tv U.S. Senate CSPAN December 10, 2010 12:00pm-5:00pm EST
mr. president, based on $19 billion, you might be surprised to know that exxonmobil not only paid nothing in taxes, they got $156 million return. from the i.r.s. how's that? for those of you who are working in an office, you're working in a factory, you're earning your $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year, you pay taxes. but if you are exxonmobil and you made $19 billion in taxes -- in profits last year, not only did you not pay any taxes this year, you got $156 million return. that's pretty good, i think.
mr. president, its eats not just the large oil companies who do not pay their fair share of taxes. i'm going to be getting into this a little bit later. but when we understand -- or try to understand why we have such a huge national debt and a $1.3 trillion or $1.4 trillion deficit, it's also important to understand that many large and profitable corporations avoid virtually all of their tax responsibility. in august 2008, the general accounting -- accountability office here issued a report, and according to this report, two out of every three corporations in the united states paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005.
well, we got a $13.7 trillion national debt, and according to a g.a.o. report published in august of 2008, two out of the every three corporations in the united states paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005. amazingly, these corporations had a combined $2.5 trillion in sales but paid no income taxes to the i.r.s. furthermore, according to a report from citizens for tax justice, 82 fortune 500 companies in america -- i guess that's 82 out of 500 -- paid zero or less in federal income taxes in at least one year from 2001 to 2003. that's a report from citizens
for tax justice. and the citizens for tax justice report goes on to say -- and i quote -- "in the years they paid no income taxes, these companies earned $102 billion in u.s. profits." but instead of paying $35.6 billion in income taxes, as the statutory 35% corporate tax rate seems to require, these companies generated so many excess tax breaks that they received outright tax rebate checks from the u.s. treasury totaling $12.6 billion." that's from the citizens for tax justice. so, mr. president, when we take a comprehensive look at what is going on in this country, why we have a $13.7 trillion national debt, it is terribly important to understand that while the
middle class pays its share of taxes, there are many, many, many large corporations that not only are paying nothing in taxes, they are getting rebates from the federal government. i want to go on to this in greater length later on. but as a member of the budget committee, i can tell you, we discuss quite often about how every single year -- every single year -- corporate interests and wealthy individuals stash away huge amounts of money in tax havens in the cayman islands, bermuda, and other countries in order to avoid paying their their taxes in the united states of america. these are american corporations turning their backs on the american people.
saying as mrs. helmsley said many years -- i don't know if you remember -- only the small people pay taxes, only the working stiffs pay taxes. if you are a large court of appeals, you know what to do. invest your money in the cayman islands and in bermuda you don't have to pay american taxes. but, by the way, as the disclosure report of last week indicated, no problem, you get bailed out. if things go bad, you will be bailed out by the american taxpayers. so, mr. president, on and on and on it goes. the rich and large corporations get richer. the c.e.o.'s earn huge compensation packages. when things get bad, don't worry, uncle sam and the american taxpayers are here to bail you out. but when you are in trouble, well, we just can't afford to help you, if you are in the working class or the middle
class of this country. mr. president, i want to return for a moment to the agreement that the president and the republican leadership negotiated , as i think that is the issue that all of america is now talking about. the president, republican leadership says it is a good deal. the democrats in the house yesterday said, wait -- wait a second. doesn't look to us like it is a good deal. in fact we don't even want to bring it on to the floor of the house. and i can tell you that here in the senate there are a number of us -- i don't know how many -- who say, wait a second. this ain't a good deal for the middle class, not a good deal for our kids, not a good deal for workers. we can negotiator a better deal -- we can negotiate a better deal. and the reason we're trying to delay passage of this bill is because we want the american
people to stand up up and said, wait a second. it makes no sense for you to be giving huge tax breaks to the richest people in this country -- literally millionaires and billionaires -- driving up the national debt so that our kids can pay more in taxes in order to pay that debt off. this is a transfer of wealth. it's rob inhood in reverse. they're taking from the middle class and working families and we're giving it to the wealthiest people in this country. so, mr. president, i believe that the agreement struck between the president and the republican leadership is a bad deal, some good parts to it but by and large it is not a good deal. we can do better. and if the american people stand upped and work with us, if they get on the phones, if they call up their senators, call up their congressmen, if they make their voices heard and say, enough is enough, the rich have got it all
right now, the top 1% earns 23.5% of all income, more than the bottom 50%, that it is absurd, that we continue to bail out people who do not need any help, who are doing just fine. mr. president, i am here to take a stand against this bill, and i'm going to do everything i can to defeat this bill. and i'm going to tell my colleagues and the american people exactly why, in my view, this is not good legislation. and let me just tick off some of the reasons why i think that this bill does not serve the best interests of the disappearing middle class of this country. and i should tell you, mr. president, i don't know what kind of telephone calls you're getting from colorado, but i can tell you that in the last three days alone, according to my front desk staff both here in washington and vermont, i think
we're over 5,000 telephone calls and e-mails and well over e9% of those messages are -- and well over 98% of those messages are against this agreement. and i i don't know to what degre that's indicative of what's going on all over this country. but i suspect it is not radically different in other states. i think the american people are saying $13.8 trillion national debt. let's not give tax breaks to billion yairks drive up that national debt, force our kids to pay more in taxes and at the same time have republicans come forward and start slashing medicare and medicaid and social security because of this large debt -- debt we are making larger. and i appeal to my conservative friends -- i am not a conservative -- but many conservatives have spent their entire political careers saying we cannot afford to drive up the national debt, it is unsustainable. i agree with that. so vote against this agreement because it is driving up the
national debt, and in a significant way it is doing that by giving tax breaks to people who absolutely don't need them. once again, for those people who are earning $1 million a year or more, they on average will be getting about a $100,000 a year tax break. people earning $100 million a year, that number is going to be a lot higher. who believes that that makes any sense at all? mr. president, let me give you some other reasons why i think this agreement is a bad agreement. the president says, well, yes, we are going to extend tax breaks for all, including the top 2%. but don't worry, it's only going to be for two years, not to workers only going to be tabor for two years. well, maybe that will be the cairks but i doubt that very much. i've been here in congress long enough to know that if you
extend a tax break, it is very, very hard to undo that extension, because if we can't do it now -- if we can't tell our republican colleagues that it is absurd to continue giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, we can't do did now, what makes you think we're going to do it in the midst of a presidential election? and i have to say that as somebody who admires and likes the president. the president is a friend of mine. his credibility has been severely damaged. he's going to go forward and if he is the democratic nominee, i suspect that he will say, yes, i extended it against my will but don't worry, i'm going to repeal them after two years. you tell me who's going to believe him? his credibility has been severely damaged. we're caving in on this issue. we should not be. polls show that the american people do not need more tax
breaks. if the calls to my office are indick stiff of what's going on in this country, overwhelming opposition to this agreement. what i'm saying here is while the president say, don't worry, this is only temporary, yeah, i don't like it says the president, don't like it, but it's only two years -- i have my doubts. i expect that in two years, if this agreement goes forward, it will be extended again, as you know, mr. president, they wanted ten years of an extension of tax breaks for the rich. i have my strong suspicion that that is exactly what will happen if not made permanent. and this country cannot afford to give tax breaks to million aires and billionaires and have the middle class pay them off. and i want to say, mr. president, while a lot of attention has been focused on the personal income tax issue, that is not the only unfair tax proposal in this agreement.
this agreement continues the bush era 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends, meaning -- let's be very clear about what this means. meaning that those people who make their living off of their investments, if you invest, if you earn dividends, will continue to pay a substantially lower tax rate than the average american worker, a person in the working class, middle class, our firemen, nurses, teachers. those people are not going to get -- pay 15%; they pay a higher rate. they pay a higher rate than folks who have capital gains and dividends. i think that that's wrong. this agreement extends those provisions. furthermore, mr. president -- and this is a point that has got to be made over and over and over again -- this agreement
between the president and the republicans lowers the estate tax rate to 35%. under this agreement, the estate tax will decline to 35%. under president clinton, when the economy was much stronger, the estate tax was 55%. now, i know, mr. president, that the republicans have don't know very good job in trying to convince the american people that this is a so-called "death tax" and that every -- in every family in america when a loved one dies, the family is going to have to pay 35%, 45%, 55%. i have had people in burlington, verntle coming up to me and saying, what are you doing? i got $30,000 in the bank. i want to leave it to my kids. why are you forcing my kids to pay such a large tax? so let us be very, very clear.
the republicans have done a very good job in totally distorting this issue. the estate tax is paid only by the top .3% of families in america. if you are in the middle class, even if you are modestly wealthy, even if you're wealthy, if you're poor, if you're low or middle class, you don't pay a nickel in estate tax if somebody in your family were to die and leave you wealthy. not a nickel. this applies not just to the rich but the very, very, very rich. so what the republicans have been arguing for several years now is they want to repeal the estate tax entirely. if they were successful in doing that, mr. president, that would mean increasing the national debt by $1 trillion over a
ten-year period. how's that? and all of the benefits -- not some, all of the benefits go to the top .3%, 99.7% of the people do not gain one nickel. now, what's in this agreement is not what the republicans ideally want, which is a repeal of the tax entirely, but what they do get is a reduction to 35% with an exemption on the first $5 million of an individual's estate. and here, mr. president, is a chart which indicates just what i said a moment ago. repealing the estate tax would add more than $1 trillion to the deficit over ten years. over a trillion dollars and the beneficiaries of it are just the
very, very wealthy. mr. president -- mr. president, let me give you an example of what the repeal of the estate tax would be. i'll read right off of this chart right here. sam walton's family -- and those are the heirs to the wal-mart fortune -- are worth an estimated $86.8 billion. the walton family -- one family -- would receive an estimated $32.7 billion tax break if the estate tax was completely repealed. and this is what our republican friends want. now, this agreement between the president and the republicans certainly does not repeal the estate tax but it does significantly lower the rates that the richest people -- very richest people in this country would have to pay.
mr. president, two days ago -- two days ago, i brought to the floor of this senate a very simple piece of legislation, and i think how that legislation was treated speaks volumes about the debate that we're having now. this legislation said that with over 50 million senior citizens on social security and disabled vets, for the second year in a row not getting a cost-of-living adjustment, a cola, over 50 million seniors on social security, disabled vets not getting any cola at all, despite the fact that swroish if we can't get them a colarks
let's get them the equivalent a measly 2% cola, $250 check to all of our senators, disabled vets that's what we did in the stimulus package. that's all. over 50 million people, $250 check cost our government about $14 billion. $14 billion. and yet, i could not get one republican vote in support of that. republicans say, my goodness, imagine a senior or disabled vet living on $15,000, $20,000 a year getting a $250 check. what an outrage. we have different priorities, they say. we want to give a $1 million tax break to somebody who earns $50 million a year. and that about says it all. if you're very, very rich, the good news suck get more tax breaks. but if you're a senior or
tkaeubld vet, we can't get -- or disabled vet, we can't get you a $250 check. the vote on the senate was 53 people in favor of providing that onetime check, 45 against. 53-45. we won. but here in the senate, the majority does not rule. republicans filibuster almost everything. and it required 60 votes. we didn't get the 60 votes. seniors didn't get that check. i'm going to do my best to see they do get it. we're going to bring that issue back and back and back again. so i raise that issue, mr. president, to tell you that one of the very weakest proposals in this agreement, totally outrageous, is the decrease in the taxes for the estate tax. there's another issue i want to
touch on, and i'm going to spend a long time on this issue because it hasn't gotten the coverage and the attention that i think it deserves. and this agreement deals with the so-called -- this agreement deals with the payroll tax holiday. and i know the president and the vice president and others have been touting this. they're saying this is really a good thing because it will put more money into the pockets of working people. what will happen is if you're a working right now you're paying 6.2% in a payroll tax for social security. it's going to be reduced for one year to 4.2%. you get the difference, and this is really a good thing. all of us want to see working people with more money in their
pockets. that's what we're fighting for. but let me be very clear that while on the surface this so-called payroll tax holiday sounds like a good idea for working people, it is actually a very bad idea. and what the american people should understand is that this payroll tax holiday originated from right-wing republicans whose ultimate goal -- trust me -- is not to put more money into the pockets of working families. it's the ultimate destruction of social security. and what they understand is that if we divert funding that is supposed to go into the social security trust fund, this will ultimately weaken the long-term financial viability of social security. so, in other words, what we are doing is for the very first time diverting money which is
supposed to go into the social security trust fund, we're giving it to workers today. it's like eating our seed. rather than going into social security, the president says don't worry this is going to be covered this year by the federal government. we've never seen that before. i don't want social security be dependent on the federal government, because the federal government has a $13.7 trillion national debt. and what i worry about is this is not just a one-year provision. this also could be extended. let me just quote barbara kennelly. i'm glad to see i'm joined by one of the strongest fighters for working families, senator sherrod brown of ohio. i want to say this before i ask him a question, or before he asks me a question or whatever the protocol is. that is i want to quote what
barbara kenknelly, the president and c.e.o. of the national committee preserve medicare said. this is what she said -- and i quote -- "even though social security contributed nothing to the current economic crisis, it has been bartered in a deal that provides deficit-busting tax cuts for the wealthy." here's the key point. "diverting $120 billion in social security contributions for a so-called tax holiday may sound like a good deal for workers now, but it's bad business for a program that a majority of middle-class seniors will rely upon in the future." barbara kennelly and c.e.o. of the national committee to preserve social security and medicare. i'm joined by my friend from ohio and i want to ask him his sense of this overall agreement. mr. brown: i was just on a tv
show a minute ago, and i was asked, the liberals or the conservatives, what they think about this. this really isn't a liberal-conservative issue. this is, first of all, the tax cuts overwhelmingly go to the wealthiest taxpayers. we're seeing the kinds of tax cuts that millionaires and billionaires get from the income tax and from the estate tax. but it's also equally importantly it blows a hole in our budget deficit. in some sense we're borrowing tens of billions of dollars every year now if this agreement becomes law, we're borrowing tens of billions of dollars every year from the chinese. we're putting it in our children's, in our grandchildren's credit cards for them to pay off who knows when. then we're giving these tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. in those simple terms it doesn't make sense. it doesn't make sense in our relationship with china. it doesn't make sense in the
lost jobs that come from that china trade policy. it doesn't make sense in undermining the middle class. it doesn't make sense in terms of fairness in the tax system. it doesn't make sense for our children and grandchildren and the burden they're going to have to bear to pay off this debt. giving a millionaire a tax cut and charging it to our kids who are paying taxes on, unfortunately, in the last few years declining wages is just morally reprehensible. when i think of the -- i know senator sanders has been on the floor two hours now talking about this and how -- and really analyzing it and educating and all that. i think about the economic policy too that this embodies. ten years ago, nine years ago, senator sanders and the presiding officer, when he was a member of the house, senator udall from colorado, and i and others voted against the bush
tax cuts of 2001-2003 principally because those tax cuts overwhelmingly went to the wealthy and ended up adding to our national debt. we had a surplus then. we don't now. we had the largest surplus we ever had in 2001, blew a hole in that. we passed those, those tax cuts under the belief, those who supported it -- president bush and senator mcconnell and so many others, under the belief that that kind of trickle-down economics would grow our economy. well, in the eight years -- and this isn't partisan, this isn't opinion; this is fact. from january 1, 2001 to january 1, 2009, president bush's eight years, we actually had private-sector job loss in this country. contrast that with a different economic policy, january 1, 1993, to january 1, 2001, the clinton eight years -- again, this isn't partisan, this isn't opinion. this is fact. during the clinton eight years
we had 21 million private-sector jobs created. 21 million private-sector jobs created. zero literally jobs lost -- private sector jobs created in the bush eight years because of trickle economics. why would we blow a hole in the budget for our kids to pay off, why would we continue an economic policy that clearly didn't work for this country? it didn't work for the middle class. we saw wages, not only no job increase during those eight years except for the people at the very top. we saw actual wage stagnation or worse. most americans didn't get a raise during the eight bush years. most americans simply saw their wages flat or in many cases decline. the super wealthy saw a big increase in their incomes and in their net assets. now we're going to give a tax break to them?
this isn't class warfare -- i know lots of people that have a lot of money. but why would we help those people who have done so very well and have our children pay for it? senator sanders just mentioned the letter from barbara kenelly, of one of the largest seniors organizations in the country and what this will mean for social security. here's my fear, mr. president. if this is passed, we're going to see our budget deficit increase according to the congressional budget office, about $900 billion because of this package. $800 billion-something over the next eight years. as soon as it's signed by president obama, even though it was negotiated with the senate republican leadership, i assume we're going to vote for it, they're going to say look at the huge budget deficit that president obama created. from that day on, they're going to go after ways to cut the budget. that's okay. i agree we need to deal with
spending and taxes and the whole picture. i also know from watching republicans -- i saw them in the house when they moved towards medicare privatization in 2003 and 2004 and 2005. they had some success. fortunately we were able to beat back most of it. i remember in 2005 after president bush was reelected in a very, very close race, he spoke repeatedly about privatizing social security. i i know that's what they want to do. in the 1990's speaker gingrich, fortunately beat back by president clinton, but speaker gingrich tried to privatize medicare. that's the way they cut the budget. they go after medicare and social security. this vote on the package, to me, we need to call the president to write the president to work with the president to say, no deal. this has got to be something very different from what it is now because it will cause huge deficits that our children and grandchildren will have to bear. it will not help the economy
appreciably because we saw what the trickle-down economic policies of the bush years dis, and it doesn't help the middle class enough. so it's pretty clear to me how this jeopardizes social security, it jeopardizes medicare, it will force more cuts and more pressure on those programs that have lifted so many people into the middle class. in 1965 when medicare was first passed, half of snilts in this country had no -- half of senior citizens in this country had no health insurance. today, 99% of seniors have no health insurance. something like that. and i know that we're a country now that has created a strong middle class. we've seen that middle class because of these tax cuts for the wealthy trickle-down kind of economic policy. we've seen the middle class shrink in the last few years. i don't want that to keep happening. that's why i'm very concerned about this. that's why i am working with the president to say, no deal that we need to much more seriously
focus on not running up a huge deficit on making sure that social security is protected, on an economic policy that works for the middle class, on a tax policy that's fair to the middle class. that's why senator sanders' work is so important today, taking the floor for a longer period than anybody i've ever seen since i have a been in the senate, in a filibuster-kind of setting where he is raising that's questions, asking these questions, educating the public, talking to people all over the country and this chamber and outside to change this policy. mr. sanders: if i could interrupt my friend from ohio and ask him a question -- this is an issue that dealt with last night -- talk about the kind of priorities that we have seen in the senate recently, where just a couple of days ago, you and i worked very hard to try to make sure that seniors on social security and disabled vets were able to get a $250 check at a cost of $14 billion, and we couldn't get one republican vote for that, while at the same time
the republicans are pushing tax breaks of over $1 million a year for the richest people in this country. does that seem -- mr. brown: that tells a story. and i'm still -- came to the floor right after that vote. i had supported it all along ring i cosponsored senator sanders' -- his effort to bring that to the floor for the $250 check for all seniors and all disabled veterans, i might add, not just social security beneficiaries, and -- but i came to the floor right afterward because i was pretty amazed. i know there's partisanship here. i know that some people think that their whole view of the world is to give tax cuts to the richest people in the world and it will all trickle down and we'll all do better and we'll lift all boats. that's pretty interesting economic theory that you might have learned at harvard or johns hopkins or wherever. but it just doesn't work. nice theory but it doesn't lift,
to lift all boats. so senator sanders' effort was to give a one-time $250 check for seniors who had not had a cost of living adjustment in two years. and it just seemed to make so much sense when the average senior in this country lives -- gets about a $14,000-a-year social security chefnlg that's about $1,200 a month. that's not their entire income for most seniors but it is a big, big part of t many seniors live only on that. many more seniors live on that but only another couple $3,000, $400 a month. so there's not inplacing maybe for people my age so much in this country, but if you're older and you've go to a lost health care costs, there is inflation. because that's where health care -- that's what -- health healthe costs seem to go up higher than anything other than education, and maybe as high as that.
so it was important that that $250 be provided to every senior in the cundz and every disabled vet. noe now, what made me -- what was so amazing about it was that 42 republican senators had signed a letter saying they will do nothing -- nothing -- in the senate until the tax cuts for the rich are improved, until they're signed into law. now, it's almost -- i've never seen the united states senators engage in a work stoppage or a strike. i mean it wasn't repeally quite a strike. it was probably illegal for us to strike -- i don't know -- maybe. but it really was a work stoppage. we're not doing anything until you give tax cuts to my rich friends. and i might say also, to many people in the house and senate whose income is in that bracket as well. but they were there for their rich friends and their biggest contributors and the wealthiest people in this country, but they weren't there for a senior citizen living on $1,200 a month that could use that extra $250. i have met too many seniors -- and i know that the presiding officer, when he travels -- when
he travels to colorado strings or to crivment marron or to denver, he hears seniors say, i cut my pills in half because i need my prescription to run for two months rather than one because i can't afford it. or i skipped my medicine today because my house is too cold or i don't have enough to eat. seniors make those choices. and we make choices here. the choice we made -- 42 republicans made it en bloc -- because you need 60 votes. we had a majority of voters -- snorks an easy majority for senator sanders' effort for the 53 votes to do this. but you need 60 votes. so 43 senators engaged in their work stoppage saying we doo are not doing anything until we get these tax cuts for the rich. said "no" to srnls. i am just amazed by that the callusness. i am even more amazed when you consider -- what's today, the 1
10th or 11th, in two weeks it is christmas day. that doesn't seem to bother them. 85,000 ohioans a week and a half ago lost their unemployment benefits. their holiday season is ruined. but i guess all of us will go home ands -- i want to go home and be with connie and my kids on christmas. my children are grown. we have one grandchild. i want to be with them as much as i can. but we have a job to do this week and this month and this year and next year. and that is to extend unemployment benefits to people who have lost them, are looking for jobs, extending the tax cuts for the middle class and doing the right thifnlgt and so far we haven't done that and i -- i need to go to the airport, but i want to yield back to senator sanders for his work today. i hope next week when we come back on monday we're prepared to do whatever it takes to say no deal on this one and to make
this work for the middle class, make it work for social security beneficiaries, make it work for unemployed workers. sandcy and want to thank my good friend from ohio, one of the real fighters for working families here in the senate. not only for coming down here but for his years of efforts. but he makes a very important point. you know, we have a job to do. some people don't believe it, it is a rather radical concept, but our job to represent working families and the middle class and not the wealthiest people in this country. i've got four kids, six grandchildren, i look forward to spending the holidays with them, but you know what? we've job to do. and if it means staying here through christmas eve, through new year's, that is our job, and let's pass a proposal that works well for ordinary families and not just for the wealthiest people in this country. i wanted to thank senator sherrod brown for coming down and what i want to say now is, when you look at this agreement,
we talk now about the absurdity of in the middle of a time when we've a $13.7 trillion national debt, giving tax breaks to people who don't need it, senator brown and i have talked about the dangers inherit in this payroll tax holiday and what if might mean for the future of social security, but i also wanted to make another point. that is, that there are many, many billions of dollars in this proposal going to a variety of business tax cuts. some of them in fact might work. some of them in fact might not work. but what is very, very clear is that if your goal is to create as many jobs as possible, for every dollar of investment, this particular approach is not very effective.
when we talk about tax breaks for corporations and companies, what we should be aware of is that corporate america today -- today -- is sitting on close to $2 trillion in cash -- they have that cash on hand. and the the problem is not that they don't have the problem, the problem is that working people -- working people don't have the money to buy the products that these guys are producing. and i believe -- it is not just me but i think a variety of economists from across the board believe that it makes a lot more sense if we're serious about creating jobs to invest in our infrastructure. and i say that for a number of reasons. when you put money into roads and bridges and public transportation, you are creating for every $1 that you spend far more jobs than giving a variety
of tax breaks. that's just what is an economic fact. second of all, when you are investing in our infrastructure, not only are you creating jobs short term, you are leaving the country with a long-term improvement that increases our competitiveness in a very tough global economy. i mentioned a moment ago -- we'll get back to it later -- china sin vesting huge amounts of money into high-speed rail, into their roads, into their bridges, and yet if you drive around certain parts of america, you would think we are a third of this world nation. you have roads with all kinds of potholes. you have bridges that you can't go across, you have rail systems where trains are going slower -- there is a study out there that i will get to lairkts where somebody said decades ago it took less time to get to where
you are going than it does today because our rails are in such bad slap. you have got to invest in infrastructure, it creates jobs it adds long-term value to this country. unfortunately, in this agreement, there is, to the best of my knowledge, not one nickel going into infrastructure. and it is important that we in fact add provisions which do invest in our infrastructure and create jobs. another point, mr. president, that should be made when we look at this so-called compromise agreement established by the president and the republican leadership, is that in the agreement there is an extension of unemployed benefits for 13 months. now, there is zero question in my mind that that is something that absolutely has to be done. right now -- senator brown made this point -- we have millions of americans who have, through no fault of their own, lost their jobs.
that he be mare plants went to china, maybe their chinese doob get the loans needed to stay in business. small business has gone under, big businesses shutting down plants. no question that we have got to extend unemployment benefits. but what bothers me is that this provision in this agreement, which is a good provision, suggests that this is a hard-won compromise, that the republicans really conceded something and they agreed to a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. but here's the fact: the fact is that for the last 40 years, when unemployment rates have gone above 7.2%, republicans and democrats, in a nonpartisan way, have come together to say, of course we're going to extend unemployment benefits. this is america. we're not going to let working families who are suffering hard times because through no fault
of their own -- they've lostary jobs -- we're not going to let them lose their homes or not enable them to feed their families. this is america. we're not going to do that. and republicans have said that for 40 years. democrats have said that for 40 years. democratic, republican presidents have said that. so to say, oh, my good in republicans made a major concession. they're going to allow the extension of unemployment as been bipartisan public policy for the last 40 years. now, mr. president, i've been expressing to you and to the american people why i think this is not a good agreement. why i think this agreement should be defeated and why i think we can put together a much better agreement. but i do want to be very clear that there are positive aspects to this agreement which should be maintained in an improved
proposal. and let me just mention some of them. this proposal, of course, in addition to extending unemployment benefits for 13 months, extends the middle-class tax cuts and that is obviously -- obviously, obviously, obviously something that we have to do. the reality is that the middle class in this country is collapsing. during the bush years we saw a $2,200 decline per year in median family income, and working families are hurting; no question about it. and not to extend that tax cut when 98% of america would be a travesty. so we've got to maintain those tax cuts, and that is a positive thing in that agreement, which obviously in a future agreement must maintain. also in this agreement is the earned-income tax credit for working americans, a very
important provision. and the child and college tax credits are also in this agreement. and these proposals will keep millions of americans from slipping out of the middle class and into poverty, and they will allow millions of americans to send their kids to college. so i'm not here to say to the president or the vice president that there aren't any good proposals in parts of this agreement. there are. but we can do much, much better. now, what the president says -- and he makes a valid point -- he says, okay, show me the votes. show me the votes. he's good at counting. we've tried a proposal here, mr. president, as you well know, was it last week where we only got 53 votes which said that we're going to extend the tax breaks for the middle class and not the very, very, very rich. the president knows as everybody else knows that around here republicans filibuster everything.
you need 60 votes. he said show me the votes. well, this is what i would say: what our job right now is about is reaching out to the american people from one end of this country to the other, from california to vermont, including a lot of our very conservative states. because, frankly, it is not a conservative approach to substantially increase the national debt by giving tax breaks to billionaires. mr. president, how many times have you been here on the floor hearing our republican colleagues give long, long speeches about the danger and the unsustainability of a $13.7 trillion national debt and a $1.4 trillion deficit? you've heard it day after day after day. that's their mantra. well, if they believe that, why are they voting for a proposal that substantially increases the
national debt for the very unproductive reason of giving tax breaks to the richest people in this country who don't need it? and i would hope -- and the reason why we have to defeat this proposal and fight for a much better one is i would hope that people throughout this country, in vermont and colorado, in many of our conservative states, that they come forward and say, wait a second, i do not want to see my kids and grandchildren pay more in taxes because we borrowed money from china to increase the national debt in order to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who have done extraordinarily well in recent years. and, by the waeurbgs have seen a -- by the way, have seen a significant decline in their effective tax rate. mr. president, i know you have heard people like warren buffet, one of the richest guys in america, he's made the point over and over again that his
effective, what he really pays in taxes, his effective tax rate is lower than his secretary's. all over this country you have examples where very, very rich people were able to stash their money in the cayman islands, take advantage of all types of loopholes, are paying rather low effective tax rates, in many cases lower than police officers or firemen or teachers or nurses. so, i think that this is in fact -- opposition to this agreement should be tripartisan. you should have conservative republicans, liberal democrats. i'm an independent progressive. i can tell you, mr. president, that in the last three days my office has received probably close to 3,000 phone calls, 98% of them against this agreement. probably higher than 98%. and just a huge number of
e-mails also overwhelmingly against this agreement. i suspect -- i don't know this for a enact this is the kind of message that the american people are sending us all over america. but i think they got to continue to do that. they have got to make it clear so that we can win over at least a handful of republicans and some wavering democrats and say, wait a second, we are not going to hold hostage extending middle-class tax breaks in order to give tax breaks to billionaires. we're not going to hold hostage extending unemployment for workers who have lost their jobs by giving tax breaks to people who don't need it. and i think, mr. president, that the american people give voice to what they are feeling, which this is not a good agreement, that we can do a lot better. i think, mr. president, we can defeat this proposal and we can come back with a much, much better proposal which protects the unemployed, extends unemployment benefits, protects the middle class, extends the
bush tax cuts for 98% of the population, and protects a lot of important programs, making college more affordable, miking child -- making child care more affordable and helping us transform our energy system. there is a lot we can do if we defeat this proposal. we're not going to do it inside the beltway. that i'm absolutely sure of. republicans are very united. what we have to do is wind at least a -- is win at least a handful of them and some wavering democrats to say, mr. president, republican leadership, you guys have got to involve congress in this discussion. i was very pleased yesterday that the democratic caucus said, sorry, we're not bringing that proposal on to the floor. and i applaud speaker pelosi and the democratic caucus for saying that. it took a lot of courage. a congressman from the state of
investment, peter well -- welch. i congratulate mostly the kaubgdz for saying we can do better. we can do better than we are doing. let me be very frank, we're not going to do better unless the american people stand up and help us. we're going to need a lot of phone calls, a lot of e-mails, a lot of messages so that all of our colleagues in the house and the senate understand the american people do not want to see their kids having to pay off the debt incurred by giving tax breaks to billionaires. mr. president, this agreement doesn't come out of the blue. it comes within a context that i think frightens many people in this country. i think many americans have a sinking feeling that there is something very, very wrong in our country today.
i know that my father came to this country at the age of 17 without a penny in his pocket and became the proudest american that you can ever see. not much of an education, but you knew that this country gave him an opportunity. that's the american story that's what it's all about. millions and millions of families whr-rbgs they came from other -- whether they came from other countries, whether they made it on their own -- we heard the majority leader, harry reid talk about growing up in a desperately poor family. but i think there are a lot of folks out there believe, and the facts back them up, there's something wrong. what is going on in this country is the middle class is collapsing, poverty is increasing. and i think what people worry about -- i've got four kids and six grandchildren. i'm not worried about me. i'm worried about what happens
to my kids and grandchildren. we have wonderful young pages here who are sitting on the floor, and we worry about their futures as well. and we don't want to see our kids and our grandchildren be the first generation in the modern history of america to have a lower standard of living than their parents. we don't twaopbt see the economy -- don't want to see the economy of this country move in the wrong way. we don't want a race to the bottom. we want to see our kids live healthier and better lives than we do, not have to work longer hours, not getting a lower quality of education or less education. that is not the history of this great country. and i want to spend a minute now talking about one aspect of what's going on in this country that does not get the kind of attention that it deserves. there are obvious reasons why, having to do with who owns the media and corporate control over the media, having to do with who provides the campaign contributions that elect members to the house and the senate,
having to do with all the lobbyists that surround this institution; you know, wall street and oil companies spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, lobbyists, campaign contributions, we don't talk about that issue. the very simple issue that i want to talk about for a moment is who is winning and who is losing in the economy. i come from new england. everybody follows the celtics, red sox and patriots. everybody says okay, who won the game? who's winning, who's losing? and in fact, in america it's pretty clear in the economy who's winning and losing. the vast majority of people, working people, middle-class people, low-income people are losing. that's who's losing. and it is very clear who is winning. the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well. they are winning the economic struggle. in america today,
mr. president -- and, again, we don't talk about this too much. we don't talk about it too much, but it's time we did. in america today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in the industrialized world. i haven't heard too many people, mr. president, talk about that issue. why not? our republicans want -- our republican colleagues want huge tax breaks for the richest people in this country, but the reality is that the top 1% already today owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. how much more do they want? when is enough enough? you want it all? we already have millions of families today that have zero wealth. they own less -- they owe more than they own. millions of families have zero,
below zero wealth. we are living in a situation where the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. and, mr. president, that is simply unacceptable. today in our country -- and this is something we must be absolutely ashamed about and have got to address -- that instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, maybe we should appreciate the fact that about 25% of our children are dependent on food stamps. we should understand that in the industrialized world, the united states of america has the, as this chart shows, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. is this america? is this america?
the united states today has over 20% of its kids living in poverty. in finland, the number is about 2% or 3%. norway maybe 4%. sweden maybe 4.5%. switzerland 6%. whatever it may be. here we are, if you're watching on television, what you're seeing is the red line. here's the united states, well over 20%. here's the netherlands in second place, looks to me like about 7%. this is the future of america. so we're sitting here talking about an agreement which says let's give huge tax breaks to billionaires, and here's the reality. we have a rate of childhood poverty far, far surpassing any other country on earth. let me tell you something else. i don't know that we have a chart for this, but it is the other half of the equation. what do you think happens when you have millions and millions
of kids living in poverty? what do you think happens when you have kids who are dropping out of school when they're 13 or 14? till you what happens because i talked -- i will tell you what happens because i talked to a fellow in vermont who runs one of our jails. he said half the kids who drop out of school end up in the penal system. that's what happens. so the result is the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, and then what we end up with is more people behind bars than any other country on earth. you got that? china is a communist totalitarian society, much, much larger than the united states of america, which is a democratic society. we have more people in jail than china and more people in jail
than any other country. so what we end up doing, which seems to me not to be terribly bright, is we end up spending perhaps $50,000 a year keeping people in jail because they dropped out of school, never found a job, they got hooked up on drugs or whatever, and we pay to put them in jail rather than investing in child care, in education and sustaining their families. so, mr. president, when we look at the context in which this agreement was reached, we have got to see that it takes place at a time when the rich are already doing phenomenally well, while we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. mr. president, during the eight years of president bush, the wealthiest 400 americans -- that's not a lot of people --
400 families saw their income more than double while their income tax rates dropped almost in half. so you've got 400 family, all of whom are already multi-multimillionaires duringmg the eight years of president bush, their income more than doubled while their income tax rates dropped almost in half. i would say to my colleagues here in the senate, we don't have to worry about these guys, they're doing just fine. they don't need an extension of tax breaks. mr. president, the wealthiest 400 americans now earn on average $345 million a year and they pay an effective tax rate of 16.6%. how's that? all right? top 400 wealthiest people in
this country earn $345 million a year and they pay an effective tax rate of 16.6%. they do not need an extension of tax breaks. and, by the way, for the united states of america, this effective tax rate of 16.6% on average is the lowest tax rate for the very rich in america that has ever been. that's ever been. so we've already given the wealthiest people in this country the lowest effective tax rates in the history of our country. that's what we've done. on record, at least since they've been keeping records. so the idea of giving these guys who are doing phenomenally well, who are already own more wealth than the bottom 90% more tax breaks is totally absurd. mr. president, under the eight
years of president bush, the wealthiest 400 americans -- now, we talked about how they doubled their incomes. incomes is what happens in one year. under the eight years of bush, the wealthiest 400 americans increased their wealth by more than $380 billion. 400 families increased their wealth by $380 billion. that averages to almost a billion dollars a family. a billion dollars in eight years. that's the average. some obviously are more. collectively, it and i know this is not an issue we talk about too much, collectively, the 400 richest americans have accumulated $1.27 trillion in wealth. if any of them die this year, their heirs can receive right now all of this money tax-free because the inheritance tax has been eliminated in 2010 as part of the bush tax -- estate tax
repeal this year. mr. president, the top 25 hedge fund managers last year made a combined $25 billion in income, a combined $1 billion per person. okay? so if you are a hedge fund manager, you're doing pretty, pretty good. and i mentioned a moment ago we tried just the other day to get checks of $250 out for disabled vets and senior citizens on social security who haven't had a cola in two years, couldn't get them that check. but the top 25 hedge fund managers last year made a combined $25 billion in incom income -- a billion dollars per person -- and our republican friends say, oh, my word, my worked we have got to lower their taxes. last year, mr. president,
exxonmobil, the bank of america, and other large profitable corporations paid no federal income taxes. so what you got is a tax system which is totally distorted in the sense that it allows large profitable corporations to pay in some cases, and in many cases, zero and, in fact, last year -- you know, it would be funny if it really wasn't pathetic. and here you have, as i understand it, last year exxonmobil, which made $1 billion, paid nothing in taxes; bank of america -- bank of america, huge bailout from the american taxpayer, paying their executives all kinds of fancy, huge compensation packages, they got a refund check from the i.r.s. that's how absurd the situation is. and people say, oh, my word, in
order to -- to deal with our deficit, we're going to have to cut back on medicare and medicaid and education. we can't afford it. i guess we can afford to allow exxonmobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, to make huge sums of money and pay nothing in taxes, we can afford to do that, but we can't afford to protect the working families and the middle class. mr. president, in the year 2005, one out of every four large corporations in the united states paid no federal income taxes on revenue of $1.1 trillion. now, what do you think? maybe before we start cutting social security and medicare and medicaid and veterans' programs, maybe we want to ask some of these very large and profitable corporations to pay at least something in taxes?
from 1998-2005, two out of every three corporations in the united states paid no federal income taxes, according to the g.a.o. report. sadly, the economic pain that millions of people are experiencing didn't even begin as a result of the wall street bailout. the middle class was collapsing long before that. it's wrong to blame bush for all of the problems. he contributed a lot to it but not all. that trend has been going on for many, many years. as "the washington post" reported last january -- and let me quote from an article, because, again, i want to put the economic reality facing the middle class in contrast to the economic reality facing the very rich in that broad context of this agreement signed by the president and the republican leadership. as "the washington post" reported last january -- and i
quote -- "the past decade" -- the bush eight years plus two years -- "was the worst for the u.s. economy in modern times. it was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for american workers." "a lost decade for american workers." do you know why people are furious? do you know why they're angry at washington and everybody else? "ththe last decade, according to "the washington post," was "a lost decade for american workers. there has been zero net job creation since december 1999." 12 years -- zero job creation, which is why unemployment is so high, not only for the general population but, even worse, for our young people.
kids are getting out of high school, young people graduating college. according to "the washington post" -- this came from "the washington post" in january -- "middle-income households made less in 2008 when adjusted for inflation than they did in 199 1999." in other words, the american economy has turned into a nightmare for tens of millions of families. imagine that. middle-income households made less in 2008 when adjusted for inflation than they did in 1999. "and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009." they didn't have those numbers because of the wall street collapse, that certainly is the case. so what are we talking about? you're talking about, as i've just demonstrated, the people on top seeing a doubling of their income while their effective tax rates are going down.
you're seeing the middle class collapsing. and what this agreement says is, we're going to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. that is insane. and only within the beltway could an agreement like that be negotiated. as i mentioned earlier, we have in the last three days received thousands and thousands and thousands of phone calls and e-mails to my office, and over 98% -- i dare say 99% -- say this is not a good agreement; don't support it. mr. president, i've been joined on the floor by the very distinguished senator
from the state of louisiana and i am -- i ask unanimous consent that i be permitted to enter into a colloquy with senator landrieu.
the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. sanders: senator landrieu, i thank you very much for joining us here and i just wondered if you could give the american people your thought about this agreement and what's been going on? ms. landrieu: i thank the senator. i thank the senator from vermont for his eloquent and passionate presentation for hours this morning, and he clearly has presented to this chamber and to the american people some stark realities that are unpleasant, some people might even find them hard to believe, but he has done his homework. he has documented what he has
said. and in that backdrop, it does make this agreement made between the republican leadership and the president of the united states even harder for some of
us to understand. and i want to acknowledge, as the senator said, i know there are pressures on all sides and their time is running out. we've got to make a decision about tax cuts in a short period of time. we don't have the benefit of several months or even a half a year. i not thi understand the pressuf time. but as the senator from vermont pointed out, how about the pressures of the middle class? what about these pressures? what about this pain? and i was wondering, because i wanted to ask the senator from vermont, i was not able to follow his entire presentation this morning, did he quote from the income and inequity and the great recession, the report done by the u.s. congress joint economic committee, represented by -- or led by charles schumer, did -- senator schumer, did you quote from this? mr. sanders: we quoted from a number of studies but not that one, senator. ms. landrieu: well, i'd like to add in our colloquy if he was
aware, that according to this report that just came out september of this year, it says, "income inequality has skyrocketed. economists concur that income equality has risen dramatically over the past three decades. middle-class incomes stagnated under president bush during the recovery of the 1990's under president clinton, middle-class incomes grew at a healthy pace. however, during the jobless recovery of the 2000's under president bush, that trend has reversed course. middle-class incomes continue to fall well into the recovery, never regained their highs of 2001." the report goes on to say, which is frightening, which is why i have been raising my voice in opposition so strongly to some parts of this package, is that this report says, senator, "high levels of income inequity may precipitate economic crisis."
in other words, if the middle class can't see light at the end of the tunnel and if the economy itself can't grasp a way for the middle class to grow, senator, this recession may never end no matter how much money you give to the very wealthy. i mean, this is the reality that we're facing at this moment: how to end this recession. now, republicans weren't completely to blame for it. democrats weren't completely, you know, innocent or vice versa, but the -- it's not about who to blame, it's about how to fix it. and we're about to pick up a $980 billion hammer next week in attempt to fix it. a, are we hitting the nail right? you don't have many $980 billion hammers to pick up. i mean, we're borrowing this o one. so let's hit it right.
this is an important issue before our country. i think that's what the senator is saying. am i putting words into your mouth, senator? is this what you're trying to explain? mr. sanders: no, exactly. and the point cannot be understated. what senator landrieu is saying is that if you have a collapsing middle class and people are unable to purchase anything, it impacts the entire economy. the economy can't grow. we can't grow jobs if people don't have enough money to buy products made by other people. and if all of the -- a substantial part of the wealth of this nation accrues in the hands of a few, they can get three yachts and eight airplanes, but there's a limit to what they can purchase. ms. landrieu: there's a limit to what they can consume. what the senator and i are saying -- and i want to be clear because the senator and i don't agree on every piece of legislation, he tends to be a little more liberal and progress oif than i am.
-- progressive than i am. but we are both concerned about the shrinking of the middle class. i'm talking about the broad middle class. incomes of $50,000 to $500,000. now, in my state $500,000 of income -- i'm not talking about net worth. i'm talking about income. is a huge amount of money. in fact, i brought a graph -- it's the right here -- to show here that 84% of the households in louisiana -- so when i talk about middle class, 84% of the households in louisiana make less than $75,000. 84%. now most people in louisiana believe they're in the middle class. but 84% make below $75,000. so when i use the term middle class, and we all have a different view, i try to say the
broad middle class, between $50,000 and $500,000. if you have $500,000 in louisiana, you're quite wealthy in louisiana. i realize we're not in new york, connecticut, california, maybe if you make $300,000 or $400,000 in income in some of these places, you don't consider yourself very wealthy or rich. i think by louisiana standards, you would be. but this is a big nation. so i want to be as broad as i can possibly be here. i'm not talking about the wealthy being $400,000 or $500,000. in a may not be the case in california. but what we're talking about in this tax bill is borrowing $50 billion to give tax breaks to families earning over $1 million. so, as the senator from vermont said, whether you put your mark at $250,000 or $150,000 or $500,000, we can disagree about how broad the middle class
is. but is there anyone -- anyone -- anyone in this chamber on any side of the aisle from any state that believes seriously, given what the senator from vermont just outlined, which is really not debatable. i mean these economic studies are not just from one side of the aisle or another, that we should actually next week provide $50 billion in extended benefits for the families in america who are making more than $1 million a year? when the inequities are so great, when the needs of the middle class are so great, when there is no evidence to suggest that even after this tax cut, that i've seen that's convincing, that the recession will end. and we're doing this for two years. what happens, mr. president, if the recession doesn't end and we've borrowed all of this money to provide the extension of
these tax cuts and in addition given the $50 billion to the million dollar earners in this country? what do we do then? go borrow another trillion and try it again? i think we have to try something different. now, i don't know if the senator has another point before i go into just a few thoughts that i have. i wanted to ask him if he -- yes? mr. sanders: thank you very much. and i agree with what she has been saying. i just mentioned earlier, senator, the calls and e-mails coming into my office are overwhelming, like 99% against. dmoipt what's going on -- i don't know what's going on in your office. ms. landrieu: i have about 50% for and 50% against. the state of louisiana is a little different from the state of vermont. many calls coming in from around the country are against giving -- well, actually let me say this, most of the calls are
against giving tax cuts to people over $1 million. i mean, overwhelmingly people are calling in and saying, is that really happening? in fact, my office told me today that 10 people called that had incomes over $1 million, which i found very interesting, to say they supported my position. tell senator landrieu i make $1 million a year and i agree with her. so i know people are listening. so i thank those callers. they make $1 million every year. they said, please, use the money for somebody else or something else. i'm doing fine. i'm counting my blessings. i survived the recession. they know that 33,000 people are getting ready to run out of unemployment benefits in louisiana alone if we don't extend it. they know that middle-class families making under $75,000 in income or $200,000 in income or even $300,000 -- you can hav have $300,000 of income in lose lieu and be doing very well and
have eight children. you know, you have large families out in the west. we have very large families in the south. no one ever gives us credit enough i think for that. the fact that people work very hard, sometimes a mother and a father. their income might be $250,000. but with six children, that doesn't go that far these days. and with eight children -- i grew up in a neighborhood where we routinely had 12 children in a house. how much money do you think you have to make to feed and clothes and send to college 12 to college? my father sent nine of us to college. we never made anywhere near that money. i still think it's a miracle any of us got there. but nevertheless, next week we're going to debate this issue. and i want to say i support extending tax cuts to the middle class, to the broad middle class. but there is something terribly wrong here in denmark. something is not right in
denmark if we're spending or borrowing $50 billion, which is about what it costs to extend income tax rates -- the lower rates and the dividend rates and the capital gains rates to people making over $1 million. someone on the radio today said, well, senator, don't you think that giving tax cuts that will stimulate the economy? i said, no. i'm not an economist, but every economist that i've read on this tax package says that's one of the least stimulative -- am i correct, senator? one of the least stimulative provisions of the bill. so i want to know next week when we're debating this, i'd like at least one republican, just one, it could be the minority leader, mitch mcconnell, it could be the budget director, judd gregg, it could be just one republican
to give a passionate argument for why they insisted this be in the package. i'd just like to listen to it. i'd like to hear it with my own ears. what was it about it that they thought was so important that they had to have it in the pac package? i know as angry as i am at the president right now about some matters, i know the president did not insist this be in the package. i know enough about him to know that he didn't call nrve the room and -- call nrve the room and -- everybody in the room and say, oh, we forgot something. let's make sure that this tax break-in cliewdz people over $1 million. i want to know who did? who did give it? your constituents should know about it. and the american people have a right to know.
that's 1 thing about our democracy -- that's one thing about our democracy. it's open. it could be more open. we could be like britain where they stand and talk to one another in one of the rooms. i find it very interesting to watch sometimes. we don't do that. at least if people in britain want to know what their people are saying, they can hear them. somebody said this and i'd like to know who and where and when? was it in the oval office? was in the -- it in th thecloakroom? because i am going to be forced to vote because i think the senator understands we aren't going to have any amendments. so i'm going to be forced to vote and have to choose, which is going to be a very tough choice, between extending tax cuts for 84% of the people in my state that make less tha than $75,000, which, of course, i want to do. even though we have to borrow the money to do it.
we can't not do. it i mean the economic circumstances are such while we have -- we have to do it. but now in order to get them help, i've got to say yes to something that i've talked about and i want to be serious about this. i'm very serious about it for me borders on moral recklessness. i've been criticized on both sides of this debate. how can you use words like this? i don't know. i went to catholic school. we went to mass almost every week. every week. every week the priest would say, don't take more than you need. don't be greedy. share with others. i mean, did i go to the wrong school? so i'd like to know maybe those lessons were missed on the other
side. and i don't normally speak like this. i've been criticized for it. i'm very, very torn because i like to be part of a team. i understand, the senator from vermont, we can't have every package exactly the way we believe. i understand that. i've had to vote for some things that were hard for me to stomach and i've done it because there were other good things in the bill. that's the way the process works. i cannot remember a time on either an appropriations bill of this magnitude or tax bill of this magnitude that we've been asked to cast a vote for something that on its face is so -- so reckless, so unnecessary, so sort of in your face to the poor, in your face to the middle class, we're going to take our money, don't you say a word about it. who said that?
did warren buffett come down here and ask for it? did boon pickens come down here and ask for it? did the gates come down here and ask for? who asked for it? why do you think you deserve it and what senator put their name on it? i have a few more things to say. i don't want to keep the senator from vermont tied up. mr. sanders: the senator from louisiana has made some very, very important points, and i appreciate it and i look forward to what she has to say. ms. landrieu: thank you. mr. president, i wanted to say just a few other things about this whole situation because the senator from vermont agree on some things, parts of this, obviously this one. but we had a big difference, and i wanted to show this just from my perspective. i voted for the original tax cuts. i'm not sure that the senator from vermont did. so -- and there were very good
reasons on both sides. but i'd like to take a minute, because i've got, like i said, critics on both sides, and i want to explain -- not explain, but share some thoughts about that and make something very clear. i was one of 12 democrats -- there are only seven of us left in the chamber today that voted for the bush tax cuts. there were -- for the middle class and the poor and the wealthy. everybody got income tax relief, capital gains tax relief, dividend tax relief. senator lincoln and i and others worked very hard to make sure that in that package, even though i would have designed it differently if i could have done it myself, but there are no czars around here. this is democracy. i understand. i've been doing this for 30 years. we're shaped the package the best we could to direct it and target it to the middle class. there are many critics of that who said you didn't do it well
enough. you didn't send it to the middle class, you sent it to the wealthy. i disagree. i think that we sent it to the middle class, although, the higher -- it was paid for when we voted for it. there was 128 -- $128 billion annual surplus. in other words, we were spendi spending $128 billion less than we were taking in. what a happy time that was. we were paying for our pell grants. we were paying for education. we were paying for health care. we had surpluses in social security, senator will remember. and we had $128 billion surplus that year alone. and surpluses as far as the eye can see. this is before 9/11. so the 12 of us, let me speak just for myself, thought what a situation this is. democrats had taken the tough
vote. not one republican had voted for this budget reconciliation that, as you know, you were in -- senator was then in the house and took a tough vote along with many democrats to put us on that path. middle class was expanding, jobs were being created at unprecedented levels and, yes, we were creating millionaires. i'd like to say this, i love creating millionaires. it's why i got into politics. it's one of the reasons. i like when people are successful. i love to hear the stories about my constituents who came from poor families, whose mothers were household servants, whose fathers never went to high school. i love to hear about these smart little girls from gurt town who got straight a's in school, went down the street to xavier university, got their premed degrees, went to become a
doctor, became a doctor and now they are millionaires. i don't decry that. i celebrate it. i'm the one that fought for them to get their scholarships. not individually but generally. it's what i do. it's what senators do. it's what house members do. i am so mad at people saying to me as a democrat we don't like people that are rich, we have something against them. nothing could be further from the truth. i love the book "the millionaire next door." it talks about how it's a myth that most millionaires in america have inherited the money. the fact of the matter is we have created such a great country over 250 years, we have actually found the way for poor people to go from nothing to huge wealth and to create a life-changing opportunity for their children and grandchildren. we celebrate it, we write movies
about it, our libraries are all of books about it. there is nothing wrong with that. so when we have a surplus, i thought we should give tax breaks and use some of that money. but today we're being asked to provide tax cuts when the deficit is -- and i want to get this number because it's shocking, actually. it is ten times greater than the surplus. it is $1.294 trillion. that is what the annual deficit is this year. so i'm going to go back. when we did the tax cuts, we were generating $128 billion surplus every year, surpluses as far as the eye could see. we thought well, maybe we should give a third of this bounty in tax cuts. we had made investments in other things. but today after what the senator from vermont has described as the economic inequality in the
country, when we have no surplus in sight, the biggest, the largest, most ferocious recession sce the great depression, and we're running an annual deficit of of $1.29 trillion, someone had the nerve on the other side of the aisle to say wait before you close the deal, before you shut the door, before you stop the printing press, please put in the people in america that make over a million dollars. now, for that $50 billion, there are lots of ways that we could save if we could correct this deal. i don't think we can, but if we could, as the senator knows, do we have men and women in the military, do you know what their cola is going to be this year, the senator from vermont? because it's about -- i think
it's what? only 1.4%. mr. sanders: that's what my understanding is. a lot of folks in the military are very upset about that. ms. landrieu: every person in uniform is making -- only getting a cola this year of 1.4%. did anyone over there when they raised their hands, when they said let's put the millionaires in, did you all not think about this? we could have taken that money and given it to them for a one-year bonus. they most certainly deserve it. they are coming back without eyes, legs, leaving some of their limbs in iraq and afghanistan. did anybody over there think about that? the senior citizens that the senator has been such an advocate for, they're not seeing the kind of cola that they normally get. talk about stimulus. every dollar i think you give to a senior citizen, senator, would you say, it gets right away spent. they have to buy food for it. they're not going out and perusing, you know, a yacht or
an airplane that they could or could not buy, they don't really need it. they need to eat. they go to the corner drugstore or they need to get their medicine, they spend it. i mean, yes, we give money to the poor on the democratic side and to the middle class because it's the right thing to do, but it actually happens to be also the smart thing to do for the economy and for jobs. so when people say the senator has flip-flopped, you know, on taxes, i don't understand how to say something. i voted for tax cuts when we had a surplus. i am challenged about how to address this package, most certainly want to extend it for the middle class, most certainly want to extend unemployment. people are unemployed not because they are lazy, for heaven's sakes. they are unemployed because there are no jobs for them. it's some of the longest term
unemployment that we have had in our nation's history. so the other side is making us feel -- they say to us, well, we gave you the unemployment, so surely you should give us the tax breaks for millionaires. is that really an equal trade? and if somebody believes that actually -- i have heard commentators say it, you know, on different networks. i have been on these news programs, and they say but you have got the unemployment, so that's a fair trade. if there is a senator that thinks that, i would love for them to say that next week because i think that would be great to have on the record. so this situation is what the louisiana families in my state are facing. so obviously, i would like to provide tax relief for these families.
we have less than 1.8% are making over $200,000, and i'm checking right now to find out how many families in louisiana actually make over a million. i was told it was 3,200. that number might be too high. the senator from west virginia told me in his state it's 599 people in west virginia make over a million dollars a year. but yet, it looks like that is the package. so we're going to be in a tough situation without amendments, having to vote for it. i'm going to see what my constituents are saying over the weekend. but i want to say one more thing about this inequity and then turn it back over to the senator from vermont. besides the other things that have been put into the record about the inequality, the challenges before the -- our country right now, i came across
some data, and i would like the senator, if he had just one more minute to be on the floor, to listen to this because it's very, very -- it was very startling. mr. sanders: i'm not going anywhere. ms. landrieu: i didn't know what his time was. i'm the chair of the small business committee. i had a hearing -- i have many hearings, but one in the last three months. some of the testimony was startling to me and i wanted to share this with the senator. it's in the census data of the 2000 census data. someone was testifying about why this recession was taking so long to get over, and they were giving just some figures about the status of the economy and the wealth or incomes of broad sections of the population, and they said sort of off the cuff, just like ho hum and today is monday, they said and, by the way, the average net worth -- sorry.
the median net worth of households in america, the average median net worth -- not income, net worth of households is $67,000. that's very interesting. i thought it would be higher than that. i mean, that's taking everything that you own minus everything that you owe and the difference is your net worth. i thought people might have more than that. in terms of equity in their homes, a couple hundred thousand. $67,000. it was concerning to me. do you have that broken down by race, by any chance? yes, ma'am, we have that. so would you share it? they did, and i am going to share it with you because i have not recovered from what i heard. the gentleman says to me, well, for white families in america, the average median -- not average. median, which is 50% more, 50% less. the median for white households, senator, is $87,000, $87,000.
for hispanic families, it is is $8,000. and for african-american families, it is $5,000. i want to repeat that again. 50% of all families in america who are caucasian, their net worth is $67,000 or less. for hispanic families in america, 50% of all hispanic households, their net worth is is $8,000. and for african-american families today, 2010, 40 years after the peak of the civil rights movement and 150 years or so after the civil war and all the things we think we have done
to try to get people in a more equal position in our society is is $5,000. that's including home equity. that's including homeownership, i mean. without homeownership, without homeownership, that net worth for african-american families falls to $1,000. so when people say people are in pain and suffering and anxious and they can't buy anything, well, you wonder why. there is no cushion in a recession like this. how brutal is a recession to people that have so little cushion for a middle-class family of any race. if you lose your job, you can get unemployment, you have got some equity in your home, maybe you have some savings you can fall back, there is a cushion you can land, you can bounce back up. how brutal is this recession?
to millions of families in america that have no cushion, they are just hitting hard rock. they are just hitting steel. there is no cushion there. and you wonder why people are angry, you wonder why this tea party movement is festering, you wonder why people want to -- you know, people are so angry that call. i understand that anger. i'm so angry myself, i don't know what to do. mr. sanders: my good friend, and i thank her very much. she is right. no great secret to anybody here. her politics and mine are not the same on many issues. but she is down here speaking from her heart, coming from the state of louisiana and not accurately different in vermont, we have got a lot of struggling families. and i want to just reiterate a point. she has been talking, i think, so effectively about the stress on the middle class and working families in her state and around the country, i want to reiterate this point, senator, if i might.
i'm not here to pick on george w. bush, but during the presidency, his eight years, the wealthiest 400 americans -- those are pretty high up guys. that ain't in the middle class, no matter how broadly you define that -- their income more than doubled, got that? while their income tax rates, their income tax rates dropped almost in half. the wealthiest 400 americans now earn on average $345 million a year and pay an effective tax rate of 16.6% on average. that's the lowest tax rate for wealthy individuals on record. so the point is, senator landrieu is talking about and i am talking about, that people out in the real world are working longer hours for lower wages, median family income has declined, people are scared to death that for the first time in our modern history, their kids are going to have a lower standard of living than they do? are you hearing that in louisiana (ms. landrieu: i am.
mr. sanders: people on the top are doing very well. senator landrieu is asking a simple question. millions of people are asking the same question. the wealthiest people are becoming much richer, middle class is declining, poverty is increasing. who decided? who are the people who have said that billionaires really need an extended tax break and a reduction in the estate tax? it is a very simple question that she is asking. it's a very profound question, because it speaks to what this country is all about. i didn't mean to interrupt the senator. ms. landrieu: no, and i thank the senator from vermont. i want to submit to the record this income and equality and great recession report from senator schumer and the joint economic committee. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. landrieu: thank you. but i want to go back to a point about this so that i'm not misunderstood. i guess no matter what i say, critics will take it and do what they will with it, but i am not
against tax cuts. i voted for them in many times in my life. when we have had surpluses. i have even been pressured to vote for things and have done so even when we didn't have the surpluses we had when they were targeted and focused and there actually had been some rational thought attached to we might need to borrow some money like we did in the stimulus package and spend it, because if we don't get some spending going, we could slip further into a recession, even conservative economists counseled us on parts of the stimulus package. which,e way, contrary to popular myth was about the same size of this package. this package is going to be $900 billion. the stimulus was eight-hundred something. it's going to be less. but in that stimulus package, about a third of it was tax
cuts. do you remember that, senator -- mr. president? a third of it was tax cuts. it wasn't all just spending. but every economist, conservative, liberal, said the government's got to step up and spend in this economy because this place is shutting down -- meaning the country. and so we did. people will still argue on the other side that was the wrong thing to do and we shouldn't have done it, but i'm here to say for the $2.8 billion that was spent in louisiana through that stimulus package -- tax cuts and spending -- i'd like to ask my legislature who was struggling to pwalt budget as i -- to balance the budget as i speak -- where would you be today without the $2.8 billion? i don't know how much went to vermont or went to california or went to colorado. people say it was pa fail hraourbgs let me -- it was a
failure, let me say $2.8 billion went to our state and warded off draconian cuts that our cities and counties and parishes would have had to take. and it warded off tax increases so that governors didn't have to raise taxes and mayors didn't have to raise taxes all over this country. some of them have done that, but they tried to limit it because they know how fragile this middle class is. i am not unmindful of the importance of providing tax cuts when we can. but when we're asked to vote on a package that has a provision like this that borders on moral recklessness, i have to catch my breath and say whose idea was this. i'd like to know. so it's going to be a long weekend. it's going to be a long 30 hours of debate. i am glad that the senator from vermont is going to make sure that we take every one of those
30 hours postcloture if we even get to cloture on this bill because i think the american people are going to be waiting around to find out whose idea was this. mr. sanders: the senator from louisiana makes a very important point. that is ultimately we are a democracy, and it's the american people who make the decisions. i know she shares with me the belief that the american people have got to become engaged in this debate, this very, very important debate which has a lot to do with the future of this country. and senator landrieu asked a very, very simple question which i would like, and i think the american people would like an answer to: whose brilliant idea was it that at a time when we have seen an explosion in income and wealth to the people of top while their tax rates have already gone down, whose brilliant idea was it that we drive up the national debt, ask our kids to pay higher taxes to pay off that debt in order to give tax breaks to people who
don't need it? that's the question senator landrieu was asking. i think the american people need an answer to that. and my hope is that millions of americans start calling their senators to ask that question. ms. landrieu: whose idea was it? mr. sanders: and i would like to know. the irony, i think, senator landrieu made that point as well, there are millionaires out there who say thank you, i don't need it. i am more worried about the kids of this country or our crumbling infrastructure than giving me a tax break i don't need. thanks investment that's what warren buffet has said. that is what bill gates has said. ben cohen of ben and skwrer reus of ben and jerry's has said. i want to thank senator landrieu very much not only for her being here today, and please continue, but for raising these important issues. ms. landrieu: just one more point and i'm going to turn this back over to the senator. i was on the greta van sustern
show last night. she is a tough interviewer but she's fair. it was a tough interview but we debated these things. i think that is important to debate them here, debate it on television, debate them in town hall meetings. she asked me a question i'd like to answer. she said, senator nobody everybody hears anybody say they want to cut spending, they want to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. so let me concede this point that for me, i don't think we do talk enough about eliminating the waste, eliminating the fraud and eliminating the abuse. i think we should spend more time, and i am going to commit myself, because i know the american people say every time we ask for a tax cut, you say we can't afford it. why don't you cut some spending, et cetera. let me correct, i voted for tax cuts. i'm for tax cuts. i've given tax cuts to people that do make higher than the
$75,000 or $100,000 or $2,000, when we had a sphrurbgs when i thought -- surplus, when i thought it was the fiscally responsible thing to do. this is the first time i've been asked to approve a tax cut for people who earn over $1 million. i'm going to try to find myself where i can support -- the federal freeze, i supported senator inouye's taking down on the appropriations level $8 billion below the president's budget. if we need to go further, perhaps we can. but we have to be careful where we cut. and i ask people to be rational about this. do you want to cut pell grants which now are valued -- in 1970, i looked at this the other tkaeurbgs and the senator from vermont particularly because of claiborne pell. when the pell grant went in it
was to help kids go to school. in the 1970's, mr. president, the pell grant paid 100% of the average two-year college. it only pays 50% of that today. i think that i remember it paid almost 60% or 40% of a four-year college. a public college. it only pays like 40% or less of that today. the value, because we have not kept up with a program like pell grants, which is a powerful tool to lift the middle class or lift the poor out of poverty and expand the middle class. so when we cut programs, let's be careful to cut the waste, cut the abuse, but let's not cut the heart out of what we're arguing for: tools, effective tools to expand the middle class or we will never get out of this
recession, because i promise you the few thousand people in this country, or few tens of thousands, i don't know how many, that make more than $1 million a year are not going to lift this country out of a recession. it is going to be the middle class. and if we don't help them get ahead, help them get training, this recession is going to go on a long time. mr. sanders: i just wanted to add to that. the idea that one would think about cutting back on education, whether it's child care, primary school or college, is simply cutting off our noses to spite our faces. the senator is aware that where at one time in this country we used to lead the world in the number of our people who graduated college, we are now falling very significantly. how do you become a great economy if you don't have the scientists, the engineers, the teachers, the professionals out there that many other countries around the world are having a higher percentage of their high
school graduates going to college, is something we've got to address. anyone who comes forward and says cut education is moving us in exactly the wrong direction. ms. landrieu: exactly. i'm for more accountability. if some people on the other side of the aisle think that some of that money is being wasted or we're not getting our bang for the buck, don't come with an across-the-board cut for pell grants. come with a plan to change it and say these are the requirements for our universities. you have to graduate 65% of the kids that start or you've got to have certain benchmarks before you can apply for these loans or for these grants. but i'll tell you, this country is at a crossroads, and i know that the president and his advisors understand the extraordinary challenges before this country. i hope the members understand the economic danger, the minefield that we're in here. we can't make too many mistakes here. we just don't have -- there is
no cushion left. there is no surplus left. we are down to below bottom. so when we do big things like this -- this is a big thing. this is a $980 billion big package. it's almost $1 trillion. do it the best you can do it. don't do it recklessly, don't 0 do it frivolously, don't do it ideologically. i said if i vote, i'm not voting quietly. i may vote yes, i may vote no, but i'm going to vote with a loud voice about what i'm concerned about, what i believe my constituents are concerned about, and try to do my best to help them, to support them and to make the best decisions we can next week. but it was troubling to me. i wanted to come to the floor and speak about it. and i thank the senator from vermont, and i yield the floor.
mr. sanders: i thank senator landrieu very much for coming. everybody knows on many issues her views and my views are different. but on this issue i think we are speaking for the overwhelming majority of the people not just in louisiana and vermont, but all over this country, who cannot understand why we give tax breaks to billionaires to drive up the deficit and the national debt at a time when the deficit and the debt are so high. i just want to thank senator landrieu very much for her very articulate and heartfelt statement. i appreciate that very much. mr. president, i was mentioning a moment ago the great contrast about what's happening in our economy between the people on top and everybody else. and i indicated that the top 400 families during the bush presidency alone saw their income more than double at the
same time, by the waeurbgs as their income tax rates dropped almost in half. that's what's going on for the people on top who would make out extremely well in this agreement between the president and the republican leader. but i also talked about what's going on to the middle class and working families of this country, and that is -- if you can believe it. this is really quite amazing. since december of 1999 -- this is in a "washington post" article in january. since december of 1999, there has been a zero net job creation -- zero net job creation. middle-income households made less in 2008 adjusted for inflation than they did in 1999. and the number sure to have
declined further in 2009. what does that mean? it means that you look at a ten-year period, people work very, very hard. in many instances you've got husbands and wives -- in the vast majority of instances, husbands and wives both working and they're still not make enough money to pay the bills. in fact, they have less money than they used to. when i was a kid growing up, the expectation was that to be in the middle class, what happened was that one person in those days -- the young people will not believe this, but this is true. years ago in the united states, before the great global economy, before robotics, before computers, one person could work 40 hours a week and earn enough money to pay the bills for the
family. one person. today in vermont and throughout this country, overwhelmingly you have husbands and wives both working, and in some instances they're working very, very long hours. and here's the rub: today a two-income family has less disposable income than a one-income family did 30 years ago because wages have not kept up with inflation and because health care costs have soared, the cost of education has soared, housing has soared, basic necessities have soared. this is a description of a country moving in the wrong direction. 30 years ago a one-income family had more disposable income than a two-income family did today. and there are a lot of reasons for that. maybe we'll touch on them a little bit later. one of them, in my view, has to
do with our disastrous unfettered free trade policy which has resulted in the shutdown of tens and tens of thousands of factories in this country. under president bush alone, we lost some 48,000 factories. we lost -- we we need to from 19,000 manufacturing jobs to is 12 million manufacturing jobs and in many instances those were good jobs. where did they go? well, some shut dpowrn a variety of reasons. bur others shut down because we have trade laws that say you've got to be a moron not to shut down in america because you go to china, go to vietnam, go to mexico, go to a developing country, you pay workers there a fraction of the wages you pay in america. why wouldn't you go? and then you just bring your products right back into this country. a couple of weeks ago my wife and i did some christmas
shopping. frankly, we won't went to a couple of stores. very hard to find a product manufactured in the united states of america. and you don't have to be a ph.d. in economics to understand that we're not going to have a strong economy unless we have a strong manufacturing capability, unless companies are reinvesting in colorado or vermont, creating good jobs here. you don't have an economic future when virtually everything you are buying is coming from china or another country. and we're not just talking about low-end products. it is not sneakers or a pair of pants. this is increasingly high-tech stuff. so we are -- we are really forfeiting our future as a great economic nation unless we rebuild our industrial base and unless we create millions and millions of jobs producing the
goods and the products that we consume. we cannot continue to just purchase products from the rest of the world. mr. president, when we talk about the collapse of the middle class, it's important to also recognize the fact, as reported in "usa today" last september. "the incomes of the young and middle-aged, especially men, have fallen off a cliff since 2000, leaving many age groups poorer than they were even in the 1970's." end of quote, "usa today." the point being, for young workers, for example, when we had a manufacturing base in america in the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, you could graduate high school, go out and get a job in a factory. was it a glamourous job? no.
was it a hard job? yes. was it a dirty job? in some cases. but if you worked in manufacturing and especially if you had a union behind you you the likelihood is that you earned wages to take your family into the middle class, you had decent health care coverage, and you might even have a strong pension. where are all those jobs now? during the bush years alone, we went from 19 million jobs in manufacturing to 12 million jobs, a horrendous loss of manufacturing jobs. so if you are a kid today in doll coul and -- or in vermont -- so if you are a kid today in colorado and -- or in vermont, and you are not going to college, 30 40r years ago i could go out a get a job in factory. today what are your options? you can get a minimum-wage job at mcdonald's or mabe maybe at
walmart. benefits are minimal or nonexistent and that is a significant transition of the american economy. i want to tell you something else, when we talk about manufacturing. didn't get a whole lot of publicity, but it is worth reporting here. the good news is that we have recently seen, after the loss of many, many thousands of jobs in the automobile industry, we have seen the auto companies -- chrysler and others -- starting to rehire. what i think has not been widely reported is that the wages of the new workers who are being hired is 50% of the wages of the
old workers in the plant. so you're going to have workers working side by side, where an older worker who has been there for years has been make $25, $28 an hour and right next to them a new hire is making $14 an hour. and if you understand that the automobile industry was perhaps the gold standard for manufacturing in america, what do you think going happen to the wages of blue-collar workers in the future, if all you can get with a union behind you in automobile manufacturing is $14 an hour today, what are you going to make in colorado or in vermont? going to make $10 an hour, $11 an hour? that enough money to raise a family on? are you going to have any benefits? unlikely. so that's what happens -- that's what happens when your
manufacturing base disappears, and that, to a significant degree, in my view, is the result of a disastrous trade policy. i got to tell you, and i think in mind sight most -- in hindsight most people will agree when i was over in the house. most of the corporations were telling us how great free trade would be, nafta with mexico, free trade with china. i didn't buy t think of all the american products they're going to buy over there, create all kind of jobs in the united states. i never believed it for a moment. i'll tell you a story. i wasn't in china a number of years ago. and i walked into -- as part of a congressional delegation, we went to visit walmart in china. and the walmart store looked a lot like walmart in america, different products, but it looked kind of the same style. and you walk in there you walk up and down the aisles and you
see all of these american products. remember, wilson basketballs and procter and gamble soap product. different products there for the china, but a lot of the products were american products. looked pretty familiar. so i asked the guy who was there with us who was the head, i believe, of walmart asia -- the guy that's in chaj of all of the walmarts in asia -- i asked him, tell me, how many of these products, these american company products, are actually manufactured in the united states? and he was a little bit sheepish and a little bit hesitant and he said, well, about 1%. so, obviously -- but everybody knew -- it is a lot cheaper for the american companies to set up plants in china, hire chinese workers at 50 cents an hour, 75 cents an hour, whatever it and have them build the products for the chinese markets than it is to pay american workers $15 an hour, $20 an hour, deal with the union, deal with the
environment. that's not a great ref laismghts i think anybody -- nays not a great revelation. i think anybody could have figured that out. but those around here pushed it. and president clinton and those in congress signed it and we're off and running. so when we look at why the middle class is in the shape that it's in -- and it's important to make sure that everybody understands it because, you know, i think one of the things that happens in this world -- it is human nature, i suppose -- is that people feel very guilty and responsible if they are not taken care -- if they are that the taking care of their families. and right now, with unemployment so high -- these are not just statistics they're throwing out. these are people who not only were earning an income that supported their families, they had a sense of worth. every human being wants to be productive. they want to produce something. they want to be part of something. they want to go to work, earn a paycheck, bring it home. you feel good about that. you know what it does to
somebody's sense of human worth when suddenly you are sitting home watching the tv, you can't go out and earn a living? it destroys people. people become alcoholic, people commit suicide, people have mental breakdowns because they're no longer utilizing their skills. they're no longer being a productive member of soavment that's what unemployment is about. and i think that one of the reasons unemployment is so hierks one of the reasons the middle class is collapsing has a lot to do with these disastrous trade policies. and i got to till, as we've been talking about all day long, these policies, these tax breaks, all of this stuff, emanates from corporate leaders whose sense of responsibility is such that they want themselves to become richer, they want mured and more profits for their company, but they could care less about the needs of the american people. i remember there was one c.e.o.
of a large -- one of our largest american corporations, and he said, when i look at the future of general electric, i see china, china, china, and china. and, by the way, we understanded up bailing out that particular corporation. he didn't look to china to get bailed out. he looked to the taxpayers of this country. t-but the word has got to get out. to corporate america, they're going to have to start reinvesting in the united states of america. they're going to have to start building the products and the goods that the american people need rather than run all over the country in search of cheap labor. that is an absolute imperative if we're going to turn this economy around. mr. president, according to a "boston globe" article published last year, let me quote what they say. again, i'll trying to document here -- again, i'm trying to
document here what is happening to the working class of america because i don't want individual workers, somebody who may be hearing this on the tv or on the radio, you know, it's my fawvment there's something wrong with me because i can't go out and get a job. well, you're not alone. the entire middle complas is collapsing, our economy has shedded millions and millions of jobs, and i know that there are people out there trying so hard to find work but that work is just not there. that's why we've got to rebuild the economy and create jobs. this is what "the boston globe" said last year. "the recession has been more like a depression for blue-collar workers." and this is an important point to be made here. you know, when we talk about the economy, we kind of lump everybody together. that's wrong. the friewj right now in the economy -- the truth is, right knew in the economy, the unemployment rate for upper-income people is very low.
they're doing ofnlgt as opposed to, as this "boston globe" article points out, what is is happening to blue-collar workers. "the recession has been more like a depression for blue-collar workers who are losing jobs much more quickly than the nation as a whole." this is the working class of america. "the nation's blue-collar industries have slashed one in six jobs since 2007." let me repeat that. it's just an astronomical fact. "the nation's blue-collar industries" -- manufacturing -- "have slashed one in six jobs since 2007, compared with about one in 20 for all industries, leaving scores of the unemployed competing for the rare job opening in construction or manufacturing, with many unlikely to work in those fields again." again, never.
"up to 70% of unemployed blue-collar workers have lost jobs permanently, meaning their old jobs won't be there when the economy recovers." end of quote. that's "the boston globe" last year. so when we talk about the economy, what we have got to do is understand that blue-collar workers, middle class, young workers are really hurting very, very much, and in the context again of the debate we are now having, the discussion about whether we should approve the agreement reached between the president and the republicans on tanches the idea of not -- on taxes, the idea of not slig investing in our economy but, rather, giving tens of billions of dollars to the very rich in more tax breaks makes no sense to many of us. when we talk about why people
are angry in america, why people when asked a question by pollsters, "do you think america is moving in the right direction?" and overwhelmingly they think not, let me tell why you they think not. this is just during the presidency of president bush from 2001 to 2008. during that period alone, just in that period -- and, by the washing the pain is certainly continuing right now. i don't mean to suggest otherwise. during those eight years of bush, over 8 million americans slipped out of the middle class and into poverty. today nearly 40 million americans are living in poverty. 7.8 million americans lost their health insurance and that is continuing. i think a recent study came out that suggests that the uninsured now are about 50 million men's.
50 million americans have no health insurance now. we hope that health care reform going make a dent in that. i think it will. but as of today, without the major conditions of health care reform being implemented, 50 million americans, 50 million americans without any health insurance. mr. president, during that period -- and we haven't talked about this a whole lot -- there's another thing going on with the economy in the working class. years and years ago if you worked in a manufacturing plant, you had a union, you stood a reasonable chance of having a pension, a pension. during the bush years, 3.2 million workers lost their pensions and about half of american workers in the private sector have no pension coverage whatsoever. the idea today of having a defined pension plan significantly paid for by your employer is going the way of the dinosaur. that is just not there anymore.
workers are more and more dependent on social security, which has been there for 75 years, which we have got to protect and demand will be there another 75 years, because right now millions of workers are losing their pensions. i mean, i'm throwing these statistics out, and the reason i'm doing that is i want people to appreciate that if you're hurting now, stop being ashamed. it's not, yeah, we could all do better. every one of us could do better. but you're in an economy which is contracting, especially for the middle class and working families. according to an article in "usa today" from the year 2000-2008, middle-class men -- women have done better -- middle-class men experienced an 11.2% drop in their incomes, a reduction of
$7,700 after adjusting for inflation. middle-class women in this age group saw a 4.8% decline in their incomes as well. so they did pretty bad but the men did even worse. so what we are seeing is an understanding of why people are angry and why people think that this country is moving in the wrong direction. mr. president, i think most people understand that today our country is experiencing the worst economic crisis since the great depression of the 1930's. and let me -- and it's important to say that because again, it is hard enough when you don't have
a job, when you don't have income, when your dignity and self-respect is declining. but i don't want people to be banging their own heads against the wall, blaming themselves for all of the problems. something has gone on in the nation as a whole. you're not in this alone. when we talking about working-class families all across the country seeing a decline in their incomes, it's not because people are lazy, it's not because people are not working hard, it's not because people are not trying to find jobs. what we have is an economy which is rotting in the middle and we've got to change the economy. if there's nothing that we can say about the american people, we work hard. we, in fact, work longer hours than do the people of any other country -- industrialized country on earth. we are not a lazy people. we are a hard-working people. if the jobs are there, people will take them. if people have to work 60 hours a week or 70 hours a week, that is what they will do.
but we have got to rebuild this economy. we don't need tax breaks for billionaires. we need to create jobs for the middle class of this country so that we can put people back to work. now, let me just take a few minutes to discuss how we got to where we are today and, in my view, what policies we need to move this country forward to create the kinds of jobs that we desperately need. now, let's just take a quick look back to where we were in january of 2009. it seems like a long time ago, but just a couple of years ago. and that was the last month of the administration of president bush. in that month, we lost over 700,000 jobs. that is a absolutely incredible number. in fact, during the last six months of the bush presidency,
we lost over 3.5 million jobs, all of which was caused by the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior on wall street. our gross domestic product, which is the total sum of all that our economy produces, had gone down by nearly 7% during the fourth quarter of 2008. that is -- that was the biggest decline in more than a quarter century. some $5 trillion of americans' wealthy evaporated in a 12-week period as people in vermont and all over this country saw the value of their homes, retirement savings and stocks plummet. and i want to say just one word again about wall street greed, because i think for a variety of reasons, we just don't talk about it enough. what you had was a situation in which a small number of folks at
the head of huge financial institutions, through their greed, through the development of very reckless policies, through illegal behavior, through pushing out financial instruments which turned out in some cases to be worthless, that as a result of all of that, they plunged this country into the worst recession that we have seen since the great depression. from january -- is, at the end of the bush administration -- that is, at the end of the bush administration, but it's important to understand, very important to understand, that the wall street crisis took us over the wall in terms of precipitating the severe recession that we're in. but we have to remember that during those eight years, as i
mentioned earlier, the middle class was also shrinking. so it wasn't oh, my goodness, everything has gone great, then you've got the wall street disaster, now we're in the midst of a terrible recession. this trend of a middle-class collapse went on long before bush. precipitated significantly during the bush years but it went on before as well. but just during the bush years. over the eight-year period of president bush, from 2001-2009, we lost 600,000 private-sector jobs. we lost 600,000 private-sector jobs and only 1 million net new jobs were created, all of them in the government sector. so for my friends, my republican colleagues to tell us that we need more tax breaks for the very rich because that's going to create jobs, that's what trickle-down economics is all
about, what i would say to them, you had your chance, it failed. in case you don't know, losing 600,000 private-sector jobs in eight years is not good. that's very, very bad. that's an economic policy that has failed. we don't need to look at that movie again. we saw it. it stunk. it was a bad movie, bad economic policy. more tax breaks for the rich are not what our economy needs. in fact, what every economist will tell you, that is the least effective way to create jobs. during the bush era, median income dropped by nearly $2,200. that means that family in the middle over an eight-year period saw their income drop by $2,200. during the eight years of bus bush -- and i say all of these things just to tell you that we
are not where we are today just because of the wall street crisis. that took us over the cliff. that made a very bad situation much, much worse. but it has been going on for a long time. it's gone on before bush. it's gone on after bush. during the eight years of bush, over 8 million americans slipped out of the milling class and into poverty. we don't talk about -- out of the middle class and into poverty. we don't talk about poverty anymore in america. we don't talk about the homelessness in america very much anymore. trust me, it's there. it's there three blocks away from where i'm speaking right now with a very large homeless shelter. it's in small towns in vermont, where people tell me that for the first time they are seeing families, more and more families with kids needing emergency shelter because they can't afford housing. in vermont, a lot of people don't have low-wage jobs, making 10 bucks an hour, and it is hard to find a decent apartment or
pay a mortgage on $10 an hour. and that's true certainly all over this country. homelessness is going up. during the bush years, nearly 8 million americans lost their health insurance. one of the issues which i will likely talk about in a little while is health care. it's related to everything. we are the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right of citizenship. according to harvard university, 45,000 americans will die this year because they lack health insurance and are not getting to a doctor when they should. during the bush administration, 5 million manufacturing jobs disappeared as companies shut down plants in the united states and moved to china, mexico, vietnam, and other low-wage countries. as i mentioned earlier, profou
profound -- profoundly important to understand what's going on in america. in 2000, the year 2000, we had over 17,000 manufacturing jobs in this country. by 2008, we had less than 12,0 12,000. 17,000 to 12,000 in eight years. that's the loss of 5 million manufacturing jobs, a 29% reduction. and the fewest number of manufacturing jobs since the beginning of world war ii. under president bush, our trade deficit with china more than tripled and our overall trade deficit nearly doubled. again, the point that i am making now within the context of this agreement is we need agreements now that give tax breaks to millionaires or billionaires, that do not lower the tax rate for the estate tax, which is applicable only to the top .3%. we need agreements which rebuild our infrastructure, we build our
manufacturing base and create the millions of good-paying jobs the american people desperately want. and, again, i think the point has got to be made -- and i'm going to make it over and over and over again -- is that when you look at the economy, it's one thing to say that everybody is hurting. you know? and sometimes that happens. you know, terrible hurricane comes, it knocks down everybody's home. well, the hurricane that has hit america for the last 10, 20 years has not impacted everybody. it has impacted the working class, it's impacted the middle class, the people on top are doing better than they ever were. our friends on wall street whose greed and illegal behavior caused this recession, they are now making more money than they ever did after being bailed out by the middle class of this country.
during the bush years, the wealthiest 400 americans saw their incomes more than double. do you really think that after seeing a doubling under the bush years of their incomes that these people are in desperate need of another million-dollar-a-year tax break? in 2007, the 400 top income earners in this country made an average of $345 million in one year. that is a pretty piece of change. that's the average, $345 million. in terms of wealth as opposed to income, the wealthiest 400 americans saw an increase in their wealth of some 400 billion during the bush years. imagine that, in an eight-year period, top 400 wealthiest people, each saw an increase on average of $1 billion apiece.
and together these 400 families have a collective net worth of $1.27 trillion. does anybody in america really believe that these guys need another tax break so that our kids and our grandchildren can pay more in taxes because the national debt has gone up? i don't think most americans believe that and that is why, in my view, most americans are not supporting this agreement. and let me also say that when we look at what's going on around the rest of the world, what we have got to appreciate is that in the united states today -- and, again, this is not something that we can be proud of, it's something that we have got to address -- we have the most uny wall distribution of wealth and -- unequal distribution of wealth and income than any other country on earth. i remember talking not so long ago to somebody from scandinavia, it was finland.
and he was saying, of course, we have rich people in our country but there's a level in which they would become embarrassed. we now have a situation where the c.e.o.'s of large corporations made 300 times more than their workers. in many other countries, yeah, everybody wants to be rich but there is a limit. you can't become a billionaire stepping over children who are sleeping out on the street. that's not what this scrt counts supposed to be enough. enough should be enough.mr. prey earns 23% of all income. in the 1970's that number was 8% in the 1990's it was approximately 16%, and now it is 23.5%. so the people on top are getting a bigger and bigger chunk of all income. furthermore, it's not just the top 1%. i mean there are economiests who
write, yeah, you think the top 1% is doing well. yeah, they are. it's really the top .1% of 1%. i want people to digest this. the top .1% of 1%, you can do the arithmetic. that top .1% of 1% took in total income. .1% of 1% earned 11% of all income in america. in the 1970's, as i just said, the top 1% only made something like 8% of the total income. in the 1980's it rose, in 2005 it passed 21% and in 2007, the top 1% received 23.5% of all of the income earned in this country.
the last time that people -- and people should be mindful of this. the last time that that type of income disparity took place was in 1928. and i think we all know what happened in 1929. and that's the point that senator mary landrieu was making a while back. what she understands quite correctly is that if working people, the vast majority of the people don't have the income to spend money to buy products and goods and services, we can't create the jobs. if all of the money or a big chunk of the money ends up with a few people on top there is a limit to how many limousines you can have and how many homes you can have and how many yachts you can have. so when you hit a situation where so few have so much, it is not just a moral issue. but it is also an economic issue. a strong and growing middle class goes out, spends money,
and creates jobs. grossly unequal distribution of income and wealth creates more economic shrinking and loss of jobs because people just don't have the disposable income to go out and buy and create jobs for their neighbors. now, also to add insult to injury in terms of this agreement negotiated by the president and the republicans while the very wealthiest people in this country became much wealthier and the deficit soared, and under president bush, the national debt almost doubled, what else happened? well, the tax rates for the very rich went down. the rich got richer, tax rates go down. this is a result of not only the tax breaks for the rich initiated during the bush
initiation, but also tax policy that took place before president bush. the result is that from 1992 to 2007 the latest statistics that we have, the effective -- effective federal tax rate, what people really pay for the top 400 income earners was cut almost in half. so these cry babies, these multimillionaires and billionaires, these people who are making out like bandits, they are crying and crying and crying, but their effective tax rates for the top 400 income earners in america was cut almost in half from 1992 to 2007. and i make a point -- i think a point that needs to be made is that when is enough enough? and that really is the essence of what we're talking about. when does greed -- and greed
is -- is, in my view, like a sickness. like an addiction. we know people who are on he heroin, they can't stop, there are people who can't stop smoking, they have problems with nicotine, get addicted to cigarettes, cost them their health. we all have our share of addictions. i would hope these people worth hundreds of millions of dollars, they will look around them and say there is something more important in life than the richest people becoming richer when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. maybe they will understand that they are americans. part of a great nation which is in trouble today. maybe they've got to go back to the bible or whatever they believe in understanding that there is virtue in sharing, in reaching out. that you can't get it all. and i think this is an issue that we've got to stay on and
stay on and stay on. there's greed, this reckless under controllable greed is almost like a disease which is hurting this country terribly. how can anybody say that i'm a multimillionaire and i'm getting a huge tax break and one-quarter of the kids in this country is on food stamps. how can you be proud of that? i don't know. mr. president, as mentioned, it's not just income, it's wealth. the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. during the bush years, the wealthiest 400 americans saw their increase -- their wealth increase by some $400 billion. how much is enough? now, all of these things are related to the agreement that the president and the republicans worked out because we are all concerned about the national debt and our deficit. now, in terms of the federal
budget when president bush first took office, he inherited a $236 billion surplus in 2001 and a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. that's what senator landrieu was talking about a moment ago. but then some things happened and we all know the 9/11 was not his fault. what happened is we went to war in afganistan. we went to war in iraq. we -- and the war in iraq was the fault, i'm afraid, of president bush. something i certainly did not support nor do i think most americans support. and wart in iraq by the time our last veteran is taken care of will probably end up costing us something like $3 trillion, adding enormously to our national debt. so when we talk about iraq, it's not only the terrible loss of
life that our soldiers and the iraqi people have experienced, let's not forget what it has done to the deficit and the national debt. we did not pay for the war in iraq. we just put it on the credit card. the president gave out -- president bush gave ou out $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of americans. $700 billion. where was the offset? there was none. gave them tax breaks, that's it. adds to the national debt. president and republicans supported a $400 billion medicare part-d prescription drug program. i have always believed, as one of the leaders in believing that needed a strong prescription drug program for seniors, but the program that was passed was written by the pharmaceutical industry, written by the insurance companies, and nowhere near as cost effective as it
could be. as the president undoubtedly knows, we are not even negotiating prescription drug prices with the drug companies at great expense and great cost to the american people where drug prices are much more expensive on the -- under medicare part-d than they are with the veterans administration or department of defense purchased. so we passed that unpaid for. great idea. just another $400 billion prescription drug program unpaid for and then we bailed off wall street. the original cost wa was $700 billion. a lot of that, in fact, has been paid back. but there's a lot of expense there as well. so you add all these things together in normal governmental growth and it turns out that the bush administration turned a $236 billion a year surplus into a $1.3 trillion a year deficit. and more or less that's where we are right now.
in fact, the national debt nearly doubled under president bush going from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion in 2009 and now we are at $13.7 trillion borrowing huge sums of money from china and other countries in order to maintain our existence. that's where we are. that's where we are. now, have we been seeing in recentees some improvements in the economy? we sure have. there has been some job growth. nowhere near enough, but we're surely not losing 700,000 jobs a year. we're seeing some growth. but we need to do much better. and that takes me back to an issue i feel very, very strongly about, mr. president, and one that i want to say a few words on. in this agreement that the president negotiated with the
republicans, there are a substantial -- there is a substantial sum of money going into tax -- various types of business tax breaks. and the fury which certainly -- the theory which certainly has some validity is that these business tax breaks will create jobs. the problem is that right now the business -- the large corporations, at least, are sitting on a huge bundle of money already that they are not spending. and the reason they're not investing that money is they perceive that working families don't have the money to buy their products and their services. i think that there is -- and in saying this i'm not alone, i think most economists agree with me, that there is a far more effective way that we can create jobs in this country rather than just a number of tax breaks going to businesses.
and i touched on this point before and i -- i want to get into a little bit more detail now. and for this i am indebted to a very fine book written by a -- an old friend of mine recalled arianna huffington and the title of her book is called "third world america," "third world america." and the theme of that book, is if we do not get our act together in terms of infrastructure, in terms of education, that's where we are heading. we are heading -- this great country is heading in the direction of being a third world nation. and she has an interesting chapter that deals with one very important part of america and that is the crumbling of our infrastructure. and she writes from 1980 to 2005 the miles traveled by automobiles increased 94%, for
trucks mileage increased 105%, yet there was only a 3.5% in highway lane miles. more and more cars, more and more traveling, we're not building roads. but she writes, "you don't need these numbs to -- numbers to know that our roads are badly congested." anybody who lives around d.c. knows that our roads are congested. it takes hours to get to work sometimes. according to the american society of civil engineers infrastructure report card -- quote -- "this is an -- this is an interesting point. this is where we should invest. "americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic." think about that. "4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost o
of $138 billion a year. think of all of the greenhouse emissions, all of the road rage, people are stuck on roads because our transportation system is totally inadequate. now, -- our roads, our public transportation. then she talks about -- she talks about an interesting point as well. in studying automobile accidents -- you know, when we talk about automobile accidents, what do we usually think? somebody is driving recklessly, maybe they're drunk. and those are serious issues. but she writes in studying car crashes across the country, the transportation construction coalition determined that badly maintained or managed roads are responsible for $217 billion a year in car crashes. far more than the headline grabbing alcohol related accidents or speed-related
pileups. in other words, if you want to know why we are seeing automobile crashes, the issue of bad roads is even more significant than drunk drivers or people who are reckless drivers. i can remember -- and everybody has the same story -- i was driving down a road in vermont, whoops, huge pothole, went into it. it cost me a few hundred dollars to repair the car. so we're spending as a nation billions of dollars repairing our cars because the roads are not in good shape. when there is a traffic jam, people are emitting all kinds of greenhouse gas emissions. you're wasting gas, you're wasting money. if we invested in our transportation system, we can go a long way to addressing that. when we talk about transportation -- and by the way, again, i bring this issue up because in the bill agreed to by the president and the republican leadership, to the best of my knowledge, not one
penny, not one penny is going into infrastructure, which is, to me, just doesn't make any sense at all. and again, arianna huffington writes -- "america's railway system is speeding down the tracks in reverse. it is one of the few technologies that has actually regressed over the past 80 years." regressed. i'm not talking about china where they're building all these high-speed rail lines. our rail situation in terms of the amount of time it goes from location one to location two has actually gotten longer. she writes -- "tom vanderbilt of slate.com came across some preworld war ii train timetables and made a startling discovery. many train rides in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's took less time
than those journeys would take today." can you imagine that? in the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's, people were able to get on the train and get to their destination in less time than is the case today. for instance, in 1934, the burlington zephyr would get you from chicago to denver, to denver, mr. president, from chicago to denver in around 13 hours. the same trip takes 18 hours today. i don't know if the presiding officer is familiar with the burlington zephyr, which is a train that goes from chicago to denver, but what this rider is pointing out is that in 1934, it took 13 hours to make that trip. do you know how long it takes today? it takes 18 hours. so we're moving in the wrong direction. i know that in vermont -- i don't have any statistics right in front of me, but i can tell you that it -- i believe very strongly that it takes longer to
get from the southern part of the state to the northern part of the state than it used to, and the frequency of the trips are less than they used to be. the trip from chicago to minneapolis via the olympian hiawatha in the 1950's took about four and a half hours. today via amtrak's train, the journey is more than eight hours. it used to be four and a half. so in terms of our public transportation, not only are we negligenting it, not only are we not moving forward, we're actually moving backwards. at the moment, the only high-speed train in the united states is amtrak's acela which travels the washington-new york-boston line, and i use the -- and she writes "i use the term high speed very loosely. while in theory the trains have a peak speed of 100 miles her hour, the average speed on that train is just 71 miles per hour." again, i read some statistics
before, pointing out that china is building thousands and thousands of miles of high-speed rail. and here in the united states, we are moving backwards, taking us longer time for various train rides than used to be the case. but it's not just trains. it is not just our roads. it is not just our bridges. well, it is also our bridges. let me say a word on bridges. i think we all remember just four years ago, i think it was, the terrible tragedy in the minneapolis area when one of their major bridges collapsed and a number of people lost their lives. that got the front page headlines all over this country. i know in the state of vermont, we have closed down bridges. they are not safe to travel. according to the department of transportation, one in four of america's bridges is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
the numbers are even worse when it comes to bridges in urban areas where one in three bridges is deficient. no small matter given the high levels of passenger freight traffic in our nation's cities. so a huge amount of traffic in urban reaches when it is sufficient in rural areas like vermont. mr. president, how are these bridges going to be built, rebuilt? it is likely not going to be done by local and state governments who right now are experiencing enormous economic crises. if it is going to be done, it is going to have to be done here at the federal level. i have to say that in vermont, we saw some significant improvements as a result of the stimulus package. in fact, in vermont recently, we have put more money in rebuilding our roads and bridges with very good success. i think the people of vermont see the difference in the last couple of years directly as a result of the stimulus package.
we have improved, made significant improvements on a number of bridges, but nowhere near enough. so the point that i want to make is that with our infrastructure collapsing, with the american society of civil engineers suggesting that we need to spend spend $2.2 trillion in the next five years just to maintain where we are, we have an agreement before us which puts zero dollars in infrastructure. according to this book, we need to invest $850 billion over the next 50 years to get all of america's bridges into good shape. trust me, we are not coming anywhere near that right now. but it's not just our roads, it's not just our public transportation, not just our bridges. when we talk about infrastructure, we also have to talk about dams. on march 16, 2006, the kalokal
dam in hawaii collapsed and seven people died. when the kalokal dam breached after weeks of heavy rain, sending 1.6 million tons of water downstream. dams are a vital part of america's infrastructure. they help provide for drinking, irrigation and agriculture and generate much-needed power and often offer protection from floods, yet our dams are growing old. there are more than 85,000 dams in america, and the average age is 51 years. at the same time, more and more people are moving into developments located below dams that require significantly greater safety standards, but we have had a hard time keeping up with the increase in these so-called high-hazard dams. indeed, we are falling further and further behind. so the point here is we have a
major, major agreement. people are concerned about creating jobs. we are investing zero in our infrastructure, and dams are a very important part of our infrastructure, as are levees, and i suspect that senator landrieu who was here a little while ago would have something to say about levees. all right. so we're talking about an infrastructure which is collapsing, we're talking about china investing far more in terms of g.n.p. into infrastructure improvement than we are. we are talking about being in the midst of a major recession where we desperately want to grow jobs, and yet this proposal does not add one cent into our infrastructure. now, again, i'm going back to the very good book written by arianna huffington called "third
world america." she writes -- "as bad as america's sewers, roads, bridges, dams, and water systems are, they pale in comparison to the crisis we are facing in our schools. i'm not talking about the physical state of our dilapidate ed public school buildings, although the national education association estimates that it would take $322 billion to bring america's school buildings into good repair." i have been in schools in vermont and elsewhere which were old and crumbling, and i have been in schools which are new and state of the art, and i think anyone who has seen the contrast in terms of the attitude of the students in those types of schools will understand that it is important to give these kids good places in which to learn and to grow. it means a lot to them when they
see a building that is new, that has state-of-the-art equipment as opposed to the one that is crumbling. it suggests to them what we as a society feel about them. and she writes -- arianna huffington writes that "nothing is quickening our descent into third-world status faster than our resounding failure to properly educate our children. this failure has profound consequences for our future both at home and as we look to compete with the rest of the world and the global economy. historically, education has been the great equalizer. "and that -- great equalizer." and that is certainly the case. that has been the great virtue of our public school system. what we have taken is kids who spent -- my father never graduated high school, my mother did, that was it. and giving young people, millions of young people the
opportunity to get a good education in school and to be able to go to college and use their potential. the springboard to the middle class and beyond has been education. it was a promise we made to all of our people. what we as a nation said, that regardless of your income, we're going to provide you with the best possible education in order to succeed in life, and that just -- that is something extraordinary. that no matter what your income is, we're going to provide you with a great education. i as a kid went to public schools, and i did have a very good education. but something has gone in recent years terribly wrong, and we have slipped further and further behind many other countries. among 30 developed countries ranked by the organization for economic cooperation and development -- that's the oecd -- the united states ranked 25th in math and 21st in
science. 25th in math, 21st in science. even the top 10% of american students, our best and brightest, ranked only 24th in the year in math literacy. there was another study, i think probably just a more updated oecd study that came out just the other day, it was reported in "the new york times," where kids in shanghai were leading the world in these types of tests as compared to our own students. they have studied, they have better schools, better teachers, more investments in their education, and there is a culture there, there is a culture. it's not fair to blame the kids. does anyone seriously believe that in the united states of america, we take intellectual development seriously? i don't remember the guy's name, a basketball player o'a baseball player that was signing a contract for untold tens of
millions of dollars, and yet you have teachers starting off at $30,000, $32,000. is anyone going to suggest in a serious way that we reward people who become childcare workers or teachers? we have childcare workers who leave, taking care of little kids, which may be the most important job in our society, because it is the brain development that takes place between 0 and 3 that is a large part of what a human being becomes. people leave early childhood education in order to move up the economic ladder and get a job at mcdonald's because pay is so low, benefits are so low. what are we doing as a nation? what are we doing as a nation? and she writes that a national assess many of educational progress report found that just 3% of -- 33% of fourth graders and 43% of eighth graders were proficient at reading, et cetera, et cetera. so i think her point is that if
we are not going to become a third-world nation, we have got to start investing in this country, in our physical infrastructure, in our human infrastructure, and in our educational infrastructure. and let me just give you some examples of what this means in real terms. today, unemployment in our country, the official unemployment, is 9.8%. for those without a high school diploma, it is 15.6%, compared to 5.6% for college graduates. 67% of high school graduates don't have enough of the skills required for success in college in the 21st century work force. as many as 170,000 high school graduates each year are prepared to go on to college but can't
afford that. let me repeat that. about 170,000 young people in this country who graduate high school who want to go to college are unable to do it because they can't afford it. are we nuts? what are we doing in wasting the extraordinary intellectual potential of all of these young people? what we're saying to them is because you don't have the money and because college is so expensive and because our federal government is so busy giving tax breaks to millionaires and fighting two wars, we are not investing in you. that makes no sense at all. when you invest in your kids, you're investing in the future of america. they are america. and if they're not well educated, how are they going to become productive members of society? how are we going to compete against china and europe and other countries around the world that are investing in education?
and here's something that we don't talk about enough. the fastest-growing occupations are those that require higher levels of education and technical competence. it's true in vermont and true all over the country that you have jobs out there, good jobs, and those jobs cannot be filled because our young people don't have the job skills to fill them. how absurd is that? i remember there was a piece in one of the papers -- i think it was in ohio -- where after the worst of the recession, there were a lot of layoffs, they were beginning to rehire workers. these were sophisticated high-tech jobs. they brought workers in and they brought them in and they brought them in, and they couldn't come up with the number of workers
they needed to fill the jobs they had. what does that say about our educational system? data from alliance for excellent education 2009, 1,800 vermont dropouts cost the state $459 million of lost lifetime earnings for the state and $19.4 million in health care costs. in other words, what everybody understands, if you don't invest in your young people, they are not going to become productive tax-paying workers. as often as not, they will get involved in self-destructive activity -- drugs, crime, whatever. they'll end up in jail and we'll spend tens of thousands of dollars keeping them in jail rather than keeping them out there as productive members of society contributing their fair share of taxes. the urban institute says that we
can reduce child poverty, which i mentioned earlier, is the highest in the industrialized world by 35% if we provide child-care subsidies to families with income less than 50% of state median. this is an issue i feel very, very strongly about. it is, to me, beyond comprehension that in vermont and throughout this country, it is extremely difficult for working class families to find affordable, good-quality child care. we're not back in the 1950's where daddy went to work and mommy stayed home taking care of the kids. mom is at work as well. and you have families all over this country, middle-class, working-class families are saying you know, i cannot find quality child care where i'm comfortable leaving my two-year-old or three-year-old;
can't find that child care at a rate that i can afford. in this area, again, we are far behind many other countries around the world, because kids who do not get intellectually challenging early childhood education, kids who do not get the emotional support they need from zero to three to of course they will enter school already quite behind other kids. and then five years later, ten years later, they'll be dropping out of school and they'll be doing drugs, and they'll be ending up in jail at great expense. how long does it take us to understand that investing in our children, our youngest children is enormously important for our country, and it is a good investment. it is much better to invest in child care than in keeping people locked up in jails. mr. president, 75% of american
youth who applied to the military are ineligible to serve because of low cognitive capacities, criminal records or obesity. this is really quite unbelievable. we're not only now talking about not being able to compete internationally because we are not bringing forth the kind of educated people that we need because of the inquad is is of our schools -- inadequate tphaoeur of -- nature of our schools. 75% of our youth who apply to the military are inable to serve because of low cognitive capabilities, capacities, criminal records or obesity. mr. president, it gives me no pride, no happiness to bring forth these statistics. but as a nation, we're going to
have to grasp these things. either we can ignore these things, either we can run away from reality, put our heads underneath the carpet here, or we can say that we are not going to allow america to become a third world nation, that we're going to thurpb country around -- turn this country around. but we're not going to turn this country around unless we rethink our priorities, and one of our priorities cannot be more tax breaks for the richest people in this country. mr. president, from the 1960's to 2006, the u.s., the united states, fell from first to 18th out of 24 industrialized nations in high school graduation rates. now what happens in today's economy if a kid does not graduate from high school? and if my memory is correct, about 30% of our kids -- and i
know these figures are fuzzy because it's hard to determine who is dropping out and not. but my understanding is about 30% of our kids drop out of high skaofplt what happens to those kids? where do they go? how many end up in jail? how many do drugs? as a nation, i think we can do a lot better than that. we should not have gone from 1st to 18th out of 24 industrialized nations in high school graduation rates. mr. president, dropouts are eight times more likely to be incarcerated. in other words, when kids fail in school, they are going to end up in jail. eight times more likely. 82% of those in prison are high school dropouts. states -- i can tell you a funny experience. i was in burlington last week and i met this fellow and he was chatting with me. he said i just got out of jail. what really struck me is he was a well-educated young man.
he was very articulate. i suspect he had gone to college. what struck me is how rare that is. as the statistics amply demonstrate, the people who end up in jail overwhelmingly are high school dropouts, people who don't have the education to make it in the world. mr. president, when we talk about the need to substantially increase funding for early childhood education, we should understand that state-funded prek programs currently serve 24% of four-year olds and 4% of three-year olds. in other words, there are millions of families that would like to see their kids be able to access good-quality child care, but just can't find that in their states. mr. president, again, in contrast to giving tax breaks to
billionaires who don't need it and in some cases are not even asking for it, the younger the age of investment in human capital, the higher the rate of return on that investment. if society invests early enough, it can raise cognitive and socioemotional levels in the health of disadvantaged kids. you don't need to be a psychologist to understand that. if kids get off to a good start in life, if they have the intellectual support, the intellectual development, emotional support, those kids are much, much more likely to do well in school, much less likely to drop out, much less likely to be a burden on society, much less likely to end up in jail, much less likely to do drugs, et cetera. this is an investment that we should be making. mr. president, i want to get back for a moment to the
agreement that the president made with the republican leadership and why i think it is a bad agreement and why i believe we can do much better. and the way we are going to improve this agreement is when millions of people all over this kwupbt say -- all over this country say wait a second. this was an agreement reached behind closed doors. there are members in the house and the senate who are upset that we didn't know about the agreement. what about the average american out there? i wonder how many people really believe that it makes a lot of sense with a $13.7 trillion national debt to be giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country. i've got to tell you, mr. president, the calls in my office are coming 98%, 99% to
one against these agreements. people think we can do better, and our job is to do better. and the way we do better is when people all over this country stand up and say, wait a minute, congress, your job is to represent the middle class, represent our kids and not to represent the wealthiest people in this country. i mentioned earlier, and i think certainly one of the major objections to this agreement is that it provides tens of billions of dollars to the wealthiest people in this country at a time when the rich are already doing phenomenally well and at a time when the wealthiest people have already experienced huge tax breaks. and i think most people think that that does not make sense. let me just give you an example. i just want to, not to pick on particular individuals.
that's not my goal here. but just so you know this. according to the citizens for tax justice, if the bush tax breaks for the top 2% are extended, these are some of the people who will benefit and what kind of benefits they will receive. rupert murdoch, the c.e.o. of news corporation, would receive a $1.3 million tax break next year. mr. murdoch is a billionaire. do you really think he needs that? jamie dimon, head of j.p. morgan chase whose bank got a bailout from the federal reserve will receive a $1.1 million tax break. trust me, jamie dimon, head of j.p. morgan chase, he is doing fine. ecrom pandit, head of citigroup, he would receive $175,000 tax
breaks. ken lewis, former c.e.o. of bank of america, the guy is already fabulously wealthy, would receive a $713,000 a year tax break. the c.e.o. of wells fargo, he's are the largest banks in america, c.e.o.'s of these banks already making huge compensation, he would get -- john stumph, c.e.o. of wells fargo would receive a $813,000 tax break every single year. c.e.o. morgan stanley would receive a $926,000 a year tax break. the c.e.o. of he the narcotics ronald will kwrarbs of he the -- the c.e.o. of aetna would receive a tax break worth $875,000. mr. president, i contrast that, as i did earlier, to the fact that two days ago you and i and
a total of 53 members of the senate said, you know, maybe we should p a $250 check this year to seniors on social security and to disabled vets because they haven't gotten a cola for two years. $250 check. people are making $14,000, $15,000 a year desperately need a little bit of help. we couldn't get one republican vote. but when it comes to the c.e.o. of a major bank who is already a multimillionaire, we're talking about $600,000, $700,000 a year in tax breaks. that is not what we should be doing as a nation. furthermore, mr. president, i know that president obama and others have said, well, let's not worry because these tax breaks are just temporary. just temporary. they're only going to be given for two years. i have been in washington long
enough to know that when you give a temporary tax break for two years, you are in fact giving a long-term tax break or maybe even a permanent tax break because two years from now the exact same arguments will be made, that if you do away with those tax breaks for the rich, you're really raising taxes. do you really want to raise taxes, a terrible thing to do. understand that same argument can be made. but there is one difference. the difference is, when president obama ran for president and since he are has been president, he has time and time and time again come out against those tax breaks. he does not believe in them, and i believe him. i know that he doesn't. but if he says -- if he is the democratic candidate for president -- that elect me ar reelect me to be president because then in the future i'm really going to bet rid of these tax breaks, i am afraid that his credibility is not very, very
high, because that's what he said last time. and you can only cry wolf -- i guess there's a limit to home times you can cry wolf. so i think -- let's not kid ourselves. if these tax breaks for the wealthiest people are extended for two years, there is a very, very strong likelihood that they will be extended for many, many years beyond these two years and perhaps even permanently, which brings us back to the bush-era nonsense of believing that tax breaks for the rich and trickle-down economics are going to help the middle-class and working families of this country. but while the personal income tax issue and extending them for the top 2% has received a lot of national attention, what has not gotten a whole lot of discussion is that that is not the only unfair and absurd tax proposal out there. the agreement struck between the
president and the republican leadership continues the bush era 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends, meaning that those people who make their living off of their investments will continue to pay a substantially lower tax rate than firemen, teachers, and nurses. so if you are a wealthy person and you earn -- and i believe that the overwhelming majority of capital gains benefits accrue to the top 1% -- you're going to be paying a tax on that income of 15%, which is less than you pay if you are a fireman, whether you are a police officer, you are a teacher, or a nurse. so what we're doing there is extending not only the personal income tax rates for the very rich but a host of other taxes as well.
mr. president, on top of all of that -- and i know that many of my colleagues have picked up on this and are extremely upserkts and i think it is one of the reasons why the democrats in the house just yesterday said that they do not want to bring this proposal to the floor for a vote -- is that this agreement includes a horrendous, a horrendous proposal regarding the estate tax. and the estate tax, as some may know, was a proposal that teddy roosevelt talked about in the year -- in the year 1906 and was eventually enacted in 1916. and here is what teddy roosevelt said about this issue in august of 2010, and i quote, and it is worth repeating that, because what the proposal struck between the president and the republican leadership does is lower the
estate tax substantially. and here's what teddy roosevelt said in 2010. and here's the chart with his words. he said, "the absence of effective state, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power." this is teddy roosevelt, who by then had served as president of the united states. "no man" -- this is rose volt. "no man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. every dollar received should represent a dollar's worth of service rendered -- not gambling in stocks, but service rendered." end of quote. my good in this guy was pretty prophetic.
this is back in 1910. then he continues, "the really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is passed by men of relatively small means. therefore, i believe in ... a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasingly rapidly in amount with the size of the estate." end ever quote. wow, teddy roosevelt hit the nail on the head. and that was 100 years ago. what he worried about is that a small group of people with incredible money would be able to pass that money on and that what you would create in this country is an oligarchic form of
government with a few people not holding just economic power but holding significant power as well. right now as a result of this disastrous citizens united decision, what roosevelt foretold, predicted is exactly what's happening. you're having a handful of billionaires now sitting around deciding how much of their fortune they're going to invest in political campaigns all over this country to defeat people like me that are opposed to their agenda and support other people who are in agreement with their agenda. that's what roosevelt talked about. that is exactly what is happening. so what we're looking at is, in this proposal we're looking at a situation where the estate tax rate, which was 5 5% under president clinton, will decline
to 35% in -- with an exemption. here's the important point that has to be made because i think a lot of people don't understand it and certainly our republican friends have done a very, very good job in distorting reality on this one. there are millions of americans who believe that when they die, that i their children will have to pay an estate tax 678 that's absolutely and categorically incorrect. as this chart shows, only a tiny fraction of estates from deaths in 2009 owed any estate tavment that number is about .24%, less than .3% of american families paid any tax on the estates that
they were left. 99.% 7% of american families -- 99.7% of american families did not pay anything in estate taxes. the so-called "death tax" that our republican friends talk about a whole lot is the estate tax, 99.7% of families don't pay a nickel on t the people who do pay are not the rich. it is the very, very, very rich. and let me just give you one example of the absurdity of lowering the tax rate, or even worse, of ending the estate tax as some of my republican colleagues would like to do. here's this chart. to give you one example of what ending -- this agreement does not do that; it just lowers the
rates. but if they were to wipe out completely, as the republicans want to do, walmart's owners -- and that's the sam walton family, the waltons own walmart. they are the heirs to the walmart fortune which is worth -- this may be dated, it may be more, may be less now -- about $86 billion. that's what this family is worth. one family, $86 billion. they're doing pretty good. if we abollish the estate tax, as our republican friends would have us do, the walton family alone would receive an estimated $32.7 billion tax break, if the estate tax was completely repealed. one family, $32.7 billion. this is patently insane. this is insane. we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. we have massive unemployment. i am trying to get 50-plus
million a $250 check. by the way, a $250 check because we have not seen a cola in the two last two and a half years for seniors and vets, thaltd that would cost about $13 billion. the wahlton family would get more than double in a tax break what some of us are fighting for for over 50 million seniors and disabled vets. so we can't afford to give $14 billion to help some of the people in this country who are struggling the hardest, can't do that. but somehow we can afford to give $32.7 billion in tax breaks to one of the richest families in this country. if that makes sense to anybody, please call up my office. because it doesn't make stones me, and i think it does not make sense to the vast majority of the american people. so under this agreement, the
estate tax rate, which was 55% under president clinton, will decline to 35% with an exemption on the first $5 million of an state's estate, $10 million for couples. and let us again -- this tax applies to only the top .3% of the families in this country. and this again is not just a tax break for the rich; it is a tax break for the very, very rich. and, again, this agreement say, well, we're only going to extend this for two years. well, frankly, i doubt that very much. i suspect two years from now, the same argument. they will be extending it. and frankly our republican colleagues, representing the richest people in the world, are hell bent on aboll iraq the estate tax completely. so those are some of the reasons that i think we should be voting against this agreement.
third, mr. president -- and this is an issue i have been talking about and i'm happy to hear that there is more discussion about in the last few days -- and that is the so-called payroll tax holiday. and what that is about is that this would cut $120 billion in social security payroll tax for workers. now, on the surface, this sounds like a very good idea because the worker instead of paying 6.2% into social security pays 4.2%. but i think, if you think about it for two second, you really understand that it is not a good idea because this is money being dwrerted from the social security -- being diverted from the social security trust fund. and social security, in my view, has been the most successful
federal program in perhaps the history of our country. in the last 75 years, whether in good times or bad times, social security has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible american. today social security has $toy 2.6 -- social security has $2.6 trillion surplus. tai social today social securitn pay out benefits for the next 25 years. we must be able to extend is it beyond 29 years to the next 75 years. if you divert $120 billion from the social security trust fund rands give it to workers today, what you're doing is cutting back at viability, the long-term viability of social security. that is not just bernie sanders raising this issue. there are many people representing millions of senior citizens who are deeply, deeply
concerned about this proposal, this provision in the agreement between the president and the republican leadership. the national committee to preserve social security and medicare is one of the very largest senior groups in america. they do a very, very good job. i know we have many seniors in vermont who are members of this organization and their job is to do what the title of the organization suggests, and that is to preserve social security and medicare. and just the other day, they sent out a news release and the title of the news release washings and i quote, "cutting contributions to social security signals the beginning of the end ." "payroll tax holiday is anything but." and let me quote from barbara kennelly, who is a former member of congress, she is the president, c.e.o. of the national committee to preserve social security and medicare.
what she writes is that -- quote -- "even though social security contributed nothing to the current economic crisis, it has been bart teared in a deal that provides deficit-busting tax cuts for the wealthy. diverting" -- and that's what we're doing here -- "$120 billion in social security contributions for a show of called tax holiday may sound like a good deal for workers now, but it's bad business for the program that a majority of middle-class seniors will rely upon in the future." end of quote, bars bra kennelly, president and c.e.o. mr. president, i think many of shoes understand where this concept really originated. this is not a progressive idea. this is an idea that came from republicans and conservatives who want to end social security. and i want to read you an
interesting quote from a gentleman named bruce bartlett. mr. bart slate former top advisor for president george h.w. bush. this is what he wrote in opposition to this payroll tax cut. that is guy who was an advisor to president reagan and the first president bush. this is what he said. he said -- quote -- "what are the odds that republicans will ever allow this one-year tax holiday to expire? they wrote the bush tax cuts with explicit expiration dates and then when it came time for the law they wrote to take effect exactly as they wrote it, they said any failure to extend them permanently would constitute the biggest tax increase in history." end of quote for a moment. so what mr. bartlett is saying -- and i'm going to go back to his quote in a second -- what he's saying is we all know to be true, that around here in congress, if you provide a tax
break for one year -- in this case, a payroll tax holiday -- a year from now, if you restore the old rates, which are 6.2%, our republican friends are going to say, democrats are raising your taxes. it ain't going to happen. this one-year extension could well become a permanent extension. and if it becomes a permanent extension, you are diverting a huge amount of money to social security and you are weakening the entire financial structure of social security in this country, which i expect is exactly what some would like to do. now, president obama says, well, not to worry, it's only one year and, don't worry, that one year's going to be covered by the federal government. so for the very first time out of the treasury department, money is going to come in to social security which has always
been 100 dependent, as it should be on, payroll taxes. for the first time, we are breaking that. and around here, you do it once, it is going to continue. what barbara kennelly, the president of the national committee to preserve social securitymedicare says, is cutting these contributions to social security signals the beginning of the end. so we should be very, very, very mindful of that. we should not support this payroll tax. it is one of the more dangerous provisions in this agreement. but let me get back now, if i might, mr. president, to what bruce bartlett, who is the former top advisor for presidents reagan and george h.w. bush, recently wrote, and i'm continuing his quote. quote -- "if allowing the bush tax cuts to expire is the biggest tax increase in history, one that republicans claim would decimate a still fragile econo economy, then surely expiration
of a payroll tax holiday would also constitute a massive tax increase on the working people of america. republicans would be" -- this is bruce bartlett -- "republicans would prefer to destroy social security's finances or permanently fund it with general revenues than allow a once-suspended payroll tax to be reimposed. arch social security hater peter ferrarro, once told me that funding it with general revenues was part of his plan to destroy it by converting social security into a welfare program rather than an earned benefit. he was right." and once again, that quote is from bruce bartlett, a former top advisor for presidents reagan and the first president bush. so what he is saying -- and this is maybe one of the sleeping issues in this agreement between the president and the republican
leadership -- is we may be taking a huge step forward in destroying the most important program in this country, which is social security, by diverting now $120 billion and in the future, hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars into this program so that, in fact, it will not be there for our kids and our grandchildren. mr. president, the fourth point that i want to make in opposition to this agreement -- and one that i've made before -- and read a little bit about is -- is that while some of the business taxes in this agreement may work to create jobs, some of them won't. but the more important point is that economists on both ends of the political spectrum believe that the better way to spur the economy and to create the millions and millions of jobs that we must create is to
rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. just a few minutes ago, i read from a -- excerpts from a very good book o book from a good frf mine, ariana huffington, "third world america," and the purpose of her book was to give us a warning that if we as a nation don't get our act together in a variety of ways, including our physical infrastructure, we are headed down the pike to be a third world nation. according to the american society of civil engineers, we as a nation need to spend $2.2 trillion in the next five years alone in order to take care of our infrastructure nee needs. but, unfortunately, this agreement signed by the president and the republicans doesn't put one penny into infrastructure. so i think that if we are serious about creating jobs, if we're serious about making sure that our economy can be competitive in the global economy, we've got to be
watching what other countries are doing and they're investing far, far more than we are. i can tell you, mr. president, in the stimulus package, by the way, will help us very much in vermont in this area. but right now if you were to drive around the state of vermont, and i think around many other places in this country, and you took out your cell pho phone, you would find it very hard to make calls in a number of areas of the state. a few months ago, i was literally a mile and a half away from our state capital in mont montpelier new northfield, vermont, i could not make a telephone call with my cell phone. that's flew many parts of vermont. that's true in many other parts of america. we are lagging many, many other countries in terms of the accessibility of cell phone service and broadband. and broadband. so i am happy to say that in vermont, we received a very generous grant through the stimulus package. it is going to help us. other states did the same. but that's the area that we have
got to invest. we've got to invest in broadband. we've got to invest in making sure that cell phone service is available in rural america, all over america. i talked a moment ago about ho r train services. there are train services today which are worse than they were 30 or 40 years ago. it takes longer to debt from destination a to destination b. china is investing human huge sf money building high-speed rail at a rate that we could not even dream about. so in this agreement, we do have money for business tax cuts, but i do not think that that is the best way to invest taxpayer money if we're serious about creating the jobs that we need. corporate america already is sitting on close to $2 trillion cash on hand. i don't know that more tax breaks are going to help them very much. i think that it is a lot smarter, and i think most economists agree with me, that we should be investing in our
infrastructure, both to create jobs now and to improve our competitiveness in years to come. further, mr. president, i want to say a word on this. i mentioned it earlier today. president obama talks about this being a compromise agreement. you can't get everything you want and i certainly understand that. but one of the aspects of the compromise he points to is an extension of unemployment benefits for 13 months. well, let me be very clear. i think at a time when 2 million of our fellow americans are about to lose their unemployment at a time when unemployment is extraordinarily high, long-term unemployment is i think higher than at any point on record. people are, you know, looking for work month after month after month, they're not finding it. it would be morally, morally unacceptable if this country did
not extend unemployment benefits for those workers for 13 months. yet the president sees this as a great sign of compromise. i would argue the contrary. i would suggest to you, mr. president, that for the past 40 years, under both democratic and republican administrations, under democratic and republican leadership here in the senate or in the house, whenever the unemployment rate has been above 7.2% unemployment, unemployment insurance has always been extended. in other words, this has been bipartisan policy for 40 years, and i don't want to see us seeing and accepting as a really great give on the part of republicans -- a really, you know, something that they're giving us as part a compromise -- when it's been bipartisan policy for 40 years under democratic and republican leadership. so i don't accept that this is a great gift.
i think what the american people understand is you don't turn your backs on unemployed workers, people who've been unemployed for long periods of time, you don't allow those people to lose their homes, you don't force these people out on to the streets, you take away the shreds of dignity they have remaining. that's not what you do. and that has always been republican philosophy as well as democratic philosophy. this is not a great give, so i do not accept that this is a -- a compromise. mr. president, let me be very clear, as i said earlier, that i do believe that there are positive parts of this agreement that must be maintained as we move forward toward a better agreement. and let me give you just some of them that make a lot of sense to
me that we have got to retape rn and build on. the obvious one is in addition to extending unemployment benefits, it's clear that we have got to extend middle-class tax cuts for 98% of americans. as i have been documenting over and over again today, we are looking at a situation where the middle class in this country is collapsing under president bush. median family income went down by $2,200. people are losing their health care. and it would be asinine, it would be unacceptable if the middle class did not continue to receive the tax breaks that were developed in 2001 and 2003. and that to a large degree is what this fight is about. we've got to extend those tax breaks for the middle class but not tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. further, in this agreement, there are some other good provisions. you've got the earned-income tax credit for working americans and
the child and college tax credits are also in this agreement and they are very, very important. they will keep millions of our fellow americans from slipping out of the middle class and into poverty and they will allow millions of our fellow citizens to send their kids to college. just talked about a moment ago that we have over 100,000 families in this country where kids graduate high school, to want go to college, can't afford to do it. this proposal will help them do that and that's fine. but, mr. president, despite the fact that there are some good, important provisions in this proposal, when we look at the overall package, when we look at a $13.7 trillion national debt and a declining middle class, i think what we have got to say is that this package just doesn't do it. it's just not good enough. now, the president says that he knows thousand count votes -- knows how to count votes and i understand that. he says, you know, you had a
couple of votes here to make sure that we would not give tax breaks to millionaires and the president has been very clear, he does not want to do that. i understand that. but he says, what choice do i have? and i think the answer is, we have got to fight this issue. in my view, the solution ultimately will not be resolved here inside the beltway, in the senate or in the house t. will be resolved when -- house. approximate t will be resolved when millions of americans -- it will be resolved when millions of americans get on their telephones, get on their computers and let members of the senate and members of the house of representatives know that they are profoundly outraged, that at a time when the rich have never had it so good and when we have a huge national debt, that this agreement contains huge tax for those -- huge tax breaks for those people who don't need it. that's how we defeat this. i'm not sure that alone here in the debate i'm going to turn any of my republican or some democratic colleagues around. but i do believe that if people
all over this country stand up and say, wait a minute, how much do the richest people in this country want? i just documented a few moment ago -- moments ago the top 400 wealthiest people in this country saw a doubling of their income under president bush, a doubling of their income, tax rates went down. when is enough, enough? how much do they need? so i think and i would hope, by the way, that this is certainly not just the -- a progressive issue. i'm a progressive. this is a conservative issue. i have heard year after year, mr. president, our conservative friends telling us, my goodness, we cannot continue to raise the national debt. we've got to do something about this unsustainable deficit. this agreement grows, increases the national debt. what kind of honest conservative can vote to inrecess the national debt? and if they do, please, please
no more lectures here on the floor of the senate. your hypocrisy will be known to everybody. don't tell us that you're concerned about the national debt. give tax breaks to billionaires and raise the national debt so that our kids and grandchildren in the middle class will have to pay -- and the middle class will have to pay higher taxes in order to pay off the debt that was caused by you giving tax breaks to millionaires. please, no more lectures. say, okay, rich people contributed to my campaign. i've got to be honest. no more concern about your concern about the national debt. again, i want to rethe it rate this point and that is -- reiterate this point, than is, don't worry, it's only two years. this is not, in my view, two years. if you do them for two years, the same old argument will be back two years from now and we'll be in the midst of a
presidential election and what our republican friends will say and i'm glad we have a gentleman putting this in the congressional record. i want people to go back to the congressional record. i'm sure i will be proven right that two years from now our republican friends will come back and they will say, oh, employ board, if you re -- oh, my word, if you repeal these tax rates, you'll be raising taxes. we can't do that. and what will make the situation even more difficult two years from now than today, if you have president obama, if he's the democratic candidate, he'll say, i don't believe in the tax breaks for the rich, i'll do my best to repeal them, but his credibility has been damaged because he said that in his last campaign. that's what he's been saying all along. the president does not believe in extending tax breaks to the wealthy. i know that. but if he caves in now, who's going to believe that he won't do the same thing two years from now. that's the damage.
what i think is even more troublesome is once we move down this path of more tax breaks for the very, very wealthy, we are accepting the heart and soul of trickle-down economics, which has been, to my mind, a proven disaster and a failure. i would remind the listeners, and my colleagues, that they these tax breaks have been in existence since 2001. they were in existence throughout almost all of president bush's tenure. the end result was that we lost 600,000 private sector jobs. lost 600,000 private sector jobs. the worst job performance record maybe in the history of this country. trickle-down economics does not work. giving tax breaks to billionaires does not stimulate the economy. helping working families and the
middle class get decent jobs, tax breaks for people who need the money and are going to spend the money is what's going to create jobs, not giving tax breaks to billionaires who don't need it and won't spend it. if people think this is just temporary, this is just two years, i believe you're kidding yourselves. i believe that two years from now the debate will be about extending them or perhaps even making them permanent. at a time, a i -- as i mentioned earlier where the top 1% has seen a huge increase in the percentage of income they earn in this country. going from 18% in the 1970's now. to 23.5%. the top 1% earn more than the bottom 50%. it is totally absurd to give tax breaks to people who do not need them and it is not good economics as well. here's the other -- i guess by
this time i've got to be doing a little repetition here. as i mentioned earlier you have a number of millionaires and some of the richest people in this country who will benefit from these tax breaks. you know what warren buffett is saying? you know what bill gates is saying? you know when ben from bed and jerry's -- ben & jerry's is saying? hey, thanks. i don't need it. it is more important to protect children. it is more important to protect working families. our tax rates from soar -- we have the absurd situation is not only is this bad public policy, we are actually forcing tax breaks on people who don't need them and don't even want them. richest people in this country, bill gates, warren buffett, we don't want them. now, here's something else -- here's something else that needs to be understood.
what the republicans are doing in this agreement is driving up the national debt. and you may think, well, that's not what republicans really believe in. they're supposed to be conservatives. they don't want a high national debt. why would they give tax breaks to the rich? these guys are not dumb and i think they know what they're doing. here's what the argument is, if you drive up the national debt and the deficit, you then come back to the floor of the senate and you say, you know what is this this -- you know what? this national debt is unsustainable and the only way we can deal with it now is by cutting, cutting, cutting. and we are already beginning to -- beginning to hear what some -- how some of those thoughts are going to develop. there was, as you know, mr. president, a deficit reduction commission appointed bit president. and i had very -- when i heard
who was going to be chairing that commission or co-chairing it, alan simpson, a very nice gentleman, but a very, very conservative republican who has attacked social security for a very long period of time, erskine bowles, a conservative democrat, i had serious doubts about what was going to come out of that commission. the good news is they needed 14 votes to pass their recommendations. they didn't get the 14. but a lot of the ideas that senator simpson and mr. bowles develops are going to be filtering around this institution. and what the republicans will say is that when you have a huge debt, which they helped create, we're going to have to cut. what are we going to have to do? as you'll recall, mr. president, the commission recommended a savage cut, 20% in social
security benefits for workers. there was talk about raising the social security age up to i think 69. they're talking about cuts in medicare, cuts in medicaid, cuts in education. i mean right now is -- i think i've documented a dozen times it is a horrendous situation when so many of our young people can't afford to go to college and when they do go to college and graduate they have $25,000 in debt. these guys on the reduction commission were recommending that the interest on that debt be accrued while students are in college. so here we have slipping behind the rest of the world in terms of our percentage of college graduates and this recommendation is on young people who don't have a lot of money, borrowing money, they're going to have to pay more to go to college. here's the argument and it will be in the congressional record, check it out. see if i'm right.
the argument will be the national debt is going up, we'll have to cut social security, medicare, medicaid, veterans programs, senator landrieu made this point, made a point a little while ago, she said -- and i think this is roughly right, our soldiers, men and women in the armed forces are going to get a 1.8% increase in their salaries. people putting their lives on the line to defend this country. $250 check for 50-plus million seniors and disabled vets. we couldn't pass it. they're going to come back and cut and cut and cut in the name of trying to deal with the high deficit which they are now increasing, and that's an issue that we must be addressing. so, mr. president, in my view while there are some good parts of the proposal, it is certainly one that should be significantly
improved. and i believe that the way it can be improved is by the american people beginning to get involved in the process. i can tell you, as i said earlier, i don't know how the calls are going today in my office, because i have been here. but for the last three days we have received thousands of phone calls an e-mails and over 98% of them have been against this proposal. the american people believe, the people in development believe that we can -- in vermont believe we can do a lot better job in crafting a proposal that represents the middle class and our kids and not just the wealthiest people in this country. mr. president, when we talk about this proposal negotiated by the white house and the republican leadership, again, it has to be put within the broad context of what's going on in
america. and that context is not a pretty picture. that context -- that context requires us to understand that the middle class, which has been the backbone of this country for so very long, is in the process of disappearing. in the context -- and that context makes us understand that millions of families in this country are worried, parents are worried not just about their own lives. they're prepared to work 50 or 60 hours a week. they're prepared to cut back on their own needs. but i think what is hurting them more deeply is the kind of future they are contemplating for their children. they are worried that for the first time in the modern history of america their kids will get jobs, which will pay them lower salaries than what the parents have earned. they are worried that
unemployment will be much more likely for their kids than for themselves. they'll be worried that while they were able to scrape through, and in my case, i was able to scrape through college, you know, borrowed some money and did some jobs and make -- made it like millions of other people. they're worried with the high cost of education and the reduction in real earnings, they're not going to be able to send their kids to college. i have received e-mails, as i'm sure yo you have, mr. president, the saadest things in the -- the sadest thing in the world, the most we wanted to do is send our daughter, our son to college, we can't do that now. and that is the overall context that this agreement has got to be placed in. and the issue is again and again and again, the richest people in this country do not need tax breaks. they're doing phenomenally well. they've already been given huge
amounts of tax breaks. it is the working families, the lower income people that we've got to be worrying about, and not just the wealthy and the powerful. mr. president, when we talk about why the middle class is declining, that is a tough issue and i'm not here to suggest that i know all of the answers. i surely don't. it is a complicated issue and people have differences of opinion. let me touch on a few areas that i think will explain why poverty is going up and the middle class is going down. and one of them deals with our trade policies. i can remember, mr. president, a number of years ago i was in the house of representatives, and i can remember the lobbyists and the big money interest coming around and saying, well, if you guys only pass nafta, this would create a whole lot of jobs in the united states because we would be able to ship products made in america to mexico.
and, in fact, as i recall, and it seems almost humorous now is what they said if we pass nafta it would solve the problem of illegal immigration because the economy of mexico would be so strong, people would stay in their own country and not try to sneak across the border. it is somewhat humorous that that issue was even discussed. but one of the reasons, mr. president, that, unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, we have not dealt with is our starterus -- disasterus trade relations, that is trade policies which have encouraged large corporations in this country to send jobs abroad because they can find workers in other countries, in low-wage
countries, who are prepared to work for pennies an hour. and, you know, i think -- not only haven't we addressed this issue from an economic perspective, the way we should -- and i have to tell you, mr. president, i know that during campaigns a lot of members of congress put their 30-second ads on the air saying how concerned they are about outsourcing and our trade policy. with you somehow the -- but somehow the day after the election, i don't hear that discussion resume on the floor of the senate. i will say this is not just true of republicans, but democrats as well. a lot of democrats campaign on the need for trade reform, but it doesn't happen. in fact, i have been here in the senate now for almost four years, and i have not heard one serious -- underlying serious discussion to explain how in recent years we have lost millions and millions of manufacturing jobs when those jobs were the backbone of the
working class of this country. not providing not only decent wages but decent benefits, decent health care, decent pensions. mr. president, there was once a time in this country when a manufacturing job was a ticket to the middle class. and i've got to say something. as i remember not so many years ago, there were national leader saying well to the young people, you don't have to worry about that factory work anymore, you don't have to be involved in production, because you know what? all of the jobs in the future are going to be nice and clean and in offices and on computers. and i think we demeaned and insulted the people who built the products that we consume. there is nothing wrong with a factory job if workers there earn a decent wage and have a decent benefit. those are the jobs that built america. you know, i remember we should never forget that -- and we now have celebrated just the anniversary of pearl harbor, and there was a speech that
president roosevelt gave a day after pearl harbor and a joint session of the congress when he declared war on japan, and i saw a video of that speech and it was really a remarkable speech, because at that moment, at that moment the united states was not only fighting japan, we knew the fight with germany and nazism was right around the corner. and at that point, we were having to fight a war on two fronts, in asia and in europe. hitler was on the march. the japanese were in china. the japanese had just attacked pearl harbor, and here we were. just about to enter the war. how could we possibly win that war? and yet, mr. president, because of the manufacturing capabilities that we had in that time -- and this is an amazing story -- literally, in two and a half years, the war was seeksly
won. obviously, not completed until 1945, but because of the incredible industrial capabilities in this country, the ability to transform our manufacturing center -- sector from a consumer-oriented sector, from automobiles into tanks, from shirts into uniforms, from hunting rifles into machine guns, within two, three years, we had essentially won that war. it was an incredible effort on the part of workers in this country who transformed our economy into an industrial force that was able to supply our soldiers with the weapons that they needed to defeat hitler and the japanese. and where are we today in terms of our manufacturing capabilities?
as i mentioned earlier, a couple of weeks ago, my wife and i went shopping for christmas presents, literally. it was just a plain old department store. literally, very hard to find a product not manufactured in china, very hard to find a product -- a gift that we could buy that was manufactured in the united states of america. and i think people understand instinctually that this country will not be a major economic player in years to come if we allow our manufacturing base to continue to decline. again, just under bush, we went from 17 million manufacturing jobs down to 12 million jobs in eight years of bush. how do we survive as a strong industrial power if our manufacturing jobs disappear? today, mr. president, there are fewer manufacturing jobs in this
country than there were in april of 1941, about eight months before the attack on pearl harbor. fewer manufacturing jobs today than in april of 1941. and those manufacturing jobs that are left -- that are left in many cases pay lower wages, with fewer benefits, than they did a generation ago. in other words, we are moving not only in the decline in our manufacturing jobs, but in the wages that our workers earn and the benefits that they receive. and i raise all of these issues to put this agreement between the president and the republican leadership in a broader, broader context. today -- and this is just an incredible fact, and it is just absolutely frightening for the future of the middle class in this country. today, entry level automobile workers at general motors and
chrysler now earn half as much, half as much as their peers made just one year ago. instead of making $28 an hour, a middle-class wage, they are now making $14 an hour, and this is in the automobile industry which has always been the gold standard for manufacturing jobs in america. and if workers with a union in the automobile industry are making $14 an hour, what do you think workers in new mexico are going to be making without a strong union? so what you are seeing is a dissolution of the middle class, wages are going down, and in this remarkable example, a 50% reducks -- the older workers making good wages. new workers, half the wages. is this the future of america?
is this what our kids have to look forward to, that they are going to be earning half the wages that their fathers made, that their mothers made? is that the future? and in the midst of all of that, we would run up a huge national debt, send our jobs to china, and we give tax breaks to millionaires? is that the future these kids have to look forward to? i certainly hope not. but let me tell you something, we're going to have to be tough and we're going to have to take on some very powerful special interests to turn this whole thing around. mr. president, we often talk -- and today i have been devoting a lot of time to our national debt, $13.7 trillion and to our deficit which is $1.4 trillion, but we cannot ignore our trade deficit. in 2008, our trade deficit was nearly $700 billion. last year, our trade deficit with china alone was almost almost $227 billion.
in other words, we are purchasing a whole lot more products than we are selling, and sometimes i get a kick out of hearing the defenders of our trade policy talk about all of the product that we are exporting. well, yeah, we are exporting a lot, but we are importing a heck of a lot more. so, mr. president, i think what you have got is a major economic issue here, and that economic issue is that we are losing millions of good-paying jobs because of our disastrous trade policies, and furthermore, the jobs that we have on those jobs we're seeing decline in wainls and in benefits. and i think the bottom line of this is not just if you like an economic issue, it's a moral issue as well, and that is when companies like general electric and all the rest -- i don't mean
to be picking hard on general electric, but i have a quote here which i want to make. this was a few years back. i think it's important because it applies not just to general electric, but i want people to hear this. g.e. is, of course, one of our major corporations, and, in fact, as recent disclosure pointed out, the taxpayers of this country through the fed provided $16 billion in bailout to general electric during the recent crisis. this is what the head of -- head and c.e.o. of jeb electric, jeffrey immeld, said in 2002, december 6. quote, jeff immeld, head and c.e.o. -- "when i'm talking to go managers, i talk china, china, china, china, china. you need to be there. you need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there. i am a nut on china.
outsourcing from china is going to grow to $5 billion. we are building a tech center in china. every discussion today has to center on china. the cost basis is extremely attractive. you can take an 18-cubic foot refrigerator, make it in china, land it in the united states and land it for less so we can make an 18-cubic foot refrigerator today ourselves." end of quote. jeffrey immeld, chairman and c.e.o. of general electric, quoted at an investor meeting on december 6, 2002. when go recently -- when g.e. had a couple of years ago some difficult economic times, and they needed $16 billion to bail them out, i didn't hear mr. immeld going to china, china, china, china, china. i didn't hear that. i heard mr. immeld going to the taxpayers of the united states for his welfare check. so i say to mr. immeld and i say
to all of these c.e.o.'s who have been so quick to run to china that maybe it's time to start reinvesting in the united states of america. but it's not just mr. immeld. and i don't mean to just pick on him. it's all of them. they all see the future in china, in vietnam, in countries where people work for pennies an hour. now, mr. immeld came to his position in the footsteps of the former c.e.o. of g.e., jock -- jack welch. what jack welch was famously quoted as saying -- "ideally -- this is the guy who was the head of general electric before immelt. he said -- "ideally, we would have every plant we own on a barge. "end of quote. remember that quote? he said we would have ideally every plant we owned on a barge.
what did he mean by that? what he meant by that is if you're on a barge, you can move your plant to any part of the world where the labor is cheapest. so if it gets too expensive in china and you have got to pay people 75 cents an hour, you go to vietnam. if it gets too expensive in vietnam, maybe you can go to north korea and have people work under the martial law, i don't know. what he was saying was his goal was to make sure that g.e. would create jobs in those countries in the world where workers were paid the lowest possible wages. and former g.e. executive vice president frank doyle said, and i quote -- "we did a lot of violence to the expectations of the american work force. we downsized, we delayered and we outsourced." he was honest enough to admit. again, i don't just mean to pick on jeff immelt or general electric. it is -- it is a history of
corporations all over america. let me just mention that the c.e.o. of cisco, john chambers -- and this is what he says. you know, we tell the young people the future is in information technology. we want you guys to be smart, learn how to use the computers, you're not going to work in factories. this is what the c.e.o. of cisco, certainly one of the large r.t. companies in the united states. he said -- quote -- "china will become the i.t. center of the world, and we can have a healthy discussion about whether it will be -- whether that's in 2020 or 2040, what we are trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a chinese company." end of quote. john chambers, c.e.o. of cisco. this was in 19 -- in 2004. furthermore, he says -- october 15, 2004, this is
cisco -- "we believe in giving something back and truly becoming a chinese company." meanwhile, what -- when cisco needs tax breaks, they get it from the taxpayers of the united states of america. boy are they taking us for dummies. they outsourced their jobs to china and so forth. now, in the last campaign, one of the folks who ended up getting a lot more publicity i think than he usually does is the president and the c.e.o. of the u.s. chamber of commerce, a gentleman named tom donahue. and again, my point tonight is not just to pick on individuals, because every quote that i'm giving you now can be multiplied 50, 100 times over. this is what corporate america believes. they believe that it is totally appropriate to throw american workers out on the street, move to low-wage countries, china and other countries, pay people a few cents an hour, bring their products back into the united
states. thomas donahue is the president and c.e.o. of the chamber of commerce. he got a lot of publicity recently, especially during the last election, because the chamber of commerce became the funnel for a lot of money that went into campaigns around this country. he raised tens and tens of millions of dollars. a lot of that money i believe is undisclosed. all the rich folks and billionaires gave money to the chamber of commerce, and they were able to elect candidates that were sympathetic to their point of view. so let's find out what their point of view s. this is a quote, again going back to 2004. thomas donahue, c.e.o. of u.s. chamber of commerce. quote -- "one job sent overseas, if it happens to be my job, is one too many. but the benefits of offshoring jobs outweighs the cost." end of quote from done haourbgs
president and c.e.o. -- from donahue, president and c.e.o. of the largest business corporation in america. they are in favor of offshoring american jobs. they think it is a good idea because they understand that if corporations throw american workers out on the street and go to china and pay people there pennies an hour, they are going to make more profits. that's what they say. give them credit. they're upfront about it. we don't care about the united states of america. we don't care about young people. we don't care about the future of this country. jeff immelt told us the future of this world is in china. here is a quote that appeared in one of the papers, u.s. chamber of commerce c.e.o. urged american companies to send jobs overseas. i don't know if we have a date. 2004 i think it is. let me repeat that in one of the newspapers. an a.p. story.
u.s. tkhaeupl pwer of commerce president -- u.s. chamber of commerce president and c.e.o. thomas donahue, where all these businesses come together to develop policy, lobby us, provide campaign contributions. u.s. chamber of commerce president and c.e.o. thomas donahue urged american companies to send jobs overseas. that's really patriotic. that's standing up for the united states of america. donahue said wednesday that exporting high-paid tech jobs to low-cost countries such as india, china and russia saves companies money. it is no surprise that done -- donahue who tripled the chamber of commerce's lobbying team since 1997 and promotes policies endorses offshoring. the chamber of commerce champions tax cuts, free trade,
workers compensation reform and more liberal trade policies with china. end of quote. what more do you need when you want to understand why we have lost millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs, why wages are going down, what more do you need when the president of the chamber of commerce tells you that he thinks it is good public policy to send jobs to china? so i don't think there is much that you have to discover. they're telling you this. now, in a moment what i'm going to be talking about is how these ideas from the big-money people become implemented into policy, which has to do a lot with lobbying and campaign contributions. but before i go there, i want to
just give you some more examples about how the business leaders of this country feel about the workers of this country and the young people of this country. this again is a quote that i apologize, it is a few years old, of 2004 perhaps. 2004. quote, january 19, this is from alan lacey, who was then the c.e.o. of sears roebuck and company. here's what he said -- quote -- "there are four or five times as many smart, driven people in china than there are in the united states. and there's another four or five, three or four times as many people in india that are smarter or as smart or have more drive. and if technology is now going to basically reduce location as a barrier to competition, i.e.,
you have a worldwide web and you can do your work in china or india, then essentially you've got something like whatever that was, seven or nine times more smart, committed people that are now competing in this marketplace against certain activities. so we're going to see, i think, this huge incentive to ship more of these more commodity-like knowledge workers jobs offshore. here you have our blue-collar jobs decimated. and we told the kids not to worry. you didn't want to work in a factory any how. we've got these good, information, technology computer-based jobs for you. then you have the heads of companies saying why do i want to get american young people do this? i can have indian young people do it who work for a faction of the wages. we all see this. it's nothing new. you try to get a plane
reservation right now and you talk to somebody in india. please do not hear me to be antiindian or anti-chinese. that is the furthest i would want anybody to think. we have to work with people all over the world but you don't have to destroy the people of this country. you don't have to be a corporate c.e.o. to sell out your own people who built your company to run abroad. this senator is not anti-chinese, anti-indian, anti-vietnamese. i guess i'm guilty of being pro-american. former c.e.o. of hewlett-packar , miss fiorina. this is what she said when she was the c.e.o. of hewlett-packard in 2004. she said -- quote -- "there is no job that is america's god-given right anymore." end of quote. i could go on and on and on, but
i think you got the point. and the point is that when things get rough for corporate america, as they did recently for general electric, they run to the taxpayers of this country in order to be bailed out. but their overall philosophy is that their goal in life is to make as much money they can in any way they can, and, therefore, you run to those countries where wages are low. and you're seeing it all the time. it is not just blue collar. it is increasingly white collar. you have radiologists who are able to read x-rays in india. you have people, people behind the computer can do work in india as well as here. these corporate folks have taken advantage of that and sold out the young people of this country and the working class of this country. mr. president, as you know, it
is virtually impossible to find anything in a wal-mart or other stores like that that is made in america today. this is especially true for clothing. an increasing amount of our clothing comes from bangladesh. today there are 4,000 garment factories in bangladesh making clothes for wal-mart, gap, j.c. penney, levi strauss, tommy hilfiger and many, many others. garment workers in bangladesh, some 3.5 million of them -- and that number is growing -- are among the lowest-paid workers in the world, and they have difficulty buying enough food and shelter for their own needs. as i mentioned earlier today, the good news is the minimum wage in bangladesh was doubled.
it went from 11.5 cents an hour to 23 cents an hour. so when you buy your shirt made in bangladesh, you have young women there coming in from the countryside who are paid now, have received a doubling of their minimum wage to 23 cents an hour. is that something our people should be asked to compete against? should we say to the american worker, we can get you jobs, we're prepared to invest in the united states. we're an american company; you helped make us great. thank you for the work you've done over the years. thank you for purchasing our products. thank you for making us strong. if you are prepared to workforce $1 an hour, prepared to work for $1 an hour, $2 an hour, $3 an hour, we'll come back. in the last campaign, what did we begin to hear rumblings about? abolishing the main.
abolishing the minimum wage. the minimum wage is now $7.50 an hour. that's what we say, $7.25. that's what we say should be the minimum any american worker gets. there are people who say if i can hire people in china and pay $2 or $3 an hour, you want a job in america and i have to pay you $7.25 an hourbgs why should i do -- an hour, why should i do that? what a wonderful prospect for our young people to think about working for $4 or $5 an hour. so, mr. president, i think if we want to understand why the middle class in this country is collapsing, why unemployment is high, why our manufacturing base has been decimated, why it is hard to purchase a product made in the united states, it has a lot to do with our trade
policies which were pushed by people like mr. donahue -- mr. donohue of the chamber of commerce and many, many others. but it is not just a disastrous trade policy that has brought us to where we are today. the immediate cause of this crisis is -- just gets me sick thinking about it, and that is what the crooks on wall street have done to the american people. these people fought for a period of years to deregulate the banking industry. these people said to us, well, you know, if you just will do away with glass-steagall, if you will just allow financial institutions, commercial banks,
investors banks, insurance companies, if you allow them to merge, do away with these walls which glass-steagall since the depression had established, my god, it would be just terrific, it would be good for our economy, good for the american people, good for our international competitiveness. and i remember that, those debates, mr. president, because i was at that point in the house of representatives. i was a member of the banking -- the financial institutions committee at that point. i was on the committee that dealt with that. and i remember all of the times that alan greenspan came before the committee and said, you know -- and rubin, you had republicans, you had democrats coming before the committee saying that's what you've got to do. you've got to deregulate. let these guys merge. bigger is better. and against my votes --
somewhere on the internet there is a discussion i had with alan greenspan when he came before our committee, and i made it very clear to the people of vermont, to him and to everybody else that i did not think deregulation was a good idea, that i thought it would lead to disaster. someplace in this world there is a quote of mine which pretty much predicts what was going to happen. but needless to say i was one vote and the majority of the members in the house and senate voted to deregulate. and the rest is unfortunately history. and what we saw is that people on wall street, i think, you know -- i may be wrong on this, but i think operating from a business model based on fraud, based on dishonesty, understanding that the likelihood of them ever getting caught was small, that if things got really bad they would be bailed out by the taxpayers, understanding that they are too
powerful to ever be put in jail, to be indicted, understanding in this country when you're a c.e.o. on wall street, you have so much wealth and so much power and have so many lawyers and so many friends in congress that you can do pretty much anything you want and not much is going to happen to you. and they did it. they did it. their greed and their recklessness and their illegal behavior destroyed this economy. and what they did to the american people is so horrible, so horrible -- here you are in the middle class which is already being battered, as we discussed, as a result of trade agreements, loss of manufacturing jobs, health care costs going up, can't afford to send your kid to college, that's going on for years. and then these guys start pushing worthless and complicated financial instruments; the whole thing explodes. the whole thing skpwhroedz, and they -- explodes and they come trying to the taxpayers of
america to bail them out. i will never forget, never forget hank paulson coming before the democratic caucus -- i'm an independent and long been serving as an independent in congress, coming before the democratic caucus saying that within a few days he needed $700 billion or the entire world financial system would collapse. in my view, that means if you need the money, why don't you go to your friends and get the money. why don't you go to all your millionaire friends and billionaire friends an get some that have money and don't go to the middle class of this country al-hassan already been harmed. in fact we brought an amendment to the floor of the senate, one of the first amendments that i brought o.a.s. a senator, which suggested, which the amendment was that the top 2% should pay for the bailout, not the american people. it got defeated in a voice vote. so what goes on in wall street is that we have seen a tremendous concentration of
ownership there, another issue that we do not talk about. i know senator brown and senator kaufman and i worked on a proposal to try to break up these large financial institutions. i think we ghot 30-some-odd -- i think we got 30-some-odd votes on it. couldn't do it. what the american people should know now is that while we wailed out wall street because they were -- quote, unquote -- "too tboig fail, three oust four financial institutions all that were bailed out are now large today than they were before the bailout. incredibly, since the start of the financial crisis, wells fargo has grown 43% bigger, morgan chase has grown 51% bigger. can you imagine nah that? we bailed these guys out because they were too big to fail, now
three out of the four larger ones are much larger than they were. how did that happen? well, in 2008, bank of america, the largest commercial bank in this country, which received a $45 billion taxpayer bailout, purchased country-wide, the largest mortgage lender in this country and merrell lynch, the largest stock brokage firm in the country. that's how bank of america expanded. they were too big to fail. today, much bigger. in 2008, j.p. morgan chase, which received a $25 billion bailout from the bush treasury department and a $29 billion bridge loan from the federal reserve, acquired bear stearns and washington mutual, the largest savings and loan in the country. that's how j.p. morgan chair, a huge bank, became even bigger. in 2008, the treasury department
provided an $18 billion tax break to wells fargo to purchase wachovia, allowing that bank to control 11% of all bank deposits in this country. hear this, mr. president, because this is just quite unbelievable. when we try to understand what's going on in the economy today, the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, the middle class collapsing, today, after we bailed out all of these large banks, three out of four of them now much larger than they were before, and today bank of america, j.p. morgan chase, citigroup and wells fargo, the four largest financial institutions in this country, hold about $7.4 trillion in assets, and that is equal to over half of the nation's estimated total output last year. four financial institutions have
assets worth more than 52% of our total output last year. and instead of allowing them to -- instead of breaking these large institutions up, we let them get bigger. in fact, mr. president, according to simon chase -- simon johnson, i'm sorry, the former chief economist of the international monetary fund -- quote -- "as a result of the crisis in ver yaws government rescue effort bz, the largest six banks in our economy now have total set as in excess, he claims, of 63% of g.d.p." this is a significant increase from even 2006. when the same banks' assets were around 65% of g.d.p. downed what this is about? four financial institutions owning over half of the assets
of america. you talk about economic, you talk about political power. it is what we were talking b simon johnson continues. he said, "this is a complete transformation compared with the situation in the united states just 15 years ago when the largest six banks had combined assets of only about 17% of g.d.p." so today -- 15 years ago 17%. today four banks, he claims 64% of g.d.p. in other words, mr. president, of the last 15 years, the largest banks in this country are more than triple in size. now, mr. president, not only are too big to fail financial institutions bad for companies, the enormous concentration of ownership in the financial sector has led to higher bank
fees, usewerry interest rates on credit cards and fewer choices for consumers. what do you think happens when you have a few institutions, a handful of institutions, controlling mortgage lending or the ability of people -- where people get their credit cards? today, mr. president, these huge financial institutions have become so big that according to "the washington post," the four largest banks in america now issue one out of every two mortgages, two out of three credit cards, and hold $4 out of every $10 in bank deposits in the entire country. mr. president, if any of these financial institutions were to get into major trouble again, taxpayers would be on the hook for another substantial bailout, and we cannot allow that to happen. so the whole reason for the
bailout is that if any of these financial institutions collapse, it would take down a significant part of the economy and millions of jobs. we had to prop them up. we had to bail them out. and it turns out that since we bailed them out, these handful of financial institutions are now even larger than they were before, and we now know they are enjoying very unusual profits and they are paying their c.e.o.'s even more in compensation than they did before the breakdown. in my view, mr. president, if we are serious about understanding why the middle class is collapsing, if we are serious about really getting this economy moving again long term, we have got have the courage to do exactly what teddy roosevelt did back in the trust-busting
days and break these banks up. the point that roosevelt was making is that it is bad for the economy when a handful of entities control industry after industry. they have a stranglehold on the economy. you got to break them up. and yet i have heard very little discussion -- i know there was an amendment from sherrod brown and ted kaufman. i introduced legislation on this issue to start breaking them up. but, frankly, their lobbyists and their money are such that it becomes very difficult to do that. but that is exactly what we should be doing. the legislation that i introduced last year, s. 2746, the too-big-to-fail, too-big-to-exist act, would break up these large financial institutions. that legislation would require the secretary of treasury to identify every single financial
institution and insurance company in this country that is too big to fail within 90 days and after one year the secretary of the treasury would be required to break up these institutions so that their failure would not lead to the collapse of the u.s. or global economy. i think that that is pretty obvious. we passed a financial reform bill, which i supported, got a major provision in there asking for disclosure of the fed and an investigation of conflicts of interest at the fed. but overall, i, by no means, think that that legislation went anywhere near far u.n. i think it was a modest piece of legislation. i think that's an interest we've got to revisit. in my view, mr. president -- and i am worried very much about the future because i have the feeling in my stomach that that day is going to come around
again when these huge financial institutions are tottering and they're going to go running to washington and they're going to say, hey, you got to bail us out. in my view, if an notion is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. let us break them up. so that we do not have to go through another bailout of wall street. furthermore, i believe that when you have that kind of concentration of ownership, when you have four large financial institutions holding half the mortgages in this country, controlling two-thirds of the credit cards and amassing 40% of all deposits, this is not good for a competitive economy. we're supposed to be living in free market capitalism, real competition. this is not free market competition. this is a huge concentration of ownership where a few people have enormous power over the
economy and with their wealth, the political life of this country. no single financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of american jobs or to our nation's economic well-being. no single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could send the world's economy into crisis. we were there two years ago, and in many ways, despite the passage past financial reform bill, we are even more there now. the big, huge financial institutions that we bailed out are bigger, more huge today. and interestingly nurvetion on that issue, mr. president, it is not just progressives like myself that theeld view. there are some pretty conservative folks that are not as conserve:15.
his concentration of ownership in a few entities stharks a conservative proposition? not in terms of my understanding. i don't think so. you have at least three federal reserve bank presidents that support breaking up too-big-to-fail banks. james board, president and chief executive of the federal reserve bank of st. louis, kansas city fed president thomas n.honig, and dallas fed president richard w. fish fer. these guys don't have my political views. i am a proud progressive. my guess is they're conservatives. but anybody with an ounce of brains in your head understands that four large financial institutions that have assets that are more than half of the
g.d.p. of the united states of america places us, a, in a very dangerous position in terms of too big to fail and, it is -- and, b, it is just bad for a competitive commitment of is it any wonder why people are paying such high interest rates on their credit cards? that's because these guys issue two-thirds of the credit cards in america. is there any reason why they're issuing fraudulent mortgage packages to people, because there is not the kind of competition that should be there. this is not just bernie sandders' point of view. here's what kansas city fed president honig said. i think it was fairly recently -- last year. this is kansas city fed president honig. quote -- "i think they should be broken up. i think there's no reason, why as we've done in other instances of finding the right mechanism to break them into their components. and in doing so, i think you'll make the financial system itself
more stable. i think you will make it more competitive. and think you will have long-run benefits over our current system, which mixes it and therefore leaves the bailout in place." this is thomas honig, the head of the fed -- kansas city fed. a very simple statement. he's absolutely rievment he's absolutely right. but, and i'm going to get to the reason why in a little while, we've not been able to do this. we've not been able to do this because wall street sends their lobbyists down here in droves and wall street provides zillions of dollars in campaign contributions and wall street fights like the dickens to make sure that any strong provisions that some of us might bring up is defeated. here is what the president of the dallas fed, mr. fisher,
said. quote -- "based on my experience at the fed, the marginal costs of too-big-to-fail financial institutions easily dwarf their purported soarbled and macroecomonic benefits. the risk posed by coddling too-big-to-fail banks is simply too great. winston churchill said that 'in finance, everything that is greebl is unsound and everything that is sound is disagreeable." that's from churchill. and mr. fisher continues, "i think the greebl but sound thing to do regarding institutions that are too big to fail is to dismantle them over time into institutions that can be prudently managed and regulated across borders." "and this should be done before the next financial crisis because we now know it surely cannot be done in the middle of a crisis." end of quote. that's dallas fed president mr. fisher.
mr. president, they are already in the process of breaking up big banks in england. according to "the washington post," the british government announced tuesday -- that is, not this tuesday, this is way back last year -- the british government announced awhile back that it will break up parts of major financial institutions bailed out by taxpayers. the british government, spurred on by european regulators, is forcing the royal bank of scotland, lloyds banking group and northern rock to sell off parts of their operations. the europeans are calling for more and smaller banks to increase competition and eliminate the threat posed by banks so large that they must be regulated -- they must be rescued -- they must be rescued by taxpayers no matter how they conducted their business in order to avoid damaging the global financial system.
mr. president, very interesting development occurred on october 15 of last year. on october 15 -- and as i mentioned earlier, alan greenspan, who was the chairman of the fed before mr. bernanke, and i had our run-ins. mr. greenspan, along with mr. rubin and others, were the chief proponents, larry summers in there, were the chief proponents of deregulation of financial institutions and mr. greenspan and i had more than a few arguments. but on october 15 of last year, alan greenspan, who admitted that his views on deregulation were wrong -- and i give the man courage for at least admitting that he was wrong. did a heck of a lot of damage but at least he had the courage to admit that he was wrong. he was quoted on bloomberg news as saying -- and i quote -- "if they're too big to fail, they're too big. in 1911, we broke up standard
oil. so what happened? the individual parts became more valuable than the whole. maybe that's what we need to d do." alan greenspan. the architect of deregulation, citing the fact that in 1911, we broke up standard oil. so here you have greenspan, who helped cause this crisis, at least having the courage to understand that now is the time to begin breaking up these big financial institutions. heavy enormous power over our economy. they have enormous power over our political power. their lobbyists are all over this place. you can't walk down the hall without bumping into some of their lobbyists. we've got to start breaking them up and the american people have got to be prepared for a major fight to take on these huge financial institutions. mr. president, former fed
chairman paul volcker, who has advised the obama administration, supports breaking up big banks so that they no longer pose systemic risk to the entire economy. according to a recent article in "the new york times," volcker said -- and i quote -- "people say i'm old-fashioned and banks can no longer be separated from non-bank activity. that argument brought us to where we are today." end of quote, paul volcker. now, i couldn't agree more. that's what i'm talking about. you've got to start breaking up four financial institutions which led us into the economic disaster we're in right now that remain much too big to fail, that we're going to have to bail out again and again and again and that today have a stranglehold on our economy. "the new york times" said that under volcker's plan -- quote -- "j.p. morgan chase would have to give up the trading operations acquired from bear stearns; bank of america and merrill lynch would go back to being separate
companies; goldman sachs can no longer be a bank holding company." that's exactly what needs to be happening. the reality is -- and i come from a small state, we have community banks. here's the irony, mr. president. the banks in vermont, in the midst of all of this financial disaster, they did just fine. they are small, locally-owned banks. they know the people they lend money to. the c.e.o.'s are not making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. they know their community. they know what loans made sense. now, i may be old-fashioned, like mr. volcker, but i think that's what banking is about, to lend out money to people in the productive economy, the business community that can use the money to expand, create jobs, to homeowners that need that money to buy a home. not to be living in your own world, engaged in a huge
gambling i casino, producing and selling worthless products that nobody understands. the function of a bank is to be a middleman between people who need money and are producing real products and helping them get that money and people who are investing in the banks. it is not supposed to be an island unto itself. but in recent years, what we have seen, incredibly -- incredibly -- 40% of all profit in america went to the financial institutions. small number of people working there, relatively small. 40% of the profits. because they live in a world. it is a huge gambling casino. we need financial institutions to go back to the way banking used to be. and the job of banks is to provide affordable loans to the productive economy so that we
can produce real products, real goods and we can create real jobs when we do that. robert reich, president clinton's former labor secretary, has said -- quote -- "no important public interest is served by allowing giant banks to grow too big too fail. wall street banks should be split up and soon." we've got a lot of people -- some conservatives, some progressives -- are saying the same thing. if we're going to rebuild the middle class, the way to do that is, among other things, to change our disastrous trade policies, to make it clear to corporate america that they cannot continue to sell out the workers of this country by moving to china, other low-wage countries. and we also have got to have a much more competitive economy, one in which four large financial institutions do not own assets of more than half of
the g.d.p. of this country. and on that point, i find it very interesting that it's not just progressives like myself or robert reich, but you have some conservative bankers, people who are heading fed banks around this country who are saying pretty much the same thing. now, also, mr. president, when we talk about banks, i want to get back to a point that i raised earlier. this is an issue really i've been working on for years and years. and that is this issue of usury. and i mentioned earlier that if you read the religious tenets of the major religions throughout history, whether it's christianity, judaism, islam, and others, what you find is almost universal objection and disgust and a feeling of
immorality in items of usury. when we talked about usury in the united states, what we usually talked about were thugs, gangsters working on street corners who lent out money at outrageously high interest rates to workers, and when that money was not repaid back at the interest rates asked for, the thugs would beat the workers up. in fact, i'm thinking now about the first movie of "rocky." mr. president, i don't know if you saw the first movie of "rocky" with sylvester stallone. and before rocky became a successful fighter and the heavyweight champ of the world in the movie, that's what he w was -- big, tough guy and he beat up people who did not pay back the gangsters the high interest rates that they were asking. well, the world has changed. and now the people who are
committing usury are not the gangsters on street corners all over america, their place has been taken by the c.e.o.'s of wall street financial institutions. who are lending out money to desperate americans at 25% or 30% interest rates. that, my friends, is called usury, according to every religion on earth that is immoral. what you're doing is going up to people who are desperate, people who are hurting and you're saying, you desperately need money; we're going to give you money, but there's a string attached. you're going to be charged an outrageous amount of interest on that money. so here's the irony. peoplthe people who are hurtinge most pay the highest interest ray. the people who need the money the least -- interest rates. the people who need the money the least are paying the lowest interest rates. so the fed lent out billions and
billions of dollars to the largest financial institutions often at less than 1%. that's american taxpayer money. large corporations, less than 1%. but if you are a worker today and you're having hard times, maybe you're unemployed, you're going to pay 25% or 30% interest rates on your credit and sometimes more. you have this payday lending where people are paying outrageous sums of money. i think that's immoral. i think we have got to stop that. and it disturbs me very much that especially at a time when we bailed out these large financial institutions, that they are still able to charge our people 25% or 30%. people who bailed them out get hit the second time around by having to pay 25%, 30% interest rates.
and right now, it's not even 25% or 30%. as a matter of fact, the 10th largest credit card issuer in this country, an entity called premier bank, is now offering a credit card with a 79.9% interest rate and a $300 credit limit. what do we make of that? tenth largest credit card issuer in this country charging 79% interest rates, and we allow that to go on? these are crooks. these are no different than the gangsters who beat up people on street corners when they didn't get payment back, except now the gangsters are wearing three-piece suits and sitting in some fancy suite on wall street. mr. president, today, over one-quarter of all credit cardholders in this country are now paying interest rates above 20%, as i indicated, as high as
79%. mr. president, let's be clear, when credit card companies charge over 20% interest on credit cards, they are not engaged in the business of making credit available. what they are involved in is extortion and loan sharking, nothing essentially different than gangsters, except they dress a lot better. that's all it is. it's thievery and we tolerate it. and we bail them out. mr. president, it's interesting, in terms of these high interest rates, because for many, many years, we have had states, including the state of vermont, saying that you're not going to charge outrageously high interest rates. for example, between establishing a usury law is not a radical concept, which is what
we've got to move in. we've got to put a cap on interest rates. in fact, between 1978 and today, over 20 states in america had laws capping credit card interest rates. in alabama, the legal maximum rate of interest is 8%. in alaska, it's 10.5%. arizona, 10%. idaho, 12%. kansas, 15%. state of vermont, my own state, the legal maximum rate of interest is 12%. but what happened is all of those states interest cap rates disappeared under the 1978 u.s. supreme court decision known as the marquette case, which allows banks to charge whatever interest rates they wanted if they moved to a state without an interest rate, like south dakota or delaware. so all these companies moved to south dakota, they moved to delaware, no interest rates, and they charged the people in vermont or hawaii or any place else 25% or 30% interest rates.