Transcript: Senator Barbara Boxer, 09 December 2008

Thom and Senator Barbara Boxer discuss the economy, the need to rebuild infrastructure and switch to renewable energy. They also discussed the auto manufacturers bailout and the hypocrisy of those senators whose states have subsidized foreign auto manufacturers at a much higher rate than the American auto makers are asking for, yet are threatening to filibuster the bailout.

Thom Hartmann interviews Senator Barbara Boxer, 09 December 2008

[Thom]: Barbara Boxer, Senator Barbara Boxer is on the line with us, the senator from California. [we could hear her apparently talking to somebody else in the background - ed.] Perhaps she's not. Senator Boxer. Senator Boxer?

[Boxer]: I'm with you.

[Thom]: Ah, you're with me! Okay, great. You are the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and you held a press conference yesterday to talk about the stimulation of our economy; the stimulus package.

[Boxer]: Yes.

[Thom]: First of all, broadly speaking, your take on where we're at and what we need.

[Boxer]: Well, we're in a very bad place. I mean, we didn't really need the official declaration that we're in a recession, I think. I could tell you from my State's perspective, California, we certainly knew that. We're now over 8% unemployment which in and of itself is very, very painful. So we need to do what it takes, as senator elect, I mean, president elect Obama says. We have to do what it takes. And here's the good news. The good news is, in order for us to be competitive in the 21st century, we need to rebuild our infrastructure. The further good news is that when we do that, we not only create so many jobs, and it's really about 35,000 jobs for every billion dollars we spend, but we need to do this for the long term so you're not making work, you're doing important work.

In the same way, when you step up to the plate on global warming and look for alternatives to fossil fuels and the oil we import, you're also strengthening the economy and you're creating millions of new jobs, putting solar rooftops on and the like, and creating alternatives that the world wants. So at the end of the day what we want is to jolt this economy now, as president elect Obama has said, jolt it now, do what it takes, and then know that what we're doing is not wasting money, but we're doing things we would have to do anyway.

[Thom]: Senator Boxer, how do we make sure that the infrastructure that we're building is not supporting America becoming essentially a Third World proxy country for a bunch of corporations from outside the United States, as we're seeing maybe our auto industry moving in that direction? Vestas, for example, is the largest manufacturer of windmills in the world and soon to be one of the largest manufacturers in the United States. All the profits go back to Denmark. The solar panel industry, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world is a British company, British Petroleum. They're doing most of their manufacturing in China. How do we bring these jobs to the United States, all these innovations? I mean, we created the transistor here, we invented radio and television here. We don't even make these things here anymore. How do we make sure that we don't create a wonderful physical infrastructure, and ideally an intellectual one as well, by putting people through college at low cost, and not have that basically be supporting companies that are taking all their profits back out of the United States?

[Boxer]: Well, you're talking about the need for a manufacturing base.

[Thom]: Yes.

[Boxer]: And I've always believed in 'buy American'. I mean, the fact is, we need to have, we need to make sure that we save our manufacturing, basically. We could get into the whole situation with the automobiles as an example. But, you know, the fact is, when we rebuild our infrastructure, I guarantee you that companies here in America are the ones that prosper.

[Thom]: So, are you suggesting that we need a change in our trade policies?

[Boxer]: Well, I'm very strong for fair trade. I don't believe that we stop trade. But I think you need to have fair trade, which means you have reciprocity with nations and the like. But let me again stress, we need, it's not true that all the solar panels are made outside this country. I could tell you, in Ohio they're producing them, in California they're producing them.

[Thom]: Yep.

[Boxer]: So we don't want to lose that. And if we go ahead and we do this and we start doing what president elect Obama has suggested, which is making our schools energy efficient and so on, and we put these rooftops on and we do all that it takes to build windmills and all the rest of it, to get us off foreign oil, that's going to benefit domestic industry.

[Thom]: Absolutely.

[Boxer]: It doesn't mean that everything single raw material is going to be from America. But for the most part we will prosper here, and you can't outsource the job of putting, you know, a solar roof on. It's got to be done right here in this country.

[Thom]: Yeah, you're absolutely right. And there's so much that we need to do and it'll save so much energy when it's all done. We're talking with Senator Barbara Boxer. ... She is the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Just one other quick question for you, if you don't mind. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, your colleagues from the great state of Alabama, the two senators from Alabama, are bloviating, if I may, at some length about possibly filibustering even, offering even a small amount of money, relatively small, given what was given the banks, to the American auto manufacturers.

[Boxer]: Right.

[Thom]: Alabama offered a 253 million dollar incentive package just to Mercedes, and that's one of seven companies, seven non-US based companies that they offered such things to.

[Boxer]: Yes.

[Thom]: Including 250 million dollars worth of the free land. This worked out to 220,000 dollars per job created in Alabama. Now they expect to capture that after, you know, if these people are making 15,000 dollars a year, after maybe the thirteenth year Alabama will start seeing some profit theoretically, but this was an investment. If they're willing to invest, and this would be the equivalent, if we're talking creating three million jobs at 200,000 dollars a job, we're talking, you know, the equal of 500 billion dollars. That's the scale that Alabama was supporting foreign manufacturers in the United States. I mean, if the tables were turned and Karl Rove was running this thing he'd be saying, and he was a Democrat, he'd be saying 'Jeff Sessions wants to sell American manufacturers down the tube and have nothing but Japanese and German manufacturers controlling everything in America'. I mean that's how, how do these guys get away with this and how are you all going to push back against it, assuming that you're interested in doing so?

[Boxer]: Well, I'm definitely interested in pointing out the hypocrisy of that. And it's unbelievable to me that you really do have these politicians including, I saw, Mark Stanford...

[Thom]: Yes.

[Boxer]: ... Also stand up there and say the same thing when his state he did the same thing.

[Thom]: The fact is, this is my own take on it, these guys don't seem to care about blue collar workers; that's all I can say. And, you know, they don't really care about these particular blue collar workers. They say it's all, you know, that they get paid too much, even though they've given back so much. Their pay's around now about 28 dollars an hour. They don't care and they, you know, it's laissez faire when it suits them, and then when it doesn't suit them, they go the other way.

But my view is this: we don't want to be the only industrialized nation in the world not to have a domestic auto manufacturing industry. It's very bad for us in the long run, and in the short run it's horrible, could add as much as 3 million new job losses. I've got 200,000 workers tied to the Big Three in California. The fact is we can't afford it. We need this bridge loan. We could do this now. We can restructure. They say let them go bankrupt, when they know full well, no one's going to buy a car, or very few people, from the bankrupt company because they're worried about parts and service and all the rest.

[Boxer]: But I'm really glad that you are in fact pointing out this hypocrisy. That really means a lot to those of us who are trying to fight for this. I've got to run and I want to thank you so much for this opportunity.

[Thom]: Thank you, senator, for being with us. I appreciate it. Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you.

[Boxer]: All right, bye.

[Thom]: Great great having you on.

Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.

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