Schumer Floor Remarks on Trade Tariffs and Senate Democrats’ Plan To Rebuild Infrastructure & Roll Back Tax Giveaways To the Wealthy

March 7, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding trade tariffs and Senate Democrats’ plan to rebuild infrastructure and roll back tax giveaways to the wealthy. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, President Trump’s instincts on China are correct, but his execution is poor. He should stick with those instincts, not let those who label anything we do to protect America against China’s rapacious policies as protectionist. But at the same time he should fix his plan so it really does what he intends it to do or wants it to do. So I have been one of the chief critics on the status quo on trade. Americans, and I share this, resent all those academics who anytime you try to do anything with China they say, “protectionist, trade war.” Bottom line is simple: China is eating our lunch. China is rapacious. China, day by day, gnaws away at our economy by manipulating currency, sometimes they do it, and sometimes they don’t. But they will again when they can.

By having no reciprocity they don’t let good American industries in, but they want to come here and buy our family jewels, our intellectual property, our leading companies and robotics, and artificial intelligence and chips and pharmaceuticals. China has a plan to take advantage of America, to surpass us economically by not being fair. They keep their huge market protected, steal our stuff, learn how to do it, then try to come sell it here, and gain an advantage while they can by manipulating currency.

So the president should not be deterred by all of those business interests who are only interested in their profits, not in what’s good for America. That’s their job -- their shareholders. I get it. But he should not be deterred by them. But at the same time he has to back off this plan, which doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. The major harm is done to allies and Europe, not to China. So that’s the tightrope we need to walk on. And if the president walks on that tightrope carefully and well, we’ll support him.

The President’s instincts to go after China are correct, but the policy he proposes doesn’t fit the bill: it’s not well-targeted, it’s not precise, and as a result, it could cause a mess of collateral damage that hurts America more than it helps.

The sweeping nature of the tariffs has already angered key allies in Canada and Europe and could draw reciprocal tariffs on American goods, raising costs on average consumers from coast to coast. A country like Canada, with which we have a trade surplus could retaliate. Mr. President, focus on China. Go after China and do it in a sharp, focused-but-sharp-edged way. Don’t create a policy that hurts our allies more than it hurts China and causes China to giggle at our ineffectiveness. A trade war is not what we want. Making China play by the rules is what all Americans want, except the handful of businesses that just see their interest and raise in their profits no matter where our jobs go and where they sell goods.

China dumps counterfeit and artificially cheap goods into our markets, denies the most productive US companies fair access to its markets, and relentlessly steals the intellectual property of US companies. Mr. President, I am pained, actually pained because I love this country. I want to see us stay number one economically. I am pained when I go over into my mind the statement of Retired Four-Star General Keith Alexander, who was in charge of cyber-security in America. He called China’s theft of our intellectual property, “greatest transfer of wealth in history.” American wealth being actually stolen by China. And we sit here and shrug our shoulders or do these things that are not effective.

The Trump Administration should rethink their approach to sweeping tariffs while there’s still time, and instead focus its attention on China. China is our number one trade problem, not Canada, not Europe. And President Trump could do a much better job of tailoring his trade policy to address the real problems instead of creating new ones.

Now, on infrastructure. A year ago last January, guided by what President Trump had said -- he wanted to work with Democrats on infrastructure -- Senate Democrats unveiled our trillion dollar infrastructure plan, it was an outline, and sent it to the President. We said it was one of the areas where we could work with the president to get something done.

Then we waited. And we waited. A full year after we made our proposal, the Trump Administration finally released one of its own. Frankly, President Trump’s plan on infrastructure, to put it kindly, was underwhelming. It’s going over like a lead balloon and it’s very simple why.

After a year of bold promises about a trillion dollar infrastructure plan to build “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land,” President Trump’s infrastructure plan proposes no new net-increase in infrastructure funding, it put in $200 billion and then took it away by cutting the existing programs of infrastructure.

It just won’t get the job done. Robbing Peter to pay Paul a pittance won’t do nearly enough to rebuild our infrastructure. And because so much of the funding is not from the federal government, which has traditionally funded the lion’s share of infrastructure highways, water and sewer, the money’s going to have to come from two places, neither of which is a good outcome: localities, which are starved for cash already. They’re not going to build much. Or the private sector, which will of course, quite naturally want a payback. That’s how the private sector works. They’re not going to put money up unless they’re paid back. They’re not gonna lend money without paying back, and you know what that’ll mean. Tolls, tolls, tolls and more tolls. Trump tolls. From one end of the nation to the other.

That’s not what America wants. Trump’s plan is already a huge flop hardly anyone’s paying attention to it.

So we Democrats have a better deal to offer the American people.

Rather than cutting existing infrastructure projects to pay for a paltry program that won’t work, we want to roll back the Republican tax giveaways to big corporations and the very wealthy and invest that money instead in job-creating infrastructure. The overwhelming majority of Americans would say they’d rather see millions. Our plan could create up to 15 million good paying jobs for the middle class then give tax breaks to the wealthiest. And we’ve already seen by the way that those tax breaks are not creating any jobs, instead they’re going to stock buybacks, which is a way for corporate executives to take that money, raise their own salaries and raise the salaries of shareholders, the vast majority of whom are in the top ten percent of America.

So we’re proposing something new and different. We propose to put the top rate back to 39.6% the wealthy are doing great in America, they don’t need a tax cut. It’s the middle class that needed more of one. We propose restoring the AMT, that AMT prevented the wealthiest of Americans from evading taxes. It’s a tax expert’s way of restoring the Buffet rule, which says that a rich corporate execute shouldn’t pay a lower rate of taxes than his or her secretary.  We restore the estate tax that only benefits 5,000 wealthy families, close the carried interest loophole and raise the corporate tax rate to 25%. That’s what the business roundtable called for, but our Republican friends and President Trump in a mania to just cut, cut, cut coporate tax rates even at a time when corporations are doing well moved it to 21. We go back up to the 25, that the business roundtable suggested.  And with all that money, what do we invest it in?  A modern infrastructure plan that would build everything from roads and bridges to schools to airports to high-speed internet and more. With a focus, by the way on rural internet, because a third of rural America doesn’t have it.

In addition to the traditional types of projects we’ve long built in this country, we’re going to build the infrastructure of the 21st century. As I’ve mentioned, rural internet, high speed. In the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt said every home in America should have electricity. It was aimed at rural homes. Today, Democrats believe that every home should have access to high-speed internet. And that too is aimed at rural America, where a third of the homes do not have internet and our inner cities as well.

Only with a real, direct investment of federal dollars will we build the kind of transformational projects that need to be built. Only with real investment will rural America see the projects it needs built, built. Only with real investment will we create millions of good paying jobs. And you may ask, where’s the money going to come from? We don’t want to increase the deficit, tax bill’s done that enough. We say take some of those tax breaks from the wealthiest of Americans and put them into middle-class jobs. Plain and simple. Americans are realizing where that money is going. The tax bill when it came out was unpopular, had a splurge of popularity, and now, as Americans learn what it actually is doing, it is becoming less popular again. It’ll go back to where it was, I believe, where Americans dislike it more than like it. But when they hear that we could take some of that money and put it into infrastructure and create millions of middle class jobs, I think Americans of all stripes will embrace that policy.

We Democrats want to work with the president and our Republican colleagues on infrastructure, but we want to do it in a real way that will produce results. Not this commercial proposal the president made, that will produce very little infrastructure, almost no jobs and  put tolls all across America, Trump tolls. We hope the president will move away from his plan and come much further in our direction so we can get something real done for the American people and particularly the American working class.