Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael C. CamuÑez
Market Access and Compliance
White House Community Action Summit on Jobs and the Economy
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Las Cruces, New Mexico
As prepared for delivery.
Good afternoon, buenas tardes, and thank you for your warm welcome.
Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who helped organize this important event, especially NMSU for hosting us today. I understand you all have had a great day of dialogue and brainstorming, and now it’s time to take that energy and put into action….
I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be here with you today. I was born and raised here in Las Cruces—I attended Mesilla Park Elementary School and Zia Junior High School. My family goes back several generations here in the Mesilla Valley, which is a place to which I still feel very connected. It was here that I learned the values that continue to guide me today.
Although we are living in an age of texting and tweeting, of talking heads and the 24 hour news cycle, I firmly believe that the most effective way for us to make progress as a nation is to bring people together in a room — face-to-face — to exchange ideas.
That’s the way we do things here in Las Cruces—face-to-face—with a handshake and a friendly smile. This is a place where you remember people’s names, know their families, and where a person’s reputation is everything.
That’s why I look out at this room with an overwhelming sense of optimism that all of you—the Latino community, business, and government leaders—will turn the discussions you had today into meaningful action tomorrow—action that will create jobs and put Americans back to work, which can’t come a minute too soon.
The recession that all Americans face has hit the Latino community especially hard. The unemployment rate among Latinos is 11.3%—far higher than the national rate. A Pew study recently found that, from 2005 to 2009, the median net worth of Latino households fell a shocking 66 percent, the most of any group.
But you and I don’t need reports or statistics to understand the challenges before us. That’s because we see them every day in the struggles that face our friends, our families, and our communities. And I assure you that President Obama sees and understands these challenges as well.
I know that because, since his first day in office, the President has taken a number of important steps, many of them politically unpopular, to pull the United States out of this global recession and create jobs. I had the privilege of a lifetime to serve the President in the White House for the first two years of this Administration. And I can tell you I have seen up close how hard the President has worked—and continues to work—to improve the economy and create jobs for our communities.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S ECONOMIC RECORD
Before I talk about what the President is doing now, let me just say a quick word about where we’ve been—about the economic world we inherited and have since been fighting to improve. On day one, the Obama Administration took charge of an economy in absolute free fall. We were shedding about 700,000 jobs a month. That’s equivalent to seven cities the size of Las Cruces. We have short memories in this nation, but it’s important to remember that the President inherited an economy that lost some eight million jobs since the start of the recession in 2007.
The President took decisive action. With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the President shored up the bottom line of America’s cities and states so that teachers and policemen could keep their jobs. The so-called federal stimulus created or saved over three million American jobs—preventing what might well have been a full blown economic depression had he not taken such decisive steps.
Through it all, the President has never lost sight of those Americans hit the hardest—middle-class and working class Americans and, in particular, Latinos. That’s why the President has fought so hard, time and again, to ensure that the government is doing its part to make health care affordable and accessible to those who need it most; that’s why the President has insisted that we invest significantly in education to make sure our children get the preparation they need and deserve to be able to compete in a fierce new world, where the competition is no longer between Las Cruces High and Mayfield High, but with students attending leading math and science academies in Shanghai, Jakarta, Cape Town and Singapore.
And that’s why the President has kept his eye so closely on the things government can do to stimulate job growth. For example, this Administration has passed 17 different tax cuts for small businesses, which employ countless Latinos and middle-class Americans of all backgrounds. That is the largest temporary investment incentive for manufacturers in the history of the United States. And we’re starting to see the results: after twelve consecutive years of manufactuing job losses, for the first time in 2010 the economy created more than 200,000 new manufacturing jobs. We have had 19 consecutive months of private sector job growth, which has created more than 2.6 million jobs in the last year and a half.
The disappointing news is that that growth hasn’t been as fast as any of us would have liked, and as a result, unemployment hasn’t fallen as fast as we’d hoped nor has the housing market recovered as quickly.
And even as families and businesses have worked to recover, we’ve been hit by some headwinds that have slowed things down, including rising oil prices and financial troubles in Europe.
Americans are frustrated at the pace of recovery and at the ongoing high rates of unemployment. And trust me, so is the President. That’s why he has never stopped proposing new ideas to get the economy moving again. That’s why he’s fighting so hard for the American Jobs Act.
THE AMERICAN JOBS ACT
The American Jobs Act is the President’s plan to get the economy moving again. The President’s plan is designed to do several things:
- First, it will encourage companies, especially small businesses, to hire people and expand payrolls by slashing the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses, benefitting roughly 160 million U.S. workers next year—25 million of which are Latino. 40,000 New Mexico small businesses will benefit. The Act will also eliminate the payroll tax for firms that increase their payrolls by adding new employees or increase the wages of their current workers—which will help 250,000 Latino-owned small businesses. It will also make reforms to improve access to capital for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
- Second, the President’s plan will provide aid to help states and cities avoid laying of teachers, firefighters and cops. The plan will prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs. It will also help modernize some 35,000 public schools and put thousands of construction workers back to work building and repairing essential transportation and other projects.
- Third, the President’s plan will help put the long-term unemployed back to work by making the most innovative reforms to unemployment insurance in 40 years. The plan will also extend unemployment insurance, preventing 5 million Americans from losing their benefits—1.1 million of which are Latinos and their families.
- Finally, the Jobs Act will put money in the pockets of working New Mexicans by cutting employee payroll taxes in half next year. In New Mexico, the median house hold income is $44,000. Based on this number, the Jobs Act represents a $1,360 tax cut here next year.
In effect, the American Jobs Act gives the economy a lift by putting a little wind under the sails of American businesses and consumers, thereby starting the virtuous cycle by which more disposable income leads to greater consumer demand, which in turn leads to more jobs as businesses hire to meet that demand, which in turn drives economic growth. That will mean more money in New Mexican’s pockets and those of Latinos across the United States.
I want to highlight one other aspect of the American Jobs Act that I think is especially important, not just for New Mexico, but for the long-term wellbeing of our nation. And that’s the emphasis it puts on investing in our nation’s infrastructure. Infrastructure is one of those bureaucratic words that makes some peoples’ eyes gloss over. But it’s the backbone of our economy. It’s what enables businesses to move goods and services efficiently, not just in this country but throughout the world. And it’s essential to our international competitiveness, especially today when companies rely on international supply chains and products worldwide. It’s simple: if we can’t move our goods and people efficiently and reliably, we just can’t compete. And if we can’t compete, we can’t grow our economy and put our people to work.
The President’s plan calls for investing substantially in building our roads, railways and airports. It calls for the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank that will leverage public and private resources to invest in the most critical infrastructure projects that will ensure U.S. competitiveness in the long run. Imagine if our parents and grand parents had not had the discipline to invest in building the roads, highways, seaports and airports that have enabled us to enjoy so much prosperity. That infrastructure is now crumbling. You know it; you see it. You experience it every day.
So the American Jobs Act and the President’s agenda is not just about fixing a short term problem, but finding long-term solutions that will put Americans back to work.
Independent economists have said that the American Jobs Act would grow the economy and lead to nearly two million jobs, which is why the American people support these bipartisan, common-sense proposals.
Importantly, the President has put forward a clear plan to pay for his Jobs Act, so that it won’t add to our long-term deficit problems.
As you all know, a majority of the United States Senate recently voted to advance the American Jobs Act. But, even though this bill contains the kind of proposals Republicans have supported in the past, not a single Republican voted for the bill. Instead, they voted to obstruct it. And as a result, the American Jobs Act has not advanced in Congress.
But that is by no means the end of this fight.
The President is now working to make sure that the individual proposals in this jobs bill get a vote as soon as possible. And as you’ve seen in recent days, the President is submitting the Act, piece by piece, and continues to make the strong case for why these measures are needed. I want to assure you that whatever obstruction we may face, the Obama Administration will keep fighting for the help you need. We will keep fighting to put Americans back to work.
EXPORTS AND TRADE IS KEY TO U.S. LONG-TERM JOB CREATION
I want to tell you about one other thing that the President is doing to put Americans back to work, which relates directly to my role in the Administration. And that’s ensuring that our industries are competitive in the international market place.
Although it’s difficult for some to acknowledge, the world we are living in has changed profoundly. Gone are the days when we could rely exclusively on US domestic supply and demand to drive the engine of our economy. Instead, today we find ourselves in the midst of intensely fierce global competition. There have been tectonic shifts that have realigned the international economic order, and the United States cannot afford to be caught asleep at the wheel. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that almost 90 percent of world economic growth over the next five years will take place outside of the United States. Ninety five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. Some 2 billion new people will join the consuming class in the next two decades. New international actors, like China, India, Brazil, Turkey, and others emerging economies, are now playing a big part in shaping international economic policy.
I see this in my travels. In my role as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, I have the privilege and responsibility for traveling the globe, working with our international trading partners, trying to figure out how to make the US more competitive in these emerging international markets. I see with my own eyes the powerful changes that are occurring. I see other economies making disciplined and difficult choices to invest in their people, in their infrastructure, and in their industries to ensure their place in the new global economy. And I realize why it’s so important to heed the President’s call to engage vigorously in this competition to win the future.
The strength of the U.S. private sector depends, in significant part, upon a vibrant global marketplace. Last year alone, the United States exported nearly $2 trillion worth of goods and services, which supported an estimated 9.2 million jobs. And these jobs, on average, pay up to 15% more than the typical wage in America. But notwithstanding these new international realities, only one percent of our companies export. And exports makes up a small percentage of our national income--just 12.5% of our GDP, as compared to, say, over 30% of China’s economy and 44% of Germany’s.
So as we invest in America and the American people along the lines the President has called for, we also have to up our game in the international marketplace. That’s why President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI) in his 2010 State of the Union Address. The NEI sets the goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014, which will support millions of U.S. jobs. In addition to doubling down on our trade promotion efforts, a key part of the NEI is increasing our access to foreign markets through free trade agreements.
The United States has the most open market in the world. With few exceptions, foreign goods and services have nearly unrestricted access to the US market, and that has brought many good things, including lower prices, to American consumers. But we have to fight to ensure that our products and services have equally open access to foreign markets overseas. And we have to make sure that when our companies invest and do business abroad, they are treated fairly so they can compete on a level playing field. That’s what our trade agreements do. They knock down trade barriers for our companies, create protections for our companies and workers, and give us a rules-based framework to enforce our interests overseas. And the record is very clear: these agreements work. In an era of record trade deficits, most Americans don’t realize that we actually have a trade surplus—including in manufactured goods—with our free trade partners if you set aside our imports of foreign oil, which we are still overly dependent upon.
That’s why the President was so committed to negotiating and passing the three agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. The President signed those three agreements into law on Friday, which was a major victory for both the Administration and the American worker. The three agreements combined will increase U.S. GDP by $12 billion and support tens of thousands of new American jobs.
I am proud of my office’s role in that victory. To borrow the President’s words, “If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see people in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys”. And that’s really what it comes down to: we simply have got to “see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words: ‘Made in America’”. These FTAs will play a major role in achieving that goal. And so will our existing agreements and existing partnerships, like with Mexico—a $400 billion trade relationship that has grown 29% this year alone. I am proud to be here celebrating the critical role our relationship with Mexico plays in driving economic growth.
We know government can’t solve all the problems facing our country. What we can do is help lay a foundation for growth and then create smart incentives for businesses in Las Cruces and around America to build something special on top of that foundation.
But we won’t get there without growth, and that’s why the American Jobs Act is so important.
It’s how we help create more jobs.
It’s how we help business grow.
It’s how we ensure that American workers and American businesses compete and win in the global economy.
We can’t do any of that without your help. That’s why I’m here today: to listen to your concerns and your ideas, which I will carry back with me to Washington where we will transform them into action to enhance U.S. economic competitiveness.
I hope that bringing you together in this way will also serve to generate the energy and momentum needed to help all of you to work together to create jobs in Las Cruces and, in particular, the Latino community.
We’re asking for your help in getting America back to work.
I know it’s easy to get frustrated. I know it’s easy to give in to cynicism.
But we can’t let that happen, not when our country needs us. So, my friends, join us in the effort to put America back on track. Keep doing your part, like you are today, to bring your ideas, your passion and yes, even your coraje, to hold us and all of your representatives accountable for keeping America strong. Keep the faith y sigue adelante.
Thank you all.
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