Keep America Working: Restoring Jobs to Ensure American Prosperity

Good morning, and thank you so much, John, not only for that introduction, which is more generous than deserved, but because of the leadership that you are now providing through the Center, on behalf of issues that are critical to America’s long-term prosperity and values. So it is exciting for me to be here, the timing is absolutely impeccable, as is much of what the Center does these days, because we are scheduled to start a debate in the Senate that has been long planned and long delayed, over dealing with the European Union and their reaction to certain tax policies that we have attempted to implement over the years to try to provide some support to American manufacturers. And because the European Union has threatened to slap tariffs on a number of our goods unless we act, and in fact, the deadline for acting was March 1st, but we have some grace period, the administration, the Republican leadership, is now reluctantly having to come to the floor of the Senate on an issue that relates to jobs. They didn’t want to do it, they’d much rather talk about nearly anything else, but their hand has been forced, and so today we will be debating important tax policies that determine the direction that this administration, and the Republican leadership, intend to chart our course for America in.

At issue is whether we are willing to make the investments and, frankly, the mid-course corrections, to ensure that the strength of three words, “made in America,” continues to stand for something here at home and around the globe.

At issue is whether we are willing to make the investments and, frankly, the mid-course corrections, to ensure that the strength of three words, “made in America,” continues to stand for something here at home and around the globe. And this debate is not just about other countries, or even just about multinational corporations. The debate over something that sounds very Washington jargonesque, the FSC/ETI, is really about whether or not this administration has any economic policy, any strategy for sustaining and growing jobs, and any clue about what it takes to have a manufacturing sector in the 21st century.

Now it is my hope that as this debate proceeds, the Senate will raise questions about the lack of economic leadership on the part of this administration, and speak in depth about the hardships and challenges that American workers are facing. I believe that we have an opportunity, and I would invite the administration and my Republican colleagues to join with Democrats in seizing this opportunity in recognizing that team American needs both an offense and a defense. And if we can work together, we can begin to crawl out of this rather large hole that has been dug by this administration, with its fiscal policies and its lack of economic policies.

If you put this in context, it really even is more important than jobs. It’s a values issue. You know, for the last 100 years, we have slowly and steadily constructed a social compact. Our nation has built the foundation for our prosperity on the basis of that compact. And the compact was, really, rooted in the principles of the American dream, you know, if you do work hard, you do play by the rules, you do get a good education, you do have willingness to get ahead and sacrifice today to make life better for the next generation, you will be rewarded with a decent paying job that provides a standard of living that gives you a better chance at the American dream. And that, at least in the past, provided health care benefits and some kind of pension retirement security in addition to Social Security.

Now American workers, starting in the ’30s and ’40s, and increasingly in the ’50s and ’60s, really bought into that compact. And they not only invested their hard work, they invested their hopes as well. And likewise, our nation invested in these workers, it truly was a compact with mutual benefits. And when there were problems on the horizon of changing markets or changing technology, the public and the private sector retooled, invested, retrained workers, and asked the next generation to prepare for different jobs.

As a country, we both innovated and invested, and the compact continued, year after year, generation after generation. And we built a stable foundation on which the strongest economy the world has ever known was created. It is striking to me, when I hear my friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle talk about the importance of concentrating benefits for the wealthy. I am all for the wealthy, I think, especially since my husband started making money after his public career, it’s fine to be wealthy. In fact, I’m very proud of the fact that during the 1990s, with the greatest expansion of economic prosperity that our country or any country has ever known, we did create a lot of millionaires and multi-millionaires, but equally important, we lifted more people out of poverty, we put more people on the path to homeownership for the first time, we opened the doors of college to more first-generation college-going students, so it truly was a win-win. We created conditions that enabled so many Americans to keep advancing, to keep building on that compact, to look at it in different ways, to understand what they had to do in concert with their government in order to be successful.

Now today we face some new challenges and some old challenges. We know that we’ve had tough times in our country before, and we’ve had to change the way we were proceeding, we had to challenge both the public and the private sector to come up with new ideas. Many people talk about President Franklin Roosevelt’s great contribution, saving capitalism from itself. Others speak about the way that retooling for World War II and the defense industry not only helped to win a World War, but enabled the post-war years to start off on a strategy of success, based on that huge investment that was made. I remember as a young child in elementary school, having my teacher tell me that I had to study math and science, because President Eisenhower said we had to compete with the Russians, so we needed more scientists, and we needed more mathematicians, not that I could qualify on either front, but I took it very seriously and took my homework home and did it on the table in the kitchen.

And so there was always a sense that yes, we were facing new challenges that we would have to rise to those challenges. President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon was not just about space travel, it was also about aiming at the stars, literally, and making investments that would make us richer and safer at home as well as pursue this long dream of mankind. On and on, you can see how we responded at so many different points in our recent history. And the investments that we made had implications far beyond what they were immediately intended for. Yes, it is true that the United States government, through an agency called DARPA, in the Defense Department, created the Internet. And in doing so, spawned an industry and a mindset that has just literally taken over the world. We have, at very point in our history, risen to the challenges that we’ve confronted, in innovative ways, that called out the best in Americans.

“We have, at very point in our history, risen to the challenges that we’ve confronted, in innovative ways, that called out the best in Americans.”

What I regret deeply in the current climate, in this administration, is the air of fatalism, of defeatism, that I hear all too often. It is one thing to say outsourcing is a good thing, which I don’t agree with, and I believe Mr. Mancue was appropriately criticized for—it’s another thing to have no ideas, to come with no new strategies. The only idea—and I don’t think it can be called a strategy—that we’ve heard from this president is to create a position in the Department of Commerce, which has yet to be filled, so it was merely a line in a speech on Labor Day. It wasn’t an idea, it wasn’t a strategy, and it wasn’t even serious. So that idea that we’re not pulling everybody together, that team America is not on the field, ready to compete, with a good offense and a good defense, that I think is out of keeping with the history of how America has risen to economic challenges in the past.

Now we know that countries like China and India are creating jobs by the tens of millions, they’re improving their education system, they are joining the global economic community. I don’t think we can, in good conscience, fault them, or criticize them, or begrudge them the opportunity to put to work tens of millions of people who are, for the first time, making, by their standards, a living wage, are moving into a small but growing middle class, are sending children to school, are doing what we have done, and which we model so successfully. I don’t fault anyone for competing with us. I fault us for not being smart enough to know how to compete effectively, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Because I don’t think our country has an economic strategy. It certainly is very well hidden, if it exists anywhere. And yet we know we are in the midst of an American job crisis. Some have accepted that as inevitable. The unavoidable result of free trade, the unavoidable result of lower standards for labor or the environment, the inevitable result of what happens when others get access to technology that we may have innovated, but that certainly we can’t keep behind closed doors or throw up fences around our borders to prevent others from enjoying.

And the Bush administration’s answer to do nothing is worse than a failed policy, it really is no policy at all. So how could we, then, proceed? And how can we take these statistics that John spoke about, with the loss of jobs that we’ve experienced in the past three years, and begin to turn that around? I feel particularly strongly about this, because I represent the most dynamic, diverse state in our country. And we face every kind of economic challenge, and we’ve conquered every kind of economic challenge you can imagine. But we have lost 180,000 manufacturing jobs in the last several years, and we have severe losses in our upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Elmira and others. We saw Carrier, for whom the dome is named in Syracuse, pick up and decide to leave despite the fact that they were still profitable in Syracuse. And today’s record low levels of manufacturing employment, although there were some signs in just the last few days that maybe there’s a turnaround, but the decline has been so stark, coincides with our largest trade deficits ever recorded, and of course our largest budget deficits as well.

So while demand continues to rise for manufactured goods that are made by American companies, increasingly those products are being manufactured elsewhere. And the Bush administration’s fiscal policies actually exacerbate this problem. The fiscally reckless tax cuts are not only a cause of alarm because of our movement from budget surplus to budget deficit, but we are moving also to a projected $4 trillion increased debt, from a point in January, 2001 of a $5.6 trillion projected surplus. This matters. This is bad economic policy, as well as reckless fiscal policy. It will provide, inevitably, fewer resources for both public and private investments. It stands for an overall steady decline in America’s position in global markets. It makes us dependent on foreign lenders, and it is troubling that in just the last week, some of those foreign lenders, whom we are so dependent upon, have begun to signal that they might diversifying their portfolios, and no longer be such ready supporters of America’s debt.

If we look down the road, whether it is next year or two years from now, I think it is absolutely clear that we will see private capital crowded out of the capital markets because of the increasing need to feed the government debt. We will see interest rates rise, which we know has effects not only on private sector borrowing, but on consumer borrowing as well, and we will be on a path to even further economic decline and more difficult decisions before we can reverse our situation.

Now how do we address this? Well, we’re going to do several things. On April 27th, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate will jointly host a summit on manufacturing, similar to what my husband held after his election, before he took office as president, the Economic Summit in Little Rock, Arkansas, where I think not only did we get people from a broad cross-section of experience in the economy come together, but we actually helped to educate all of us about what the options really were. I think that is long overdue. We are getting very little good information out of this administration about what the consequences of their policies are for the average American and for the average American’s job. We will invite a range of leaders to this summit, and be able to discuss a variety of solutions that we hope can serve as a basis for debate in this upcoming election.

I also think there are some actions that we could take even now, and I care desperately about the outcome of the election in November, and believe that four more years of this administration would not be in the best interest of our country on many grounds, but I would like to see, for the sake of our country, some of these actions and these midcourse corrections taken.

“we need more support for innovation”

First, we need more support for innovation. We’ve got to extend the R&D tax credit, and we should do that in this debate that we are currently having on FSC/ETI. We also have to look at ways of consolidating, within our government, all of the ideas and strategies for the revival of manufacturing. We can’t keep all manufacturing, but there is a decent chance, that with the right policies, we can certainly keep more than we are losing and begin to stabilize our manufacturing base.

I mentioned DARPA, the Defense Research Agency that has been an incredible player in spawning new technologies and innovative ideas. We need a manufacturing research agency. We should be looking to make it a high profile entity, not just the one job that’s never been filled in the Commerce Department. It should be pursuing technology where risk and returns are very high, in order to seed the private sector such as DARPA has done for so many years. We want to make the manufacturing sector competitive, and we should be looking at technologies that could do this.

“this should be the new Manhattan Project, whether you call it the Vulcan Project, or the Apollo, or whatever we want to call it, it should be as important a commitment by our government as any issue you can imagine right now.”

One area that is going without adequate attention from this administration is what’s called “alternative energy,” what I like to call “smart energy.” There is no reason that the United States cannot and should not be the leader in smart energy technology. We have a lot of such technology already being worked on in upstate New York. I held a conference with a group called New Jobs for New York and Rochester two weeks ago, and we had a tremendous cross-section of both very large companies, like GM and Delphi, which are working on hydrogen and fuel cells, to very small companies that are building windmills to supply increasing amounts of energy, to localities that are using geothermal—this should be the new Manhattan Project, whether you call it the Vulcan Project, or the Apollo, or whatever we want to call it, it should be as important a commitment by our government as any issue you can imagine right now. Because the payoff would be tremendous. As we speak, both Japan and the European Union are making those investments in smart energy. Japan is going so far as to begin the construction of model hydrogen stations, so that even though we’re a long way from the fuel cell technology being commercially applicable for auto use, they want to be ready. And to invest more now in that kind of thinking and that kind of spin-off would pay great dividends.

Secondly, when you look at the kind of qualified workers that we need in the manufacturing sector, there is still a disconnect. A 1997 National Association of Manufacturers survey showed that 88% of American manufacturers experience a shortage of qualified workers in at least one category, while the full range of manufacturing industries, from the most labor intensive to the most technology intensive, experienced a significant increase in the skill requirements. So we still have this disconnect. We’ve been talking about this since 1973, we certainly focused on it during the Clinton Administration, but many of the programs that were put in place during that administration have either been phased out, or the funding has been decreased significantly. I think that’s a mistake.

Even in upstate New York, where we often lose qualified, educated workers to other parts of the country for job opportunities, you can go to any of our major manufacturing companies, as I do on a regular basis, they have jobs that are not being filled right now. So we’ve got to do a better job of connecting up our work force and their skills with the needs of our manufacturers.

One immediate change in training that I support is to expand the trade adjustment assistance program to address the needs, not only of manufacturing workers, but also of service workers, and then to better fund the trade adjustment assistance program. While the TAA provides retraining, income support, health insurance tax credits, and other benefits, it’s always been limited to workers who produce goods not services. And that made sense back in 1962 when it started. But now, when we are outsourcing call centers, and engineers, and software programmers, and even radiologists, we need to look more broadly at how we help the workers whose jobs are being outsourced get back on their feet and back into the job market.

We have talked for some time about a national skills corporation, and I still think this is an idea that has a lot of good, solid work behind it, that has not been adequately implemented. If we put all the job training under one roof, we would have a better chance of figuring out what we need, and responding to the changing requirements of the work force. In the State of the Union the president made reference to supporting community colleges, and I support that 100%. But the problem is his budget gave with one hand and took away with the other. He did follow through on what he said in the State of the Union, to give more money to community colleges, then he went and cut all the other programs that support community colleges, so there’s no net increase in the support going to community colleges, which remain the basic institutional entity that delivers job training, that works with the private sector, that provides the one- and two-year programs that fill employment needs in our regional economies.

It’s also clear that when you look at workers today, much of the dislocation is regionally located. And we can look, as John said, at the Midwest and the Northeast, in particular, and certain places in the south, South Carolina has suffered grievously in manufacturing job losses in the last several years. And I think we should try some more targeted assistance for those places that have suffered the most job loss. And I think it would be smart, because just as in the 19th and 20th century, places that were more prosperous, such as my state of New York and others, helped to irrigate fields, helped to electrify the rest of the country, now it is in the interest of the entire national economy not to have places so undercut by their economic losses that they cannot be productive contributors to the overall well-being of our nation’s economic future.

Similarly, when we look at what we could do, the tax and economic incentives that are on the table and will be debated in this FSC/ETI debate starting today, I think, could make a difference. For starters, we should create tax credits for jobs that are established here in the United States and kept here in the United States. There is no longer any debate that our current tax structure not only encourages American companies to invest and manufacture abroad, but to keep those profits abroad after they’ve made the goods. So that’s a triple bonus for foreign markets. They benefit from American technology know-how combined with U.S. investment, they then get new jobs crated at low cost, and then the foreign profits go back into foreign economies.

Now in this FSC/ETI debate, which stands for Foreign Sales Corporation Extra-territorial income, it sounds like a program on FX or somewhere. This debate should be not just about fixing the problem that the EU has caused us, but thinking ahead about how we can create a better climate for our corporations to manufacture here at home. We should be creating such incentives, which is why I support legislation proposed in the House by Charlie Rangel and in the Senate by Fritz Hollings, to provide all U.S. firms with a 10%, across-the-board corporate tax rate reduction on their production in the U.S. This could be a temporary measure until we figure out whether the changes we’re seeing in our economy are temporary or permanent. There’s a very good debate going on about that, and I commend it to you, I don’t know the answer. Is this just another development in an economy that will regenerate itself and produce new jobs, we don’t know exactly from where, but because we are the most open, entrepreneurial economy we can count on it happening? Or is it, as some argue, including my colleague Senator Schumer and others, that we’re in a new paradigm. That we’ve never had an economy where literally distance was so collapsed, where information was so ubiquitous, where everything is mobile, including labor if you look at labor as being international as opposed to local or regional.

I don’t know that we know the answer as to whether comparative advantage of classical economics is dead or just on life support, we don’t know that. But we do know that something is going on, and we should have some temporary measures to at least stabilize our economic situation until we have a better idea of what the best policies going forward might be.

Now a tax break for companies that creates jobs here should be balanced with closing loopholes that encourage companies to locate offshore to avoid American taxes. Now we’ve been talking about this, I think, my entire adult life. But let’s, once and for all, close these loopholes. We know that people who create a mailbox, or a drop, or send one person to sit on the beach in some island paradise and claim that it is their offshore headquarters know exactly what they’re doing. They’re playing the American economy, they are sucker-punching the American taxpayer, and they’re taking advantage of the customers and consumers that still provide the bulk of their profits. I think it’s wrong, and we need to end it. And this should be a non-partisan, let alone bipartisan issue, in order to do so, to tilt the scales back in favor of American companies creating jobs here.

Now, we also have to be honest about the extraordinary handicaps the American companies face, and let me just mention three major ones. Huge legacy costs, soaring health care costs, enormous pension liabilities, and it is hard to imagine a more difficult competitive environment for American manufacturing to find itself in. It’s like being in a pincer movement, in a military sense. On the one hand, you compete against companies from advanced economies like Canada, Europe, Japan that provide national health care, national pension systems, they don’t put the burden on the individual company’s bottom line. They do it through the tax system, which at least spreads that burden and doesn’t make it very difficult and, frankly, provide some perverse incentive for companies to try to shed employees’ family health benefits, change pension calculations and the like.

Now as we look at this pincer movement, though, we know the attractiveness of the other side, the low-wage economies that not only have low labor costs and less regulation, particularly environmental, and labor and health, and the like, but also don’t put those burdens for health and pension on anybody, including the government. So they are very low cost across the board.

American companies that continue to try to keep up with health care and pension costs find it increasingly difficult to do so. We are seeing now double-digit increases in health care, and we’re seeing the collapse of many of our pension systems that are basically being held aloft by a lot of accounting and prayers. We also know that for much of traditional manufacturing, the huge legacy costs actually led to bankruptcy. Now there are many issues around the American steel industry as to all of the costs that it acquired over decades, but the fact is that they didn’t really even have a chance to compete, because it’s not just the old, dinosaur steel companies that had problems, it was the new mini-mill companies that found themselves in difficulty as well.

So how do we deal with this? Well, we can deal with it in a patchwork, incremental fashion, but eventually we’re going to have to decide. We’re going to have to decide, are we going to provide a more level playing field for our manufacturers by figuring out a way to deal with those legacy costs which were, remember, built up because they thought they were doing the right thing for American workers and their families. Are we doing to figure out a more sensible way to deal with health care and pension costs? Or are we going to continue to try to shift those burdens so that more and more is put on the employee and the employer and we have no end in sight of the increase in cost.

It’s also clear that this set of issues is politically volatile, as I can attest from my efforts ten years ago. And perhaps, though, the time is slowly coming. We weren’t ready ten years ago, we didn’t really understand the full cost of what we were up against, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the implications of these policies for the economy, and there have to be some attempts to reach a consensus that begins to solve these problems before we lose even more jobs overseas.

There’s also a particular problem that I’m concerned about, and that is with the outsourcing of so much information about Americans to countries that have no privacy laws. Our efforts to try to protect vital, confidential information over the last several years, to guard against identity theft, for example, are really being undercut, because we are outsourcing so much of this information. Let me just give you two quick examples.

When you ask an accounting firm to do your income taxes, it’s increasingly likely, because the numbers have just skyrocketed astronomically, that both for corporations, and increasingly for individuals, those taxes may well be done by someone in another country. In fact the numbers for tax returns, starting at about 1,000 in 2001 that were done in India are now at 250,000 and growing. That information is being sent into an environment for which there are no established legal protections.

Similarly with medical information that is increasingly being outsourced. We saw an example of what this could mean last year when a woman in Pakistan, who’d been hired by a companies that had gotten the contract for a medical practice here in our country, was transcribing medical records, and in a dispute with her employer, threatened to put the medical records on the World Wide Web in order to extract the money that she either rightly or wrongly was owed. And in order to show how serious she was, she posted somebody’s medical information on the Web. There are no laws against her doing that in Pakistan.

Now, we have some protection in financial services, but we don’t have protections when it comes to accounting information, medical information, and I will be introducing an amendment that will try to plug that hole. Because it’s one thing for an American corporation to outsource a product. It’s something entirely different, in my view, to outsource the most confidential, personal information in order to make a higher profit, without any regard for how that information might be misused, because there are no legal impediments to doing so. I will mandate that medical institutions be held liable under U.S. privacy laws for the mishandling and lack of safety measure by a foreign subcontractor, and also, I’ll support similar measures for accounting information, to close these privacy law loopholes. And I hope that I’ll be able to get bipartisan support on that because I think, like all of you, this is a brave new world that none of us had foreseen.

Trade has been a hot topic in our nominating process, and I think it will be, and continue to remain a difficult issue in the political environment. And I think it should be an issue for debate, and it should be part of the political calculus that Americans take to the polls in November. Because it’s clear that many foreign governments and companies that they basically protect are using some very old methods to block their competition from American workers. Fixing exchange rates, dumping products, banning our goods on the slightest pretext is not the way we should be thinking about a global, free market. And I do believe it is fair, for many of us who are in favor of free trade, to say look, again, we want smart trade, and we want trade that has agreements that are enforceable, and that is not happening now. This administration has been woefully missing in action when it comes to enforcing trade agreements, and at least sending signals to a lot of our bilateral and multilateral trading partners that a lot of these tactics that they have used are no longer going to be tolerated. We have to have a concerted effort to send a message to the rest of the world: we are your biggest market; the entire global economy rests on the American consumer. Just think about it, it’s like an inverse triangle. You know, if the average American woman stopped buying, the entire global economy would fall apart. And therefore, we need to treat these people with the respect they deserve, for keeping the global economy moving under some very difficult circumstances. In order to do that, we need to send a signal to the rest of the world that we need to have fair and smart trading rules that are not only to the benefit in the short term to the United States, but in the long term, to the global economy as well.

I know how difficult it is to talk about currency exchange rates, but we are going to have an amendment in this FSC/ETI debate that will send a message to China in particular about its exchange rates. Now, maybe it’s absolutely clear they cannot move immediately to some kind of floating rate, they have all sorts of problems in their banking system, and we understand that, and it’s unlikely the administration would support such a move in any event. But it is fair to raise this as a public issue, and to put it squarely on the table for debate and discussion going forward. Because the laissez-faire attitude of this administration, from Greg Mankiw’s statements, to the failure of the USTR to enforce a lot of the existing agreements, send the wrong message. It also sends the wrong message that they repudiated what I thought was the trade agreement of the future, namely the Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Negotiated at the end of my husband’s administration, it served as a real model for what free trade agreements could look like going forward. It effectively required Jordan to enforce the five basic international labor standards enunciated by the International Labor Organization, the ILO. Instead, the Bush administration, because it happened in the Clinton administration, I guess, decided to repudiate that approach and adopt an enforce-your-own law approach instead. This standard for trade agreements with countries such as those in Central America that lack adequate labor laws, have no real infrastructure of institutional enforcement, and a terrible record of enforcement in any event means that there will be no real incentives for countries to raise their labor or environmental standards.

I think that’s a shame, because part of what the United States can do, through its huge market power, is encourage countries to adopt better laws, to put some money into enforcement, and to provide some of the technical assistance nations need in order to be successful doing so. But in fact, the administration ha talked a lot about technical assistance, and then cut the program for technical assistance in its budget. So once again, it throws sort of a sop to those of us who think we could do better by working with these nations to give them more support, to understand how to enforce labor and environmental standards, and then it cuts the budget to the office that is supposed to do that. So I think that sets up a back lash against trade which is not in anyone’s interest. It is something that we should be avoiding, not promoting. But it is going to occur, because the administration is playing neither offense nor defense and is leaving the field open to those who, understandably, are upset by what they see as this laissez-faire attitude towards outsourcing with no alternative, and with trade agreements that go to the lowest common denominator, instead of trying to create a post Cold War, 21st century framework for improving trade among nations.

So what we’ve got to do is figure out how to incorporate those core labor standards to include the right to collective bargaining, to prohibit slave labor, to establish minimum age requirements for labor and, I would argue, even for minimum wage standards, and then to create strong mechanisms for the enforcement.

Now, none of this will happen in a year, or two years, but we’re not even anywhere near the path that we need to be on to deal with the kinds of policies that could make a difference over time. And we have compounded our problem in this administration, because we are cutting funding for basic research that can make us richer in the future. We’re cutting basic and applied research at the Department of Defense, we’re cutting the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is a major investor in basic science. We’re cutting energy conservation research. We’re cutting agricultural research, and even transportation research, all of which have job components attached to them. When we eliminate these programs, when we cut these funds, there is no private sector alternative. What we have successfully done in the past is to seed that kind of investment, and we are, as a government, retreating from that field.

It is essential that we get back on the track, and I would argue not only to invest, even in this difficult economic climate, and to pay for those investments by postponing those tax cuts for the upper income, and being honest about our budgeting, which means including the costs, the real costs of Iraq and Afghanistan going forward and not keeping them off budget, but also thinking of some big signature projects that could go into this manufacturing research agency that I referenced before. I think we’ve missed a big bet, not completing broadband access in our entire country, making sure that the information highway was as ubiquitous as the interstate highway system or the railroad system of the 19th century. I have offered legislation to do that year after year, I’ve got bipartisan support, it’s not something that the administration thinks is the role of government to do. I think that is a mistake.

“When you look at the possibilities for future investments, in addition to energy, in addition to broadband, in addition to investing in our workers, in our skills, we know that there will be new technologies and entrepreneurial energy just blossoming if we provide support, incubation and other kinds of assistance to do that.”

Similarly, when you look at the possibilities for future investments, in addition to energy, in addition to broadband, in addition to investing in our workers, in our skills, we know that there will be new technologies and entrepreneurial energy just blossoming if we provide support, incubation and other kinds of assistance to do that. In the 1920s, when we were losing farms, and when the dustbowl was wiping away people’s livelihood and way of life, we created the Agricultural Extension Service. It provided an immense amount of help to farmers, to be able to get through tough times, and learn how to rotate crops, and deal with erosion, and many of the other fundamental issues that needed to be brought to them with technical help, because they didn’t know how to do it otherwise.

What I find with many small businesses, which are still the primary job creators in America, is that they are in a similar position. My husband’s foundation, the Clinton Foundation, in connection with Booz Allen in Harlem, has worked with a number of small businesses, and given them the technical assistance that large businesses take for granted and can go and buy in the marketplace. And as a result, they are increasing their productivity, they are adding employment. They didn’t really have the wherewithal to figure out how to get a Web site, how to expand their market through technology, how to have better inventory controls. This sounds like a small thing, but it is the kind of investment that can make a big difference in stabilizing the job base of small businesses.

Similarly, I worked with Ebay to put together a trading cooperative up in the Adirondacks to get the products that were produced by small businesses, one, two people, into the global marketplace. There are lots of ways we can be creative, not just through government programs, but through the private sector and the not-for-profit sector experimenting about what can be done to kind of get us through this period, and to have lessons learned about how we can be more productive. And not just productive, because one of the questions about productivity right now is whether increased productivity is actually one of the drivers of job losses. The more we increase productivity, we not only export those jobs, in terms of increased productivity, but we stabilize and even decrease employment. So how do we use productivity to actually produce more jobs, instead of either holding them stagnant or even decreasing them?

So there’s a lot that I think can be done, with the right attitude. And I end where I started, with attitude, with the feeling that somehow team America is not on the playing field, because we don’t have leadership that is really calling us to be as creative and competitive as possible. That has a fatalistic kind of attitude that has one-size-fits-all answers to every economic problem, which are huge tax cuts for wealthy people. And I never thought I’d be so well taken care of by President Bush in the post-Clinton years. But I think it’s a mistake, and it’s not likely to give the impetus to the job creation and investment that we need in order to look toward the future with the same confidence that we historically have had. It is just not the case that what makes America unique is that we have rich people. You can find rich people anywhere, literally, just pick a place, pick a continent. What has made America unique and so successful is the way we have invested in, and created, the vast American middle class, to which people aspired and from which people sprang. And that is what’s at risk today. And it’s as much about attitude as it is about stagnant wages, lost health care benefits, uncertain pensions.

If we ever believed in this country that we did not have a positive future awaiting us, that we could not, by dint of hard work, get ourselves into a better economic position than where we had started, we would undermine the very foundation of this nation. And what I hear from the administration is not hope, but fear. And it is something that is un-American. During the debate on climate change, that we finally got onto the floor thanks to Senators McCain and Lieberman, although we were only given three hours to debate climate change, I was struck by the pessimism and the fatalism from the other side. This was a problem that they either didn’t believe existed, or if it existed, would somehow fix itself at the appropriate time, somewhere in the future. That has never been America’s attitude. And when I was speaking on the floor that day, I said, you know, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. There are, I suppose, still a few people left somewhere who believe that climate change is not a problem, but the vast scientific established opinion is that it is, and we should go about dealing with it now. And guess what? We can make money and create jobs if we do. That’s the kind of can-do spirit that I was raised with, that I believe in. And it’s that loss of spirit, as much as the loss of jobs, that deeply troubles me.

So we have an opportunity, starting in this debate today, not only to pass amendments, and try to create some tax incentives and disincentives and protect privacy, and deal, at least in a rhetorical way, with currency exchange rates, and really get the debate about jobs on the national agenda, but we also have a chance to begin to reverse this sense of futility and fatalism that I don’t think belongs in the American political scene or in the American psyche.

We need to do better than that, we’re capable of doing better, we have the tools that we need, all we lack is the will. And once again we can not only make the American dream strong, but restore the strength to the words “made in America,” put the American team back on the field, demonstrate that we can out-compete anybody, and that we’re open for business for the 21st century. Thank you very much.

Center for American Progress