April 2, 2010

Betty Sutton, populist

For anyone in Ohio's 13th Congressional District who may be wondering why Betty Sutton joined the Populist Caucus instead of the Progressive Caucus, here are her only recorded speeches on the subject, delivered on the floor of the U.S. House. This might clear things up a little bit.

Or not.

Congressional Record, House of Representatives, 3/31/2009
Mr. BRALEY of Iowa. And with that, I'm going to yield to my good friend from Ohio, Betty Sutton, who's been a strong advocate for middle class values, for populist messages and for the working trade group. And I would like you to share with us some of the reasons why you decided to join the Populist Caucus, and where you see this adventure going in the future.
Ms. SUTTON. Well, I thank my friend. And I too want to just extend our appreciation for your vision in organizing, not only this evening and all that we're here to do by way of introducing the Populist Caucus, but for forming the caucus in the first instance, because it is so critical that the people across this country know that their voices matter. And we are going to be a part of expressing those voices within the halls of this Congress, putting a face on the statistics that we so often rely on here. And sometimes it kind of gets away from some that those statistics actually refer to people and to families and what is happening to them.

So I am very, very proud to be a member of the Populist Caucus and to be a part of bringing Members together who believe in investing in the middle class as well as in those who aspire to being middle class, because we know that that is what is vital for the strength of America.

As a caucus, we are committed to restoring, as my friend from New York has said and as you have said, Mr. Chairman, the core middle class values that made this country great, and we are committed to ensuring that our government's policies are in line with those values. A vibrant, growing middle class has been the hallmark of the strength of this country. It was the middle class that built this great Nation. A strong America depends on a strong middle class. Without a strong middle class, our country does not achieve as much as we all know it is worthy of. The middle class is the heart of this Nation. It is the engine that drives productivity.

Reflecting back on my youth, I grew up in a blue-collar community in Ohio, a community by the name of Barberton. I was the youngest of six kids -- the proud daughter of a man who worked in a boilermaker factory. My mom worked at the city library. Because of their hard work, our family of eight had a good chance; we had food on the table, and we had the promise of the middle class before us and of all the opportunity that it delivered, and we took advantage of it, but that was a time when people could depend upon a good job. Oftentimes, those good jobs were manufacturing jobs, and you could rely upon them and sometimes work, as my dad did, in the same place for many years.

Now it is much more difficult. With health care costs rising, with insurance not available to all, with pensions a little shaky out there, to say the least, and with many things that we, as young people, had the benefit of that are now at risk in this country, the promise of the middle class is slipping away from far too many. After 8 years of failed Bush policies, the middle class, frankly, and the country have been sorely hit.

They pushed through economic policies that benefited the wealthy and the well-connected. It is not just that. They did so at the expense of the rest of us. They allowed the banks and Wall Street to have seats at the table, often leaving working families left outside. They watched as millions lost their jobs, lost their health care, lost their homes, and sadly, lost their dreams.

The national unemployment rate has risen to a staggering 8.1 percent. In Ohio, it is at 9.4 percent. These are statistics that I'm talking about, but attached to those statistics are families, families who are going without even though all they want is a chance to make a living. They don't want things handed to them. They just want to have the opportunity in this great country to have a job where they can go to work, and they want to provide the things that we all had the great benefit of having as young people. The economic recession continues to challenge the resolve of the middle class as they strive to pay for life's basic necessities.

Now, here with this caucus and with our colleagues in this Congress, we are called on to chart a new path, one that is in line with the needs of the middle class, one that is in line with the hopes and the dreams of those who aspire to get there. That is the reason I was proud to join this caucus -- to help find the road back to middle class values and to ensure that that dream becomes a reality again.

The needs of the middle class have been ignored for far too long, and it just has to end. We, the members of the Populist Caucus, will focus on the policies, as you have laid out here, that strengthen and improve the lives of American families, not policies that leave them behind. We must make the promise of the middle class in the 21st century what it once was -- the moral and economic backbone of our Nation.

I think that the comments that you and Representative Arcuri have made, Representative Braley, are so on point, because, when we talk about the moral and economic backbone of our Nation, frankly, nothing reflects that any more than the budget. So your points about the budget, about what is contained in the budget and about the honesty of the budget are all critical to our government operating in a way that is worthy of the people whom we represent.

With that, I will yield back.

And almost exactly one year later, she mentioned the Populist Caucus again.

Congressional Record, House of Representatives, 3/2/2010
Mr. BRALEY of Iowa. Now, one of the things that we know is that it is very common for politicians and groups across the political spectrum to try to claim the populist mantle. But let me tell you, and I am going to let my colleagues expand on this, the Populist Caucus that we all came together to found was not based upon a bunch of people running through the streets with torches and pitchforks asking for blood. We are there because the problems of the middle class are real. The concerns of our constituents reflect the concerns of America, and we want to come together and talk about serious answers to real problems to help change the lives of middle class Americans.

So with that, I am going to yield to my colleague from Ohio before I yield to my colleague from Wisconsin to talk about some of the critical economic issues she is hearing about from her constituents and why this Populist Caucus response is so critical moving forward.

Ms. SUTTON. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and for your strong leadership of the Populist Caucus and the mission that we are on to restore the promise of the middle class, to stand up for the middle class, and to stand up for those who aspire to the middle class, to make our country work for those folks who are aspiring to the middle class.

We are not something that is complicated. The Populist Caucus believes that strong, immediate action must be taken to create jobs in the United States and to put an end to the excessive greed of Wall Street that brought us to the brink of disaster. And so I am proud to join with you, Representative Braley and Representative Kagen, to stand up and speak to the American people about the fight we are waging on their behalf because that's what being a populist is really about.

When I go home, as when you go home, I hear all about the need to facilitate employment opportunity for the people that I represent in northeast Ohio. All they want is a government that will work with them and for them, to facilitate those jobs, jobs, jobs that are so needed out there. We have heard recently that there is a recovery underway, and there are some signs of recovery, and we have certainly seen a lot of signs of recovery on Wall Street, but there can be no such thing as a jobless recovery, and we have started to hear that term bounced about.

The Populist Caucus is here to say that there is no recovery if our folks don't have jobs, because this is not just about a country that stands up for the well-to-do. This is the People's House. This body is about making sure people have opportunity, ordinary people have opportunity. And what we will discuss, and when we look back a little bit, it becomes apparent that the economy, even before the excesses of Wall Street came to their full fruition, even before the economy was not working for ordinary Americans, we saw a decade of flat wages in this country while we continued to see skyrocketing health care costs. We saw the GDP rise, and we saw productivity rise in this country, but the American people who were doing the work were not sharing in the prosperity.

So we look forward to developing policies -- and that's what the blueprint is all about -- that will help deliver sustainable, quality jobs for the American people that will fairly compensate them and put an end to the excessive and disparate compensation that those at the top of the food chain have been taking for far too many years at the expense of everyone else.

And so with that, I yield back to the gentleman. And I thank you again for your leadership; it's been stellar on this subject. I look forward to the mission ahead.

[[[ intervening record removed for clarity ]]]
Mr. BRALEY of Iowa. One of the cornerstones of our blueprint for recovery that deals with job creation is a bill introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and cosponsored by one of the vice chairs of the Populist Caucus, our friend from Minnesota, Keith Ellison, the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act.

What it does is it creates an opportunity to take advantage of existing infrastructure needs by identifying about 47,500 jobs and $6.2 billion of potential economic activity that are currently ready, willing, and able to be acted upon, but because we have not had the opportunity to marry private development with public infrastructure projects, we are missing an opportunity to stimulate job growth through this National Infrastructure Bank.

So I would ask my colleagues who support investments in infrastructure improvements that cross the spectrum from expanding access to energy created by wind in the Midwest, by building out our ability to transfer that energy and electricity throughout the country, by building out our world broadband, by investing in roads, bridges, and public improvements, how this type of an investment development bank would make a difference in their districts.

I am going to yield to my friend from Ohio.

Ms. SUTTON. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Infrastructure creates such ripple effects in our economy and spurs economic development and opportunity for the people that we represent. Every time I go home, people beg, Please, please, invest in our Nation's infrastructure. We know that the need is tremendous.

One of the bills, in addition to the National Infrastructure Bank bill, which I think we should talk about more, but you mentioned Representative DeFazio's bill, the bill entitled Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act. I think this is also a bill that deals with infrastructure, because when we get the money from those transaction fees of those risky trades that are something that we would really like to have cut back on, we are going to use it to invest in infrastructure and all the good that goes with it.

But we also have in that bill, and I think it is important to tell people, that part of the revenue that would come in in addition to that huge amount going to invest in Main Street, you know, Main Street, after all, is who bailed out Wall Street, and we didn't do it because we were fans of their behavior. We did it so they would start lending. As we discussed, they didn't start lending, so we need to continue to push until things are right. But also in that bill, there is a part of the revenues raised that are going to go to deficit reduction. So we often hear this argument that it is all about the deficit.

Well, it is about jobs and the deficit. In order to get rid of the deficit, people do have to have jobs. Frankly, obviously people need to have jobs, because this is the United States of America, and that is the American dream, having a job and raising your family and aspiring to a quality of life that is second to none across this country. So, in that bill, in addition to putting money into infrastructure, we also take a piece of that money and let Wall Street help to pay down some of the deficits that were created by helping Wall Street get out of the mess that they were in.

So, back to the other bill that you mentioned, which is critically important, and you asked how important it was back in Ohio, in my district. It just can't be overstated. Just yesterday, I received a whole list of infrastructure projects that are ready to go that need funding.

The thing about infrastructure is that we all know that it can't be ignored indefinitely, right? But oftentimes we come to a place where we don't address it until a crisis occurs. And that doesn't make any sense either. So if we can put people to work doing that work that we know has to be done and spur greater economic development and recovery, why wouldn't we do that?

This National Infrastructure Bank legislation is a critical component of taking the idea, the concept that we all know makes sense, and really maybe that is what the Populist Caucus represents more than anything; it is about the common sense. People know what we need to do for our country, to strengthen the middle class and put people to work rebuilding our infrastructure. Other countries are building their infrastructure. They are investing massively in their infrastructure, because they know the value that it creates beyond the jobs that are put forth just in doing the construction.

With that, I yield back to the gentleman.

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