More than three years after the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, we are still in the midst of a jobs crisis. As I travel all across the Commonwealth, I meet people who have been looking for work for months or even years. I meet young people who played by the rules, worked hard in college, and are now drowning in debt and moving home with their parents because they can't find a job.
We have both a short-term jobs problem and a long-term jobs problem. Right now, we need to put people to work. Without a job and a paycheck, people can't spend money, and that hurts businesses and depresses the economy. There's also plenty of work to do - rebuilding our roads, bridges, and water systems, work as teachers' aides, work weatherizing our homes and offices. The Senate has considered jobs bills that would have supported thousands of jobs here in the Commonwealth, paid for entirely by a small increase in taxes on those making more than $1 million dollars per year. Every Republican voted against these jobs bills. That's just wrong. The people of Massachusetts need jobs and need them now.
In the longer term, we need to invest in our future. We need to work together to invest in the things that create the conditions for our people to prosper and our economy to grow. We need:
- A level playing field. Self-employed workers and small businesses, and the community banks and credit unions that fund them, are drowning in complicated regulations. Long, complex rules create loopholes that the big companies can take advantage of, but they leave little guys out in the cold. Instead of complex regulations that take an army of lawyers to work through, we need straightforward rules that any small business can deal with. One example comes from the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that I worked to create. Complicated mortgage forms push up costs for community banks and credit unions, but they don't help borrowers understand the terms of the deal. We created a short, streamlined form that will soon replace the old forms - a win for business and a win for consumers.
- Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. If we invest now in 21st century energy, over time we can lower the costs of production for all of our businesses. Right now, renewable energy is forced to compete with old, dirty energy sources like oil and coal that get billions in special breaks from Washington. Massachusetts can lead the world in using green technology and increasing energy efficiency, and the benefits will help make our products competitive around the world. Again, we could do this right here, right now - and create jobs here in Massachusetts.
- Education. Good public schools, good public universities, and good technical training can give us a workforce better than any in the world. Well-trained workers give us a powerful competitive advantage in world markets. Investments in our people pay the highest dividends.
- Roads, Water, and Other Infrastructure. We need to upgrade our aging roads, bridges, mass transit and rail, water and sewage lines, port infrastructure, broadband internet - the basic pieces it takes to manufacture goods and to get them to market. China spends 9% of its GDP on infrastructure, and Europe spends about 5% of GDP, while the US is spending 2.4% and looking for cuts. This is no way to build a competitive future. We could be making improvements right now - creating good jobs and investing in our future.
- Research. Massachusetts is a world leader in the research that produces new products and new industries - and creates the demand for new technical jobs, in addition to supporting non-technical jobs throughout the economy. Increasing our support for this kind of research helps Massachusetts and helps the country.
- Workers’ rights. We need to make it easier for workers who want to organize together to have that chance. If people want to organize for better wages, for better health care, and for better working conditions, they should have the right to do so.
- Free and Fair Trade. We need to strengthen trade laws-and we need to back up those laws with meaningful enforcement. We need to make sure that the countries we compete with also respect workers' rights and environmental rules so that US companies are playing on a level playing field. And we need to get tough on intellectual property theft and knockoffs.
I have tremendous respect for our small business owners. Every small business is different, and every small business owner faces his or her own unique challenges. By putting the big banks and big corporations ahead of small businesses, Washington makes it harder for our small businesses to succeed, thrive and grow. So what can we do?
- Jobs. There’s an old saying: “we all do better when we all do better.” We must start by putting Americans back to work. More Americans working means more customers for our small businesses, and more customers means more growth. That is why it is so important that we get people back to work right now. The three jobs bills introduced last fall that would have supported thousands of jobs here in the Commonwealth were also small business bills. When every Republican in the Senate voted against those bills, they also voted against every small business that needs more customers. We need to put people to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, upgrading our water systems, teaching our kids, and protecting our communities - earning paychecks and keeping Massachusetts growing.
- Simplifying Regulation. From Northampton to Gloucester, the small business owners I've met aren't looking for a special deal. They just want a level playing field - a fair shot at the chance to make it. I am glad Congress reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program last December, making funding more predictable to innovative small companies. But that's not enough. We need to streamline regulations so small business owners don't get tied up in red tape or strangled by hidden tricks and traps. We need to simplify the tax code, which is way too complicated - and rigged to create loopholes for big corporations with armies of lawyers to wiggle through. Washington works for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but we need for Washington to work for small businesses.
Research is our future. Massachusetts is a world leader in the research that produces new products and new industries - and creates the demand for new jobs at every stage. Research is the foundation for innovation and for economic growth. The breakthroughs of today - in science, technology, and engineering - lead to the success stories of tomorrow: discoveries that cure disease; innovations that reduce the cost of power; prosthetic limbs for wounded warriors.
The choice before us is whether we will invest in our future. Federal investment in R&D, as a percent of GDP, has plummeted over the last forty years. We need to invest in creating a Commonwealth and country that continue to lead the world in the research and innovations and that powers our economy across generations. Anything else is short-sighted.
Reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs was a good first step to keep up our research edge. But we must do more. We need to invest more in research, including in the National Institutes of Health. We need to support public education from Pre-K to technical training and universities. Twenty-first century innovations require an educated workforce, especially in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). We need to make it easier for entrepreneurs and start-ups to have lower capital costs, get their goods to market, and get their workers to their jobs by investing in fixing up our roads and bridges, extending mass transit and rail, updating water and sewage systems, and developing a 21st century power grid.
We need to make it easier for workers who want to organize to have the chance to do so. If people want to work together for better wages, for better health care, and for better working conditions, they should have the right to do so. I support the Employee Free Choice Act and workers' right to organize.
Unions have been critical to building a strong middle class in America. Unions have fought for higher wages, high quality health care, and improved safety conditions. Union labor are also some of the most highly skilled workers in the world - with advanced training that makes them competitive. I support a strong labor movement in the United States and around the world.
To grow our economy, we need to sell our products to the rest of the world. But we have to have a level playing field - strong trade laws and strong enforcement. That means labor and environmental standards. It means protecting our intellectual property rights by getting tough on the knock offs that undercut our ability to compete and, in the long run, cost us money and jobs. And it means putting pressure on foreign currency manipulation that artificially makes our goods less competitive. As a Senator, I will look hard at any trade agreement to determine how it would impact jobs here in Massachusetts.
Whenever I talk to people working in the fishing industry - whether in Gloucester, New Bedford, or Boston - I always hear the same thing: Our fishermen are hardworking, middle-class people who just want to get out there and fish. They work hard and play by the rules, and they want to come home, put food on their tables, and provide their children with opportunities - including the chance to carry on in the same family fishing traditions.
Fishermen face many challenges, but one of the biggest threats has come from the federal government. For years, fishermen have been hammered by unfair enforcement and unfair regulations.
Federal regulators need to do a better job of working with fishermen and scientists to achieve everyone's shared goals. That means having sustainable fishing stocks, but doing so in a way that doesn't drive fishermen out of business. As Senator, I'll listen to Massachusetts' fishermen, I'll stand with them, and I'll fight for them in Washington.
The United States should be a country that makes things. Massachusetts already has a solid manufacturing base, and combined with our advantage in innovation and research, I believe the Commonwealth is well-positioned to lead the country.
Manufacturers and businesses succeed when they have the basic building blocks to be competitive. To help our businesses, and especially our manufacturers succeed, we must ensure:
- an educated, highly skilled workforce
- investment in the research that will create future breakthroughs
- affordable and reliable energy sources to power facilities
- a tax and regulatory environment that supports research and development
- efficient roads, bridges, and port infrastructure to get goods to market
As a Senator, I'll work hard to ensure that we make things here in Massachusetts and that we lead the country in bringing manufacturing back to America. We need to stop providing tax incentives that send jobs and manufacturing overseas, and when possible, the federal government should buy American when it invests in public infrastructure and construction projects.
A budget is about finance and economics, but it is also about values.
At a time when the federal debt is more than $15 trillion, we need to be smart about the budget and about where and how to cut. Our budget should reflect our values and our commitment to creating a better future for our children and grandchildren. At a time when some big companies are paying nothing in taxes and when profitable industries like oil and gas are getting special breaks, it is shameful that Washington would ask seniors to live on less or tell young people they have to take on more debt for school. Those are not decisions that reflect our values.
Budgeting for our future means making smart cuts and smart investments. We need to cut the tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and the loopholes for hedge fund managers. We need to go back to Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. As we wind down two wars, we can make cuts in our defense budget - smart, targeted cuts that preserve our national security. We should get rid of the giveaways in Medicare that prevent negotiating lower drug prices. And we should improve efficiency throughout government by getting tough on fraudulent and abusive practices and by cutting wasteful spending.