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Chronic Unemployment Is Biggest American Problem

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

legislator photo

Madam Speaker, we are in the 10th year of the Bush tax cuts and the third year of the Obama tax cuts. Taxes today are at the lowest percentage of our national economy since 1950; and, of course, that preexists a few things like Medicare, homeland security, massive spending on wars overseas, et cetera.

Yet last Friday, with this very, very light tax burden, we had the official unemployment numbers. They were horrible. But guess what. The reality is worse than the numbers. There are about 20 million people, not 16 million people, unemployed, looking for work, or underemployed. So I guess all we need to do is cut taxes more and cut spending and we will have an economic boom. Yes, we will have a boom, like the boom of an imploding economy. Just like the last 10 years, the worst job creation since the Great Depression under this theory that tax cuts solve every problem.

Now the President's response on Friday was, not surprisingly, continue tax cuts. The new one he has adopted is the Social Security tax holiday. But don't worry, we will make Social Security whole. If we cut their income, we've got to make the trust fund whole. We'll borrow $110 billion from China. We'll put it into the Social Security trust fund and everybody will get $15 or $20 a week, and that'll solve the problems of this economy. Of course, it doesn't do much for the people who aren't working, and it's not going to create jobs. That's his big solution.

Number two solution: more job-killing free trade agreements. Oh, that's great.

Patent reform. Yeah, maybe some day.

And then at the very end, oh, we should have a little bitty infrastructure bank. Okay. Great.

Now, the Republicans on Thursday, they preceded all this and one-upped him. They proposed that the United States of America, with crumbling highways, falling-down bridges, and obsolete transit systems, cut investment in infrastructure by 35 percent. So the construction industry that has today 16 percent unemployment, under the Republican plan, 25 percent unemployment. That's great. That's going to work, too. Oh, yes, and more tax cuts.

You know, we lack the will around here to address our Nation's greatest problems, not the means. Chronic unemployment is the greatest problem in this country. If we solve chronic unemployment, a quarter of the deficit goes away because those people aren't collecting unemployment benefits, food stamps and other things they need just to survive, and they are working and paying taxes.

Now, how about canceling some of these stupid tax cuts, particularly the Social Security tax holiday? Let's not borrow $110 billion from China for people to dribble way in $20-a-week payments. Let's take that $110 billion and build things in America with American workers and buy American requirements.

We could put 4 million or 5 million people to work. Let's cancel the tax cuts for people earning over $200,000 a year--the job creators--who are pretty undertaxed right now and who have record savings and wealth. If they contributed a little bit, that would be about another 1 million jobs if we put that $23 billion a year into investments in infrastructure. These aren't just construction jobs. They're engineering jobs; they're manufacturing jobs; they're small business suppliers. We need an investment-driven recovery. For too long, we've been trying under both Bush and under Obama to have a borrowed money, consumption-driven recovery.

Ain't going to work. Not good long term.

Instead of indebting our kids and giving them nothing but current consumption, let's have something that's investment-driven that will provide benefits for generations to come with a 21st century infrastructure for this country.