Congressman Glenn Nye (D-Virginia) would offer $250 million in financing to help early-stage small businesses in technology sectors, and with loan returns, it’s self-financing. Another bill, H.R. 3014 by Congresswoman Kathleen Dahlkemper (D-Pennsylvania), would offer loan guarantees to small business health professionals to be used for the acquisition and installation of health information technology. Another good bill, H.R. 3737 by Congressman Brad Ellsworth (D-Indiana), would expand small business microloan eligibility and lending limits while lowering interest rates. When constituents ask me what I’ve done to help fix our economy at my three district town halls on December 5th, these are some of the bills I will highlight.

Like President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal Democrats before us, we’ve inherited a mess from a Republican administration, and we’re picking up the pieces to rebuild our economy, brick by brick, job by job, solar panel by solar panel. But if you listened to some of the pundits, you’d think President Obama and Congressional Democrats were responsible for our present economic downturn.

Some people seem to forget that President Bush turned President Bill Clinton’s $559 billion surplus into a $1.2 trillion deficit. Indeed, President Bush spent more taxpayer money than any of his six immediate predecessors, including President Lyndon B. Johnson. Under President Clinton, real discretionary spending increased by 0.1 percent. Under President Bush, real discretionary spending increased by 44 percent. To date, the Iraq War alone has cost the country more than $700 billion, and President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent of Americans cost more than $1.3 trillion.

The American people have made it clear that they prefer Democratic solutions to economic crisis. They want a proactive commitment to job creation, and they know that the federal government is able to provide some relief to local schools, job training programs, and senior centers devastated by state and local budget cuts.

Over the coming months, my colleagues and I will be back in Washington to try and bring some additional relief to American workers. There are plenty of good bills on the table that will improve the climate for small businesses, reinvest in jobs-creating infrastructure, provide incentives for research and the creation of green jobs, and offer targeted tax assistance for working and middle class Americans. We can’t afford to wait.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) represents California’s 10th Congressional District. You can follow Congressman John Garamendi on his new Twitter and Facebook accounts.