U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who represents Connecticut’s 3rd District including part of Shelton, looks at her job and the issues she faces in Congress primarily through the prism of jobs and wages, she said in a recent interview in her New Haven office.
“We have a very serious problem in the economy,” DeLauro said. “People are struggling through no fault of their own.”
Connecticut is a state with among the highest median incomes in the country, yet “one out of seven people in the 3rd District does not know where their next meal is coming from,” DeLauro said.
The 3rd District is comprised of 24 cities and towns surrounding New Haven.
Wages and jobs top the list
The biggest issues today, said the Democrat who is seeking a 13th term in November, are “low wages, stagnant wages, creating jobs and jobs that are paying enough.”
She said people in the upper end of the economic scale have done “extraordinarily well — off the charts — but middle-income wages, there has been no increase.”
When looking at legislation, DeLauro says she focuses on whether or not it will create well-paying jobs and help the middle class. “We need to be growing the economy, so they don’t have to take advantage of government assistance,” she said.
Prism of debt
The prism of national debt and annual budget deficits is not what the congresswoman looks through first when evaluating programs, she said, because “in order to grow the economy we’ve got to make an investment.”
The annual federal deficit for 2014 is forecasted to be about $514 billion, which is 24% smaller than 2013 and 60% smaller than 2010.
The national debt, which is the sum of deficits and surpluses over the long term, is now more than $17 trillion.
When evaluating a program that requires federal spending, DeLauro said she looks to “connect the dots” with “where does it lead?” For example, she explained that she does not consider investments as “a spending program” if the results are newly employed taxpayers.
DeLauro was asked if she finds her fellow lawmakers arguing to cut programs across the board, even indiscriminately, because of the size of the national debt, and if a smaller debt might eliminate some of her colleagues’ cuts.
“No,” she said. “It is more about philosophy of government.”
“They don’t believe (certain government programs) are the job of government,” DeLauro said. “They said that about Social Security, the minimum wage and family and medical leave, but (the country) does not go to hell in a handbasket.”
Supports higher minimum wage
DeLauro supports an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10, about $21,000 per year. That would increase Connecticut’s current minimum wage of $8.70, which equates to about $18,000 per year.
They average age of a minimum-wage worker, according to DeLauro, is 35. “They are working hard just trying to make it,” the veteran lawmaker said. “Why should they work 40 hours and not be able to raise a family?”
Some argue that increasing the minimum wage would lead some employers to reduce jobs, but DeLauro cites the Economic Policy Institute as saying that Connecticut will gain 1,100 jobs with an increased minimum wage.
Manufacturing is ‘critical’
Creating manufacturing jobs is “critical in this state,” DeLauro said, and she is advocating for a Manufacturing Reinvestment Act, which has been introduced in Congress and which would allow employers to take up to $500,000 per year, pre-tax, at lower rate for job training and investing in their business.
“We need to build here again,” she said. “We have got to invest in order to grow. That’s what we have not been doing.”
Fighting for Sikorsky helicopters “is all about jobs and national defense.”
Supporting job training programs is another example of DeLauro’s view of investing so that the result is employed taxpayers. “If our aerospace industry has jobs and we don’t have trained personnel, those jobs go begging,” said the congresswoman. “That is what is happening.”