Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
White House Hispanic Community Action Summit
Friday, December 2, 2011
As prepared for delivery
Good afternoon and thank you for that warm welcome. It’s great to be back in my home state of Florida with all of you today.
My deep thanks to Jose Rico for that kind introduction and for his leadership of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
I also want to thank Dr. Eduardo Padrón, President of Miami Dade College for hosting us today, and for his extraordinary commitment to giving young people from all communities the best possible start in life.
Also allow me to recognize my colleagues from the Administration who are participating today. They are doing such great work on behalf of the American people.
Since these White House Hispanic forums began in the summer, I have had the pleasure and privilege of participating in a number of them. I’ve enjoyed these meetings. I’ve appreciated the input and perspectives I’ve received from those that I’ve met. And, I’m glad to be a part of today’s discussion.
I know everyone is into Skype or FaceTime. But, I’m old school. I still believe that the most effective way to make progress is to bring people together in a room, face-to-face, to exchange ideas. And, that’s what’s happened today.
We in the Administration want to hear from you. We want to have candid discussions about your concerns, your ideas and how you think we can help.
Today’s Summit provided a chance for us to have real conversations about what the community is facing and where we go from here.
People are hurting. Families are struggling. And, all of us recognize that these difficult economic times didn’t start overnight and they won’t end overnight.
As we all remember, our economy was stuck in a ditch when the President took office in 2009. 800,000 jobs were being lost a month. It seemed as if every day brought news of another crisis in banking, in housing or on Wall Street.
But, thanks to the President’s leadership, we are no longer on the brink. The United States has had 21 straight months of private sector growth. And, just this morning, it was announced that the U.S. added another 120,000 jobs in November.
But, the road to recovery is not finished. There is still a long way to go. And, the sad reality is that the Latino community has farther to go than most. The Latino unemployment rate is still significantly higher than the national rate. And, Pew recently found that — from 2005 to 2009 — the median net worth of Latino households fell 66 percent — the most of any group.
And, the ripple effects of these troubles are wide and deep. I know that throughout the day you’ve had a robust discussion about issues like education, immigration, health care and housing.
And, we can’t solve many of these challenges without solving the economic crisis. How can a young person compete if they can’t afford a computer in the digital age? How can a family thrive if facing foreclosure?
No person can ever achieve the benefits of full citizenship when denied economic opportunity. Unfortunately, right now, we see so many of our family members, friends and neighbors struggling.
And, President Obama sees them as well. That’s why he has placed job creation at the top of his agenda. Three months ago, as part of this agenda, he unveiled the American Jobs Act.
In fact, I remember very clearly when he released his plan. The next day I was in Orlando as part of another White House Hispanic Community Action Summit.
And, I remember explaining how it was a group of proposals that independent economists say would create 2 million jobs at a time when so many people need work.
I remember talking about how these proposals were supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the past.
I remember talking about how it won’t add a nickel to the deficit and how it would have an immediate economic impact.
I remember talking about the 1.1 million Latinos and their families that would benefit from the extension of unemployment insurance, and the 250,000 Latino-owned small businesses that would receive tax cut benefits.
And, I remember talking with people about:
- the $1.6 billion that would be invested in Florida’s highway and transit infrastructure that could support more than 20,000 jobs;
- the $1400 in tax relief that Florida’s middle class families would receive;
- And the 26,000 teachers in this state who would keep their jobs, in part, because of the American Jobs Act.
Now, what I don’t remember is Congress passing this common sense plan to put people back to work. That’s because they didn’t. Months later. Here we are. And, no American Jobs Act.
What happened? Well, there was a certain group of U.S. Senators who blocked it.
It’s quite incredible, considering that roughly two-thirds of the American people supported the American Jobs Act. Unfortunately, I can’t say this was a shock. There were some who opposed the bill before it was even unveiled.
At a time when so many are hurting, this simply isn’t right. As President Obama often says — this whole debate shouldn’t be about who wins and loses politically in Washington DC.
The real focus should be about delivering a win for the American people. And, the American people need jobs.
They deserve action from their government. They deserve results.
Unfortunately, with the American Jobs Act stalled in the legislative process, the American people aren’t getting those results. Just last night, the Senate rejected an extension of the payroll tax cut that is going to expire at the end of the month.
The bill would have not only extended the $1,000 tax cut for a typical family, but expanded that tax cut to put an extra $1,500 in their pockets next year, and provided millions of small business-owners with new incentives to expand and hire.
As the President said:
“That is unacceptable. It makes absolutely no sense to raise taxes on the middle class at a time when so many are still trying to get back on their feet.”
But, he isn’t waiting for others to take action. Instead, the President has undertaken a series of measures that will make an impact right now — and don’t need Congressional approval.
He reformed the student loan process to make it easier for young people to make their payments — and ensure they aren’t held hostage by their school debt.
He’s helping veterans, who have served with valor and courage overseas, find work once they return home.
He started an initiative to cut government waste — resulting in billions in savings.
And — as part of his jobs agenda, the President has worked to increase U.S. exports, and strengthen our commercial relationships around the world.
That’s why he launched the National Export Initiative nearly two years ago with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. As the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, I have had the privilege of being heavily involved in this effort.
Our work is about increasing opportunities for businesses and supporting jobs. In fact, every billion in exports supports 5,500 jobs. We’ve had great success.
Exports were up roughly 17 percent last year. They contributed to nearly half the growth in the U.S. GDP. And, they supported 9.2 million jobs.
Here in Miami, they are a key to the economy. In the first half of 2010, the Miami metropolitan area was the fifth largest export market in the United States, with sales totaling nearly $17 billion. In addition, it accounted for more than 65 percent of Florida’s merchandise exports during the same time period.
So, as you can see, exports help drive economic growth. In fact, they are essential for businesses today.
It’s no longer enough to target markets across town or across the state. You’ve got to access markets across borders and overseas. 95% of the world’s customers live outside of the United States.
So, I urge all of you business-owners not to wait too long before getting involved in the overseas markets. Obviously the President’s not waiting to take action when it comes to trade and addressing our country’s challenges.
We know government can’t solve all the problems facing our country. What we can do is help lay a foundation for growth and create smart incentives for businesses in Florida — and around America — to build something special on top of that foundation.
It’s how we help businesses grow. It’s how we ensure that American workers and American communities compete and win in the global economy.
These days, we hear a lot of talk about the next election. But, people are more concerned about:
- their next meal
- their next mortgage payment
- and their next electricity bill.
They can’t wait till the next election. They need solutions now. Once we leave this room, let’s work together to meet the challenges of our day. Let’s all make our voices heard. And, let’s do all we can to restore hope and opportunity in all communities and corners of our nation.
Once again, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today.
And, I look forward to working with all of you tomorrow to bring the jobs back to our neighborhoods.
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