Franken also reiterated his opposition to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, describing his concerns with the lack of oversight for the financial-services industry and the failure of Washington to address the housing crisis that sparked the economic downturn.
"We have got to change the way Washington handles the economy," Franken told the audience. "There are too many people there who believe that wealth comes from the top -- that what drives our economy is when a CEO gets a big tax cut and builds, oh, I don't know, a seventh house.
"Well, I guess that does create a few jobs, especially if it's a really fancy house. But I grew up in a middle-class family in St. Louis Park [Minn.]. And I know that it's the middle class that is the engine of prosperity in America. And what drives our economy is when everyone has a good job, and makes a decent wage, and we're building millions of homes.
"So, I believe that if we're going to re-build our economy in the wake of this massive collapse, it's going to start with re-building the middle class. That means stopping the giveaways to the special interests and putting more money in middle-class family budgets. And it means creating and protecting good jobs that offer people a chance to get ahead.
"This bailout was the exclamation point on eight years of economic mismanagement. Now is the time for us to change fundamentally the ways of Washington, so that at least it might, indeed, be the end of the sentence.
"And if we make that change, we'll be alright. We are Americans. We are the country that beat communism and beat fascism, and we can beat this crisis.
"But the people who will get our economy moving again don't work on Wall Street. They work here on Payne Avenue and in every city and town in this country. They own body shops and hair salons, and they sell bicycles and lawnmowers and homemade cookies. And, you know what? They need help. They need it now. And it's time Washington got to work."
SOLUTIONS FOR THE MIDDLE-CLASS ECONOMY: AL FRANKEN'S PLAN TO CREATE JOBS IN MINNESOTAAl Franken believes that we need fundamental change from the policies that have put our economic security at risk. But the best way to emerge from the current economic downturn is by creating and protecting middle-class jobs here in Minnesota.
A Lifeline for Minnesota Small Businesses
Minnesota's small businesses -- which create four out of every five jobs in our state -- are paying the price for the mess on Wall Street. They are finding it harder and harder to obtain the credit they need to cover start-up costs, expand their operations, or hire new employees. To help them, Al Franken will work to unfreeze the credit market.
* Expand the Small Business Administration's Loan Guaranty Program by $1 billion, and make another $4 billion available for direct loans to small businesses.
* Simplify the loan approval process and eliminate fees for lenders and borrowers, and expand the network of lenders to increase liquidity and help small businesses get better loan rates.
Create Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure
According to the Department of Transportation, each $1 billion invested in transportation development creates over 47,500 jobs and over $1.3 billion in worker income -- and up to $6 billion in additional gross domestic product. Right now, there are projects ready to be started -- and Minnesotans ready to do this important work.
* Create nearly 150,000 jobs by investing $2 billion to pay for deferred infrastructure repair projects, and another $1 billion for capital costs of facilities and equipment needed to improve multi-modal transportation options like the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative.
An Apollo Program to Create Green Jobs
Our energy crisis could be a huge opportunity for Minnesota. With an Apollo program for renewable energy and energy efficiency, we can end our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation more secure, improve our environment -- and create "green" jobs by making Minnesota the epicenter and the engine of a new energy economy.
* Invest in research and development into new and existing renewable energy technologies: wind, solar, biofuels, carbon sequestration, and more.
* Support U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar's work to make increased availability and use of rail -- light rail, commuter rail, inter-city passenger rail -- a reality.
* Work with entrepreneurs in Minnesota to support energy-efficient technologies, such as windows and other "green building" initiatives.
End Tax Breaks for Companies That Ship Jobs Overseas
We've lost over 600,000 jobs in America just this year. Now, Minnesota's unemployment rate is the highest it's been in 22 years -- with 170,000 people unable to find work. Part of the problem is that we've seen our tax code changed to encourage companies to ship American jobs overseas. Al Franken will work to reverse that.
* Strip companies of the nearly $40 billion in tax breaks they received to ship American jobs overseas, and use that money to promote domestic manufacturing.
* Support worker re-training programs that help those whose jobs have been lost.
GoodBiz113's take: Al Franken's proposed solutions are bold -- and very much needed in order to help get small businesses, and our nation, moving again. Kudos to Al Franken for having the vision and guts to conceive and articulate such a far-reaching strategy.
SOURCE: Al Franken for U.S. Senate, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Small Business Administration
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