Jobs & the Economy
JOBS AND THE ECONOMY: Investing in America
America faces challenging new realities in a changing world. The economy is faster, smarter, more competitive and more global. And our federal budget is upside down because too many in Congress are more focused on holding onto problems for political gain than solving them. Balancing the budget over time requires sensible tax policy and smart cuts. At the same time, our economic future depends on making smart investments. Below are three investments priorities so that we can compete in the 21st Century:
Invest in our Infrastructure
Our parents, Republicans and Democrats, made the national public investments that made our country an economic engine: A national system of highways, railways, and bridges; a power transmission grid; a network of phone lines for communications. We need to make the same investments today – rebuilding our roads and bridges, making our power grid smarter and more efficient, and supporting new means of communication for all Americans, through broadband and wireless.
A local illustration is at the Port of San Diego, where I served as a Port Commissioner. We provide maritime jobs that pay $10,000 more annually than the average San Diego job. But one of our biggest challenges in growing that job base is our limited connection to the national highways and rail system. We don’t have the ability to fund those connections by ourselves; but with a national strategy for ports, we could identify and make the investments that will help us increase trade and efficiency. That could put a lot of San Diegans back to work right away.
Invest in our Children
The economy, especially in San Diego, runs on brainpower. If we don’t educate our children, our nation won’t be able to compete. We need to make sure our K-12 education system is preparing our kids for college and ensure that any student who qualifies and wants to go to college can afford to do so. For those who do not choose a four-year degree, we must work toward establishing our community colleges as centers for job training and placement.
America has always stood behind middle-class kids who want to get an education and make a living. I know because I was one of those kids. My family could not have afforded college for me and my three sisters on the minister’s salary my father earned. We got help from financial aid, including loans and work-study. So did thousands of other kids, as well as veterans who had the GI Bill.
It’s harder for students and families today than when I went to college 30 years ago. Since then, the cost of a public college education has gone up 350%, adjusted for inflation. At the same time, the federal government has been cutting back on Pell Grants and other financial aid. That’s backwards. As a member of Congress, I've fought to ensure that every student has the opportunity I had to get an education and to get ahead. Investing in our children and their education is the only way for us to compete in this global economy and to give our kids a shot at the American Dream.
Invest in Research
San Diego knows the transformative economic power of scientific research. The wireless technologies invented here spawned QUALCOMM, our largest private employer, created thousands of high-wage jobs and changed the way the world communicates. Similarly, SPAWAR supports jobs and investment in basic research for military applications – the kind of research that led to the development of the internet and GPS. And every day on Torrey Pines Mesa, researchers at Salk, Scripps Research, Sanford Burnham, UCSD, and elsewhere use grants from the National Institutes of Health to find cures to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. These scientific investments have transformed our world and raised the quality of life for millions; equally important, they've also created good-paying jobs for San Diegans.
In fact, according to a recent study, high technology, which includes bio tech and life sciences, accounted for an economic impact of $41.5 billion and nearly 139,000 jobs last year – about 11.2% of the region’s total workforce. Notably, the average wage in this sector is about $94,000, 86% more than the region’s average salary. These industries are critical to our local economy, and San Diego deserves a representative who recognizes the importance of ensuring that they continue to thrive.
But Congress is backsliding on these investments. Scientific research funding is not keeping pace with inflation, and is even being cut. Disappointingly, the funding budgeted for research is increasingly allocated to serve politics or bureaucracy, and not to support the most rigorous and promising scientific advances. At a recent visit to the Salk Institute, I heard that our best students – those looking at a career and future in the sciences – are wondering whether science in America is the best bet for them. Because other countries are committing to scientific investment in an aggressive way, we face the prospect that the next Google or Qualcomm could be created by a UCSD graduate ... in China or England rather than San Diego, or California.
In Congress, I'm fighting for adequate and consistent funding for scientific research. Investing in research is one of the best ways we can drive American competitiveness and job creation.
Reform our Tax Code and Balance the Budget
Finally, we must reform the nation’s tax code so American companies are encouraged to create jobs in America. We should work to incentivize companies that build and expand here at home, rather than abroad. And we must immediately end subsidies to oil companies that are among the most profitable companies ever. The fact that oil companies are subsidized by the taxpayers while making record profits – and while middle-class Americans are struggling – makes absolutely no sense. Keeping the earnings and jobs created by American companies at home and ending subsidies will help get us back on the road toward a balanced budget. We must balance the budget, but we've got to do it the right way. And it shouldn't be on the backs of seniors and the middle class.