Speech ● Make It In America
For Immediate Release: 
July 23, 2018
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) announced House Democrats' updated Make It In America plan today at the WeWork Dupont Circle. This plan was developed after hearing from Americans across the country on the Make It In America Listening Tour over the last year. Whip Hoyer's speech discusses what he heard on the road and how Democrats are going to respond to the challenges identified by Americans and build on the initiatives that are working. Click here to view highlights of the updated Make It In America plan and here to view a fact sheet on how the Make It In America plan has evolved since 2010. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you.  Like other co-working spaces popping up across the country, WeWork is an example of how Americans are adapting to changes in the global economy. 

“Over the past several months, I’ve crossed the country to hear directly from Americans about how they are faring in today’s economy.  In April, I traveled with Rep. Cheri Bustos to Peoria, Illinois. 

“Peoria is a town of small businesses and hard workers.  It was forged in steel and lined with railways that radiate out into the amber waves.  Its people have seen the worst effects of a changing global economy – and they’ve shown a tough resilience too. 

“In Peoria, people have been building America, growing America, and making it in America for generations.

“I sat down with local business owners, educators, and workers and asked them about the challenges they’re facing.  One of them was Margaret Hanley. 

“In 1928, her grandfather went to work for the town’s oldest business, the A. Lucas & Sons steel fabricator.  In 1951, her father followed, working every day and saving enough to buy the company in 1982.  In 2004, Margaret went to work for her dad and eventually took over the business.  Now, she’s the president, proudly employing union labor. 

“I asked Margaret how her company is faring now, ten years after the Great Recession.  I asked whether her workers have access to the kind of opportunities that made it possible for her father and grandfather to get ahead. 

“‘My fifteen employees,’ she told me, ‘are middle-class.  They make $30,000 to $50,000 a year.  But the middle class can’t afford all these investments in themselves.  They can make a good living, but the money isn’t there to educate their kids.’  In addition to college tuition, she cited homeownership, child care, and retirement savings as opportunities workers today find more and more out of reach. 

“In fact, a United Way study found that 43% of American households – that’s 51 million households – don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, and cellphone service. 

“In every corner of America there is a Margaret Hanley trying to build a business and create opportunities for her workers.  And across America are workers like those at A. Lucas & Sons who have jobs – but those jobs don’t open doors of opportunity like they once did or provide the middle-class life our workers expect. 

“In the wake of our recovery, we’ve gotten our economy back on its feet, thanks to policies put in place under President Obama.  People are getting by.  But they’re not getting ahead.  And that’s what our country is supposed to do: give everyone a shot at getting ahead. That’s what it means to make it in America.

“As our economy continues to strengthen, we must do more to ensure that workers can take care of their families.  To do that, we need to raise wages – including a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage – make health care more affordable, and stop government corruption that worsens inequality.  Those are the core principles of House Democrats’ ‘For the People’ platform for 2018. I’ll be giving a speech in September about how we can make government and Congress work better ‘for the people’ so that our government is more responsive and Congress works more effectively and transparently.   

“It’s clear that we need to do more if we’re going to unleash our economy’s full potential and enable all our people to make it in America.

“Sitting in Washington, it’s easy to point to the latest jobs report and say: ‘the unemployment rate is down, so things are going well.’  But when you go out to the heartland and talk to workers and employers, to innovators and entrepreneurs, it’s clear that many people are underemployed and that our economy continues to face serious long-term challenges.  That’s why I launched the Make It In America Listening Tour last autumn. 

“In Peoria, Toledo, and Eau Claire we heard from Margaret and from other business owners, educators, and students about the challenges of preparing a twenty-first century workforce. 

“In Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Madison we listened to entrepreneurs and innovators talk about the difficulties of launching and sustaining businesses that hire locally. 

“In Las Vegas and Indianapolis local leaders talked about building the infrastructure necessary to access national and global markets and attract investment.

“And, visiting Chicago with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, we heard from labor about how efforts to undermine workers’ rights are disadvantaging working families.  We ought to be making it easier, not harder, for workers to organize and bargain collectively.  Unions, and their ability to bargain collectively, are crucial in the fight for equal pay for women, affordable health care and child care, paid family leave, protections against workforce discrimination, and so much more that is at the heart of workers making it in America.  I have always said that if Democrats want to be the party of workers, we also need to be the party of employers.  However, with the current Congress and the Trump Administration, workers aren’t only missing a seat at the table; they aren’t even in the room.  In an age where workers can easily and erroneously be classified as independent contractors or as part-time employees, unions have a critical role to play.  We must restore balance and have a Congress that partners with both labor and management to grow businesses and make sure workers share in the rewards of success. 

“Throughout the Listening Tour, what we heard from the people we met was essentially the same: Congress needs to be a partner in enabling our people to get ahead.  We heard a lot about challenges.  But we also came back to Washington with new ideas that come straight from the front lines of our economy. 

“The first area Make It In America addresses is education and skills training.

“In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, I joined Rep. Ron Kind for a listening session with college students.  Katy McGarry, who was the student body president at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, told me: ‘We know that we aren’t just going to be changing jobs but changing careers over the course of our time in the workforce.’

“Adaptation and continuing skills training is the key to success in the twenty-first century economy.  Whether one is entering the workforce or needs to start a new career, workers are finding that the best tool for making it in America is the ability to add additional skills as economic demands change.  And for those with in-demand skills, our economy is rife with opportunity.  Indeed, we have a shortage of skilled workers, with more jobs available than people to fill them.  

“Many local school districts are already leading the way in promoting pathways to career opportunities by engaging middle- and high-school students early in order to identify those interested in careers that require less than a four-year degree but more than a high-school diploma.  The organization Jobs for the Future suggests that local school districts should design pathway programs with stackable credentials.  This means that students can earn badges or certifications for specific skills and accrue them – or ‘stack’ them – based on the careers with the in-demand jobs they wish to pursue.  By engaging in dual-enrollment coursework with community colleges or by completing training at local labor union or community facilities, students can prepare for an in-demand job upon graduation.  This same approach of stacking credentials can extend to workers already well into their careers, with workers able to earn credentials as they need them to gain additional skills throughout their careers to move up to better jobs.  I visited a training center in Toledo with Rep. Marcy Kaptur that is engaged in this type of programming and was impressed by the work they are doing and the success they are having – much of it thanks to organized labor playing an integral role. 

“All too often, however, the same programs that provide so much promise in closing the skills gap are just too expensive for those needing them the most.  We must make training and education more affordable.

“Achieving this will require a greater federal role in comprehensive training for workers of all skill levels and career stages, as the New Democrat Coalition suggested as part of its Economic Opportunity Agenda.  One way to do this is by extending Pell Grants to cover programs like the pathways I mentioned.  It’s a shift that the Progressive Policy Institute says ‘could dramatically expand access to valuable occupational training opportunities, especially for workers with fewer financial resources.’

“Instead of developing an entirely new program, we can reform Pell Grants to promote both affordability and access without taking existing funds away from current uses.  Democrats on the Education and Workforce Committee have an ‘Aim Higher’ agenda that would, among other things, allow these grants to be used for training programs that achieve certifications, not only four-year degrees.  There have also been proposals to allow incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals to access Pell Grants as a way to help them get their careers on track after serving their time.

“Make It In America envisions an economy where graduates and workers are always able to access new skills and build on what they already know – whether at the start of their careers, in the middle, or later.  Because that’s how workers adapt and get ahead in the twenty-first century.

“In addition to education and skills training, Make It In America focuses on entrepreneurship. 

“Support for entrepreneurship has been a core component of the Make It In America plan since the beginning because it is the fuel that powers job growth.  But that’s not all.  The Kauffman Foundation – a leading voice on entrepreneurship that I visited with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver on the listening tour – wrote in its 2018 State of Entrepreneurship report: ‘The long-term decline in entrepreneurship has dragged down productivity, wages, and living standards for all Americans.’

“One of the stops on our Make It In America Listening Tour was Pittsburgh.  For generations, Pittsburgh was a powerhouse of American manufacturing.  Today, it is emerging as a powerhouse of American entrepreneurship, and it is one of the high-tech innovation hubs of our economy.  Rep. Mike Doyle and I visited the Energy Innovation Center.  There, community and corporate leaders have partnered with regional colleges and universities to create what they call a ‘living laboratory,’ where students and researchers can get help incubating businesses from their discoveries. 

“Dr. Quintin Bullock, President of the Community College of Allegheny County told us about how, working with local business and civic leaders, the College aligned its curriculum and created an entrepreneurial program for students.  Now they can learn not only advanced skills but also how to launch their own companies. 

“Dr. Bullock also talked about an entrepreneurship program tailored for those re-entering from prison, reinforcing – as the Congressional Black Caucus points out in its ‘We Have A Lot To Lose’ report – that criminal justice reform is essential to all of our people being able to make it in America.  It’s time, finally, to eliminate the check box on job applications that asks whether one has a criminal record, which too often prevents those returning to society from pursuing good careers.

“Also critical to entrepreneurship is the portability of benefits.  The loss of access to workplace benefits like health insurance, disability insurance, and a stable 401(k) is one of the most significant barriers for entrepreneurs striking out on their own.  The Affordable Care Act provided entrepreneurs access to a kind of portable benefit in health insurance through the exchanges.  We need to build on the ACA to provide a framework for portable benefits that reduce the risk of leaving a stable job to start a small business.

“Another area where Congress should take action is by providing better and stronger tools to help innovators grow ideas into successful businesses – to bridge the gap between incubation and investment.  This is an area where too many innovative startups struggle; too often, entrepreneurial success is measured by how quickly a company can be acquired by a larger competitor.  Market concentration is growing in virtually every industry, while fewer startups are gaining traction and, therefore, creating fewer jobs. 

“One solution is to build on the JOBS Act, which expanded crowdfunding opportunities, by increasing the availability of capital to smaller firms. Another, suggested by Steve Case at a Hamilton Project forum, is to promote regional industry clusters, where entrepreneurs leverage local and regional expertise in a sector to encourage innovative risk-taking in order to compete nationally and globally.  The regional industry clusters concept is premised on the idea that companies can derive value from a unique location instead of following the pack to global tech hubs like Silicon Valley.  I witnessed firsthand how, in such a way, Pittsburgh has become a robotics industry hub by convincing innovators to stay and tap into its advanced manufacturing legacy. Congress can and should do more to help other areas replicate that kind of success.

“There is another critical issue Congress must address if our entrepreneurs and workers are going to make it in America.  And that’s infrastructure. 

“No business today can compete and succeed if it can’t access information quickly, be accessible to its workers, and reach its customers efficiently.  That’s why America’s outdated and often-crumbling infrastructure is a threat to private sector development and opportunity growth.  But we are challenged not only by what we need to repair.  We also have to look to the future and build new networks to carry goods, people, energy, water, and information. 

“In April, I was with Rep. Andre Carson in Indianapolis.  One of the local leaders we heard from was Dan Parker, the city’s Director of Public Works. 

“Dan explained that it costs Indianapolis $200 million a year just to maintain its infrastructure as it is now.  If they wanted to upgrade their infrastructure, it would require an additional $2.5 billion in investment.  And that’s just for Indianapolis.  There’s a Dan Parker in every major city huddling over a red-inked ledger and a long list of necessary repairs and upgrades.  In its annual ‘Infrastructure Report Card’ last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers calculated that the gap between our needs and expected federal funding for infrastructure projects in this country over the next decade exceeds $2 trillion. 

“We have an opportunity to unleash our economy and the creation of good jobs by repairing and rebuilding our aging infrastructure.  To do so, Congress must commit to real, multi-year, and fully-funded authorizing bills that tackle the backlog both for transportation networks and water infrastructure.  Not only will addressing our twin infrastructure cliffs in transportation and water resources put more Americans to work.  As the Center for American Progress notes in its Blueprint for the 21st Century, doing so will also increase private sector efficiency for decades to come. 

“At the same time, we must also build the innovative infrastructure of the future.  Congress should ensure that America has a reliable and efficient electrical grid that includes clean energy resources.  Our grid has to be made resilient in the face of a changing climate and more extreme weather. We also require modern energy infrastructure that reduces waste and incentivizes storage and alternative forms of energy for our vehicles. 

“Congress must also do more to bring affordable, high-speed internet access to communities across the country, especially rural America and underserved urban areas, including through the accelerated deployment of 5G wireless infrastructure. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is on the right track, detailing in its 21st Century New Deal for Jobs how Congress can expand internet quality and access through a mix of private and public investment.

“Education; entrepreneurship; and infrastructure.  In these three areas, Congress needs to step up and act. 

“We need to promote pathways to career opportunities and make training and education more affordable and accessible.

“We need to encourage entrepreneurship by ensuring access to workplace benefits like health care and retirement security, and we need to provide stronger tools to help innovators grow their ideas into successful businesses.

“We need to unleash our economy and job creation by repairing our aging infrastructure and building the innovative infrastructure of the future.  

“If we can make Congress a partner again in helping businesses and workers get ahead, we can begin to renew Americans’ faith in government as a force for good.  We can renew Americans’ faith that our democratic institutions are strong enough to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.  And we can continue to make America competitive in global markets.

“As I mentioned, Democrats have a ‘For the People’ platform of raising wages, making health care more affordable, and eliminating corruption in government.  Make It In America complements that platform.

“Make It In America is focused on making it possible again for every hardworking American to get ahead.  Just like Margaret Hanley’s father and grandfather did.  Just like each of her employees want to do.  Just as young Katy McGarry dreams for her future and Dr. Quentin Bullock wants for his aspiring entrepreneurs.

“It’s time to unleash the full potential of our economy by putting our faith in the American people.

“Our innovators are ready to become entrepreneurs.  Our workers want to fill the jobs those entrepreneurs create.  And our state and local leaders are ready to build and upgrade the infrastructure that will make it all possible. 

“Congress can give them the tools to succeed.

“‘For the people,’ for our future, 2018 is the moment for us to Make It In America.”