Jobs and the Economy
Minnesotans believe in hard work, fair play, and personal responsibility. We believe that no matter where you come from, if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams, give the gift of education to your children, and have security in your later years.
My grandpa was a miner, working 1,500 feet underground in the iron ore mines in Ely. He didn't graduate from high school, but he and my grandma saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad and his brother to college. My dad went on to be a sportswriter and a newspaper columnist. My mom was a second-grade teacher who was teaching a classroom of thirty second graders at age 70. I grew up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood, and I knew I'd always have to work hard to get where I wanted to go.
In the past few decades, greed on Wall Street and government decisions that favored those at the top have made it harder and harder for families and small businesses to get ahead. As I travel throughout Minnesota, I hear too often about how the American Dream no longer seems to be within reach for many working families.
Too many hard-working Minnesotans now struggle to make ends meet - squeezed by unemployment, rising health care costs, soaring home mortgage payments, escalating gas prices, mounting bills for child care and college tuition - and, increasingly, the care of an aging loved one.
I'm committed to working for economic policies that benefit all Americans. This means having a laser focus on jobs, affordable health care, homegrown energy, and a federal budget that pays our way rather than piling up debt for future generations.
As the Senate Chair of the Joint Economic Committee and a member of the President's Export Council, I have been pushing for a Competitive Agenda for America. The truth is, America can no longer afford to be a country that simply churns money and shuffles paper on Wall Street - a country that consumes, imports, and spends its way to huge trade deficits. We need to be a country that thinks, that invents, that makes stuff, and that exports to the world. Minnesota has always been a national leader in innovation and now more than ever innovation will be the key to moving our economy forward.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Advancing a Competitive Agenda that promotes long-term economic growth and private sector jobs. As the Senate Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, the first hearing we convened focused on examining ways to move the economy forward by strengthening the fundamentals that lead to sustained economic growth. I believe these efforts must begin with a return to the economic principles that made America great in the first place - fundamentals like science, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation. This must also include a commitment to education and updating and enhancing our current policies and programs to focus on training the next generation of workers to compete in a global economy. Second, we must increase our emphasis on exports, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. Third, we need incentives to develop our own homegrown energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Fourth, we need to responsibly address our nation's looming debt crisis. Finally, we need to cut red tape to spur private sector growth.
- Revitalizing America's innovative edge. Innovation has always been a powerful force in the American economy, and this is particularly true in Minnesota, which brought the world everything from the pacemaker to the Post-it Note. But in a recent study of 40 industrialized nations, the U.S. came in last place for its efforts to improve on areas like innovation capacity and internal competitiveness. For this reason I have made innovation the centerpiece of my work in Washington, pushing for a stronger commitment to federal and private sector research and development.
- Educating the next generation of American innovators. In a comparison of 30 industrialized countries, American students rank 25th for math and 21st for science. Our young people are our next generation of innovators, the people we are counting on to lead the way on everything from uncovering cures for chronic diseases to developing new forms of renewable energy. That is why we need to improve our education system, increasing our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in our schools so we can train the scientists, engineers, tech entrepreneurs, and global leaders of tomorrow in classrooms today.
- Opening up new markets abroad for U.S. producers. For far too long, the United States has imported substantially more than we have exported. Ninety-five percent of the world's potential customers live outside of the United States, and yet less than one percent of American businesses reach those customers. It is more important than ever that we ensure that our businesses and farmers, small and large, are able to capitalize on potential opportunities in overseas markets, thereby increasing revenues, creating jobs, and driving economic growth. Exporting is literally a world of opportunity.
- Bringing fiscal responsibility to Washington. During these difficult economic times, families across the nation have huddled around the kitchen table making tough choices about their household budget. The American people expect their leaders to do the same. Washington has to get its priorities right and start living within its means. We must address our nation's long-term fiscal imbalances so that we can finally get our federal deficit and debt under control. I believe there are ways to take action to help middle-class families and build a stronger, more prosperous America while still being fiscally responsible.
- Cutting Red Tape. We need a regulatory framework that sparks - rather than stifles - innovation. Economic growth doesn't begin with rulemaking in Washington - it begins in the private sector. One area where this is particularly important is in our medical device industry. Every year, medical devices contribute an estimated $25 billion to our nation's economy, and are responsible for over 420,000 jobs. In Minnesota alone, we have over 400 medical device practices that support over 50,000 jobs in the state. The United States has always been a leader in medical technology, but today many devices are debuting in Europe months or years before they are on the U.S. market. Approval times for medical devices have slowed dramatically, while poor communication and a lack of transparency have complicated the process. It is critical that we not allow regulatory burdens to get in the way of delivering lifesaving products to the patients who need them.
Another example of an area where we need regulatory improvements is tourism. Minnesota is a diverse state that has an abundance of travel and vacation opportunities. Tourism is the fifth largest industry in our state, generating $11 billion in sales and providing nearly 11 percent of the state's total private sector employment. However, since 9/11, our nation's share of the international travel market has declined more than 16%. This has cost our country nearly 78 million visitors, $606 billion in lost spending, $37 billion in lost tax revenue, and an alarming 467,000 lost jobs. Part of the problem is visa wait times. A recent survey found that 73% of respondents said they would not visit the U.S. if they knew it would take two to three months to get a visa. But that's exactly how long it takes for some applicants. We can and must do better to promote tourism and boost local economies in communities throughout Minnesota and across the country.
- Providing incentives for homegrown energy. Homegrown energy production can reduce our dependence on foreign oil while bringing jobs to our rural communities. A recent study showed that while overall jobs in Minnesota grew by 1.9 percent in the last 10 years, jobs related to the new energy economy grew by 11.9 percent. Similarly, Minnesota's Department of Agriculture has found that Minnesota's homegrown biofuels industry contributes $3 billion to our state's economy. In order to expand our homegrown energy technologies and supplies, it is important for investors to have a stable, reliable set of economic guidelines, and I will keep fighting to put the right incentives in place.
- Improving our immigration system. Comprehensive immigration reform is a key part of moving our economy forward. I supported immigration reform in 2007 and I know that our system is in need of fixing. I believe a comprehensive immigration plan should include an accountable pathway to earned citizenship, enforcement of existing laws, border security, and reforms to our visa system.
- Supporting our small businesses. The success of Minnesota's small businesses is vital to the success of Minnesota's overall economy. Minnesota's 120,000 small businesses account for more than half of the state's private-sector employment, and their job growth rate exceeds that of large businesses. Small businesses are engines of job creation. Nationally, they were responsible for an estimated 64 percent of net new jobs during the past 15 years. Small businesses have led our economy out of past recessions, and we need them to do it again.
- Protecting Main Street. In the time since the financial crisis began, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, and retirement savings. It is simply not enough to say we have stabilized banks on Wall Street when we know that families on Main Street are still struggling. We must ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place to protect our economy and bring accountability back to our financial system.
- Make health care more affordable. Families and businesses are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of health care. Health care premiums more than doubled from 1999 to 2008. In March 2010 Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This legislation focuses specifically on strong cost reforms, protections against insurance company abuses, comprehensive Medicare coverage, and debt reduction. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicates that the bill will extend the solvency of Medicare by nine years. The bill also includes provisions that can begin to rein in costs and reward quality care through the use of a Minnesota-model value index.
- Rebuilding our nation's infrastructure. The collapse of the I-35W bridge was a tragic reminder that we have failed to maintain the roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure that keeps our citizens safe and our economy strong. According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 25 percent of the nation's 600,000 bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 22 percent of transit buses and 32 percent of transit rail cars are "over-age." Traffic congestion alone costs our country billions. Americans spend 5.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost to the economy of $121 billion or $818 per motorist. We need a 21st-century infrastructure network for our 21st-century economy, including safe bridges, modern highways, forward-looking public transportation, expanded use of technology, and integrated planning decisions.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've been working hard to move our economy forward while standing up for middle-class families:
Addressing the burdens middle-class families are facing. In my first year in the Senate, we passed the first minimum-wage increase in a decade. Americans earning the minimum wage saw their hourly wages increase from $5.85 an hour to $7.25 an hour. Since the passage of this historic legislation, I have fought for policies aimed at putting more money in the pockets of working Minnesotans. That is why I support legislation that would once again raise the minimum wage. Lifting the minimum wage is part of the solution to get the economy back on track for the middle class and at the same time giving businesses customers with more money in their pockets. If we're going to build a strong middle class, we need to make sure that Americans can work their way into it. I also sponsored the Middle Class Opportunity Act, which would increase tax credits for child and dependent care and help families pay for higher education and support for aging parents. I also supported the Making Work Pay Tax Credit in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which cuts federal income taxes for 95% of working families. Given the difficult economic times, I have continued to support measures to provide unemployment benefits to help Minnesotans endure the economic downturn and make ends meet. I've supported the President's American Jobs Act because I believe it is a sensible, targeted proposal to help working families. This bill is fully paid for and many of its major provisions received strong bipartisan support in the past. Late last year, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Under this bipartisan agreement, middle class families will have the security of knowing that their income tax rates will stay low permanently. The bill ensures income taxes will stay low for 98% of all Americans and enhancements to the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Tax Credit for Higher Education will be preserved. It also provides permanent tax relief for middle class families from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Without this fix, over 25 million middle class taxpayers would have paid higher taxes in 2012. I will continue to work to enact legislation that supports middle-class families and provides them with greater opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
- Strengthening America's ability to compete in the global economy. I've introduced the bipartisan Innovate America Act that would cut red tape to help businesses utilize research and development for new products, target successful education programs, double the number of U.S. high schools focused on science, technology, engineering and math, and promote U.S. exports in new markets to strengthen America's ability to innovate and compete in the global economy. This legislation can help create a new wave of invention, entrepreneurship, and exports in the short term, while laying the education foundation to secure America's standing in the global economy in the long term.
- Reforming our immigration system. I supported immigration reform in 2007 and I am working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes an accountable pathway to earned citizenship, enforcement of existing laws, border security, and reforms to our visa system. Part of this reform effort includes provisions from my legislation, the bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act, that makes changes to the visa system to help companies grow and ensure the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs get their start in America, no matter where they are born.
- Modernizing our nation's patent system. I helped lead the effort to overhaul our nation's outdated patent system. The Commerce Department estimates that up to 75% of economic growth in our nation since World War II is due to technological innovation - innovation that was supported and protected by our patent system. That's why I worked so hard to get the America Invents Act passed through the Senate and signed into law in September 2011. This law will improve operations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the quality of patents that are issued, and offer productive alternatives to costly and complex litigation. Before the America Invents Act became law, our patent system had not been seriously updated since 1952, which led to a backlog of over 700,000 patent applications and low-quality patents - potentially delaying groundbreaking innovations from coming to the market.
- Putting Main Street ahead of Wall Street. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 that cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and nest eggs, I fought for comprehensive reform in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This bill contains a number of provisions designed to protect consumers and restore transparency. Those measures include efforts to monitor and address systemic risk, increase accountability at financial firms, and reform the complex derivatives markets. To shield consumers from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, the bill creates an independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The final bill also included two amendments I co-authored to protect homebuyers from predatory lending practices, and to preserve the Federal Reserve's authority to supervise community banks to ensure that the institution charged with our nation's monetary policy has a connection to Main Street - not just Wall Street. I believe it is time for Wall Street to start operating by the same rules as the rest of us. The Wall Street reform bill is a critical step in making sure that happens, and will go a long way in strengthening our economy and ensuring that taxpayers are never again on the hook for bad bets on Wall Street.
- Emphasizing "Made in America." I've traveled across our state to showcase how Minnesota businesses are creating jobs and winning in the global marketplace. These businesses and their workers are leading the way to show that "Made in America" means more than just a catch phrase. It's an emblem of quality and value - and it means real jobs. To help support "Made in America" manufacturing and services, I've pushed the Defense Department to ensure that domestically-produced armor steel plates are used to make U.S. military vehicles.
- Addressing our nation's long-term deficit and debt challenges. In January 2010 I worked with a group 14 senators to set up the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility - a commission tasked with reining in the nation's debt. Many of the ideas that came out of that commission are now the foundation for our debt reduction discussions today. I was also a sponsor of the McCaskill-Sessions amendment to establish a discretionary spending cap for Fiscal Years 2010 through 2014. This was the foundation for the work we have done to reduce the debt by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, 70% of which have come from spending cuts. I also voted for even further deficit reduction by supporting the Senate Budget Resolution earlier this year. The Senate budget includes an equal mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from closing loopholes and ending wasteful spending in the tax code, and reduces the deficit by almost $2 trillion over the next 10 years. In the coming months, I will continue to push for legislation that promotes sound tax policy, eliminates unsustainable spending, and puts in place a long-term plan to responsibly reduce the deficit with a balanced approach.
- Promoting domestic energy production. I successfully included legislation in the 2008 Farm Bill to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by providing incentives for U.S. farmers to grow the next generation of biofuel crops. I have also introduced the Securing America's Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies (SAFEST) Act to establish strong renewable energy and energy-efficiency standards, incentives for developing biofuels and biofuel infrastructure, and targets for the availability of advanced vehicle technologies.
- Strengthening our nation's infrastructure. In 2011 I introduced the Rebuild America Jobs Act that would make critical investments in infrastructure projects across the country and establish a national infrastructure bank to provide public-private financing for transportation, water, and energy projects. In July 2012 I supported the bipartisan surface transportation bill that was enacted into law and sends millions of dollars each year back to Minnesota to improve roads, bridges, transit and railways. In that bill, I successfully included four important amendments in the Surface Transportation reauthorization bill passed into law. First, the bill included an amendment I offered with Senator Roberts of Kansas to fully restore the Agriculture Hours-of-Service exemption across the full food and farm supply chain, making it easier for farmers to transport goods and get products to market during the critical planting and harvesting seasons. Second, I worked with a bipartisan group of senators to secure the continuation of the Recreational Trails Program, which helps maintain recreational trails for snowmobilers and outdoor enthusiasts in Minnesota and across the country. Third, I successfully included a provision to establish best practices to highlight cost-effective roadway safety infrastructure improvements on high-risk rural roads to help save lives. Finally, the bill included my provision to give local officials in rural communities greater input in making transportation planning and spending decisions. I will continue to work to strengthen our nation's infrastructure and ensure our competitiveness in the 21st-century global economy.
- Securing funding to replace the I-35W bridge. In the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse in August 2007 - one of Minnesota's worst tragedies in recent history - I worked with other members of the Minnesota delegation to swiftly secure more than $250 million to build a new bridge that opened ahead-of-schedule in September 2008.
- Advancing the St. Croix River bridge project. In early 2012 Congress passed and the President signed into law my bill to allow the St. Croix bridge project to move forward after 30 years of delay. My bill will allow Minnesota and Wisconsin to begin the process of building a new bridge to replace the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge and also includes important mitigation efforts to protect the St. Croix River. The bipartisan legislation was cosponsored by Senators Herb Kohl, Al Franken, and Ron Johnson in the Senate and Representatives Michelle Bachmann, Ron Kind, Chip Cravaack, and Sean Duffy in the House. It was also supported by both Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
- Promoting tourism in America. As chair of the bipartisan Tourism Caucus, I was a leader in passing the Travel Promotion Act of 2010 into law. This bill will attract help attract an estimated 1.6 million new international visitors and add $4 billion to the U.S. economy each year, at no cost to taxpayers. I've also authored bipartisan legislation to address visa delay problem head on. The International Tourism Facilitation Act, which I introduced with Republican Senator Roy Blunt, offers solutions for streamlining the visa process without compromising the security of our borders or our people. I've also authored bipartisan legislation to address visa delay problem head on. The International Tourism Facilitation Act, which I introduced with Republican Senator Roy Blunt, offers solutions for streamlining the visa process without compromising the security of our borders or our people.
- Providing our small businesses the tools they need to succeed. I supported the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, which became law in March 2010. This legislation helps small businesses by allowing broader deductions to increase their ability to invest in the future growth of their businesses, and provides tax credits to help them hire workers as they grow. I have continued to support measures that will help private businesses grow, including extending bonus deprecation for 2013 which would allow businesses to immediately write-off the cost of investments in new property and equipment. I have cosponsored legislation to provide small businesses with much needed access to capital by extending and enhancing proven Small Business Administration lending programs such as the 7(a) and 504 Loan programs. I authored the bipartisan Export Promotion Act, which was included in the Small Business Jobs bill of 2010, to help small- and medium-sized business promote their products overseas. I also helped lead the successful fight to repeal the burdensome 1099 reporting requirement that would have impacted 40 million American businesses. In March 2012 I supported legislation passed by Congress to help small businesses access critical capital they need to grow and create jobs in their communities. I also voted for legislation that made the estate tax permanent, exempting over 99% of all small businesses and farmers from the estate tax. Small businesses on Main Street also deserve a level playing field to compete on. That is why I am cosponsoring legislation that would give states the option to require out-of-state businesses, including online retailers, to collect sales taxes they are already owed. During the Senate Budget debate, there was overwhelming bipartisan support for an amendment to ensure marketplace fairness by allowing States to enforce state and local uses tax laws. I will continue supporting getting rid of tax loopholes in our tax code that hurt our brick-and-mortar stores and work to get this important legislation across the finish line.
- Reducing regulatory burdens on our business and farmers. I've authored the bipartisan Medical Technology Regulatory Improvement Act to help streamline the Food and Drug Administration's regulation of medical devices without compromising public safety. I have also worked to cut red tape restricting growth in our tourism sector. And I introduced the Representation for Farmers Act to ensure that American farmers are represented in the decision-making process for environmental policies and regulations that would affect U.S. agriculture. I successfully pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to curb unnecessary and burdensome dust regulations that would have stifled our agriculture industry and hurt rural economies. As a result of my efforts, in October 2011 the EPA announced that it would not tighten control on dust particles on farms and in rural communities. I also worked to prevent new Department of Labor regulations that failed to take into account the realities of life in rural America, and could have unfairly hindered participation in 4H or the Future Farmers of America.
- Helping homeowners impacted by the housing crisis. I am committed to stabilizing the housing market and keeping responsible homeowners in their homes. During Wall Street Reform, I authored an amendment that was signed into law that that prevents predatory lending by banning mortgage originators from accepting compensation by placing a consumer in a higher interest rate loan or a loan with less favorable terms. In 2011, I supported legislation to reform the rules loan servicers must follow when dealing with homeowners who are seeking modifications to their mortgages. This bill would require banks and other mortgage servicers to create a single point of contact for borrowers and to provide an independent, third-party review before sending a family to foreclosure. I believe these steps would ease the burden and stress for homeowners trying to work through the process of staying in their homes.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. Almost 10 million seniors today need some type of long-term care. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our elderly in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal caregivers - more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. On the Joint Economic Committee, I have taken the lead on this critical issue. I've introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act, which would establish a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member and would help expand programs to provide education, guidance and support to people taking care of loved ones with long-term care needs.
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