Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the first hearing of the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your inspiring opening statement. You’ve presented a vision and a plan on how we can address the disparity in our country when it comes to opportunity and growth. You really spoke in the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt when he spoke out about what the disparity meant to our democracy. As Congresswoman Moore and our distinguished Mr. Clyburn have told us, the New Deal was not a good deal for everyone in our country. We have to make sure as we go forward that we learn from the past and recognize all of the possibilities.
Eighty years ago, as a result of the devastation of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt established the Temporary National Economic Committee to study the concentration of wealth in America and its role in triggering the Depression. FDR, establishing the Committee, said, ‘The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself.’ ‘The liberty of a democracy’ – he went on to say – ‘is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.’
Today, our economy and our country face a similar threat to the ‘liberty of democracy.’ We know that the middle class is the backbone of our democracy. We also know that if we strengthen the middle class, we strengthen our democracy. It’s not just about the middle class. It’s about those who aspire to it. Economic inequality, which has been growing for years, has intensified during the pandemic. The widening chasm between CEO compensation and worker pay has gone from unfair to immoral. The stagnation of wages is a picture of injustice.
In December, I announced the creation of the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth to study and combat this crisis. We must ensure that our economy works for everyone, while powering stronger economic growth for years to come. Under the leadership of Chairman Himes, the Committee has committed to hearing both from those who have the greatest needs and those who have the greatest understanding of the crisis, from both sides – the ‘needs’ side and the ‘solutions’ side.
To that end, I’m very honored that we have the participation of our witnesses here today. Jason Furman, former Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. I know you’ll be introducing them, but I want to pay my respects as well, Mr. Chairman. Joi Chaney of the National Urban League. Professor James Kenneth Galbraith, the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Janet Currie from Princeton. Shailley Gupta Barnes, the Poor People’s Campaign. I know you’ll give a fuller introduction momentarily, but I wanted to thank them for their generosity in time, intellect and solutions.
Our economy and our country face a similar threat to the ‘liberty of democracy,’ as I said. So, in his speech, President Roosevelt further said, ‘We believe in a way of living in which political democracy and free private enterprise for profit should serve and protect each other – to ensure a maximum of human liberty not for a few but for all.’ I look forward to this hearing, which will advance the House’s work to Build Back Better, joining our President, in a way that ensures liberty, prosperity and opportunity for all.
And we could not be better served to do that, Mr. Chairman, than by your leadership, bringing your extensive professional experience from the private sector and your nonprofit work, as well as your public sector leadership. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur will be focusing on regional economic revitalization in a way that hopefully will produce the results that we expect. And Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, leading action to close the racial wealth gap. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, recognizing the connection between economic growth and infrastructure connectivity. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, delivering workers better wages and a brighter future. Congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota, representing the concerns of family farms and rural communities. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, addressing generational disparities and increasing worker power in the economy. And Congresswoman Sara Jacobs of California, focusing on the future of work with both a family and global perspective. This is just a – doesn’t do justice to all of the knowledge, experience and leadership that all of you bring to this. But I, too, want to pay my respects to the beautiful diversity of this – Members of this Committee. I will add that we have a standing invitation to the Republicans to participate in these proceedings and hope that they will do so.
In the meantime, our hopes are riding on all of you to have a clarity of understanding of the challenges that are faced by families in America who just cannot even thrive because of the disparities. To do so, in a way that is solution-oriented perhaps, as the Chairman said, recommendations to the private, nonprofit sector, but also to the legislative committees of jurisdiction so that we can take action to make the difference. Again, this is a values-based approach to this. We feel very, very concerned about the immorality of the inequality in our country. And we’re going to do something about it. I’m very pleased that our proceedings are livestreamed, so we will be hearing from folks as we go along.
I thank all of you on the Committee – Mr. Chairman and all of you for your leadership – and am grateful again to our witnesses for their participation. We look forward to their presentations. And I’m pleased to yield back to our distinguished Chairman with gratitude. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Chairman. I want to congratulate you and thank you for this very productive hearing. I’m injecting myself into it. I had not intended to, but I just want to make a couple of observations. First of all, the time of the Speaker is in great demand. And people always say to me, ‘How can I get that time?’ The two hours I spent here, for me, was so valuable and so necessary because this not only undermines who are as a people – it completely threatens our democracy. So, we don’t have any more important work to do than what we’re focusing on here.
Now, I will say that what’s important, because as we listen to the testimony – and hasn’t it been excellent? I’m so proud of the questions and so informed by the answers. Understand that our committees of jurisdiction are having similar hearings on one subject or the other. What the value of this is the aggregation, the aggregation of it. It’s not: ‘This happened over there the last, two month ago, this happened.’ The aggregation it. And so, the responsibility of the Committee to come up with solutions after a well-defined diagnosis of the problem.
I have – something that I want to say about location, Marcy. Because, with all the respect to Dr. Galbraith, people like to go where they like to live. We have to make environments desirable. As I’ve traveled the country in many of your districts, I’ve seen – follow the children. People will go where their children can have a good education, access to health care and decent housing. And part of that is the connectivity of it. Can’t afford to live in San Francisco, but if we had – all of us had better mass transit and connectivity to bigger highways, et cetera, people could afford to live in a better way farther from the workplace because of the mobility that would cause.
As far as the social net – what I think about the safety net, it is a safety net for worker and families. It is a safety net for corporate America. It enables them to make decisions that are not really in everyone’s interest. They benefit from all of these things. It’s a corporate safety net. I’ve always thought that for a long time because it gives them so much flexibility to – well, in all fairness and respect to the private sector – to survive in cycle that come and go for their prosperity. But they make decision in a way because we the taxpayer – the American people – are giving them the safety social net to do that.
In any event, I have some more things, but I do think the time has come to not lose the impact of the beautiful testimony we heard today. I’m really hopeful because of the commitment of our Members and the array of concerns that you have raised, but understand that one thing you have that none of the other committees have is the aggregation of it all – and therefore, the responsibility as we go forward for solutions.
So, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to our very excellent guests, witnesses and to our Members. I yield back.
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