"Rebuilding the Middle Class: What Washington Can Learn from Iowa” PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Monday, 30 January 2012 15:35

Statement of Senator Harkin (D-IA)

At the HELP Committee Field Hearing:

“Rebuilding the Middle Class: What Washington Can Learn from Iowa”

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Thank you all for being here today. Last May, this Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, held the first in a series of hearings to examine the state of America’s middle class. In addition, last summer, my state staff visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties to hear directly from middle class Iowans.

“As these events have made clear, our once-great middle class has been severely shaken. A strong America is built on a strong middle class, which means good jobs, steadily improving wages and benefits, economic security in our golden years, and hope for the future. Yet today, more and more people are struggling just to make ends meet. Their jobs are insecure, their savings and pensions have shrunk, and they are profoundly worried about the future. At the same time, income and wealth inequality are at extremes not seen since immediately before the Great Depression.

“For this reason, it is clear to me that the foremost economic challenge we face today is fostering the recovery of our middle class. I was very pleased to hear President Obama echo this view in his State of the Union address and during his recent visit to Cedar Rapids. As the President made clear, the basic bargain that built the middle class – if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be able to get ahead and give your children a better life – has broken down for too many people.

“For this reason, I am pleased to be here at the Blong Technology Center today to learn about how the Quad Cities is confronting these challenges head on. The Quad Cities, and eastern Iowa more broadly, have experienced tremendous economic changes in recent decades. In response, communities have pursued smart, creative economic development strategies to attract businesses that will grow their middle class. I hope to learn more today about the public-private partnerships, like those at Eastern Iowa Community College, that bring together local government, education and job-training programs, workers, and private-sector employers to create good jobs in the community.

“I also look forward to hearing more about the role that manufacturing has played in your local economy. This community knows very well that much of our manufacturing base has been sent overseas, while improvements in technology have made it possible for companies to produce more and more with fewer and fewer employees.

“Manufacturing, however, remains vitally important to this region. Indeed, as a nation, we cannot rebuild our economy and our middle class without rebuilding our manufacturing base. Washington needs to hear from communities like yours, those that are preserving and growing their manufacturing sectors, about how to encourage companies to keep and create good manufacturing jobs here in America.

“Last June, I invited Amanda Greubel, from just up the road in DeWitt, to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in Washington. Amanda, who, I’m pleased to say, is able to join us again today, said this to the Committee: ‘I hold out great hope that this is not the end of this discussion, that you will return to your offices and your states and you will continue to ask everyday Americans like me what they really need.’ Well, Amanda, that is why we are here today – and that is why, in the year ahead, this Committee intends to continue to put rebuilding the middle class at the center of its agenda. We will hold hearings in Washington to give a voice to hard-working middle class Americans, and we will champion legislation that will strengthen our economy, create jobs, and help middle class families.

“Simply put: there can be no real economic recovery without the recovery of the middle class. I look forward to hearing from our panels today about how we can move forward aggressively on this front.

“The middle class is the backbone of this country and it is time that Congress showed the backbone to not only defend it, but grow it.”

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