Mikulski: My Amendment is about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

WASHINGTON (Nov. 17, 2008)—On the first day back in session, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) took to the Senate floor to introduce the Auto Assistance Ownership Amendment, legislation that will save American jobs, help American consumers and support America’s automobile industry. The legislation comes just a week after the Department of Labor reported that the nation’s unemployment rate has reached a 14-year high.

“My amendment is not about bailouts. We’ve already done a bailout. We’ve helped the sharks and we’ve helped the whales. Now it’s time to help the minnows, the little guy, and the American consumer. My amendment is about jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Senator Mikulski. “Six million jobs are at stake in the American car industry. Today I introduce legislation, co-sponsored by my colleague from Missouri, to save jobs in the American automobile industry, to help consumers and get our economy back on track. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, it’s bipartisan. It’s also timely and temporary. My amendment will save jobs.”

Senator Mikulski’s legislation will make interest payments on car loans and state sales/excise car tax-deductible for new cars purchased between November 12, 2008 and December 31, 2009. This deduction applies to families making less than $250,000 a year, or individuals making less than $150,000. Under this plan, a family would save about $1,553 on a $25,000 car, and about $2,500 on a $35,000 car.

The American automobile industry is one of the biggest drivers of the U.S. economy. One out of every 10 jobs in America is auto-related. Already this year the U.S. auto industry has shed 110,000 jobs. In Maryland, approximately 500 jobs have been lost this year due to the closing of automobile dealerships.

This week Senate Democrats say they will attempt to bring up legislation to help save jobs in the automobile industry and jump start our economy. Senator Mikulski says she will use every tool available to make sure that her bill is included in any economic legislation that is considered on the Senate floor.

Source: Office of Senator Mikulski


For more information on Senator Mikulski’s proposed legislation:

Senator Mikulski’s floor speech, as delivered:

“Mr. President, our economy is in shambles. People are losing their jobs. They’re losing their life savings. They’re losing their homes. Congress must act and we must act now. I agree with the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Senator Specter, that this session of the Congress and this session of the Senate should not be called a lame duck. We should neither be lame nor should we duck the big issue facing our country.

“We’ve helped out, if you look at what we’ve done already, well, we’ve already done a bailout. We’ve helped the sharks and we’ve helped the whales. Now it’s time to help the minnows, the little guy, and the American consumer. Mr. President, I have that solution. Today I introduce legislation, co-sponsored by my colleague from Missouri, to save jobs in the American automobile industry, to help consumers and get our economy back on track. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, it’s bipartisan. It’s also timely and temporary. My amendment would save jobs.

“What is it that I want to do? I want to stimulate demand in the automobile industry so that people actually come in to showrooms and buy cars, minivans or light trucks. Why is this a good idea? Well, actually if you buy a car, someone’s got to make them, someone’s got to sell them, someone has to service them and someone has to provide administrative services. This is good for the manufacturers, the dealers and the suppliers. It could save a considerable number of jobs in the auto industry.

“My amendment is not about bailouts. It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs. Six million jobs are at stake in the American car industry. One out of 10 jobs in American relies on the auto industry. Right now the facts are gloomy. Sales are down; the auto industry has already cut over 100,000 jobs. The 20,000 American dealerships in this country are at risk of losing 37,000 jobs. We can’t let this happen. We can’t let the automobile industry implode.

“I believe we can help by getting the consumer into the showroom, have them feel that government is on their side and helping them with one of the biggest purchases during this tough time. Now, what is this amendment? What does this amendment do? Well, my amendment is simple. If you buy a passenger car, minivan, or light truck between November 12th of this year and December 31st of 2009, you will get a tax deduction for your sales or excise tax and the interest on your loan. Families can save anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 in this Mikulski-Bond Amendment.

“This is really a big deal because next to the purchase of your home, the purchase of your automobile is your next big ticket. It’s targeted. I cap it at families with an income of over $250,000 a year. It focuses on the middle income and the middle class family cars. It’s also timely because we need to know that most automobile sales – the biggest six-week period for automobile sales is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. This amendment also helps the environment because it gets more people and more fuel-efficient cars. And, by the way, this amendment is not limited to only American cars, it focuses on any car, recognizing that many automobiles are now made in southern states, like Texas does Toyotas, Kentucky, Tennessee does Nissans. Any way we look at it, even though it might have a foreign logo, it is American jobs doing the manufacturing.

“I have here a chart for the Dodge Minivan. This minivan, most of the average minivans, cost about $25,000. A 4-year loan at 8% and an excise tax would result in a saving of anywhere, depending on state, from $1,500 to $2,000. I’ve already heard from people all over this country how that plus the deals being offered by manufacturers and dealers could result in being able to buy a minivan for under $20,000 a year. This would be fantastic. I could put up chart after chart for the Malibu, for the Ford Pickup 150 or the Toyota Camry. This would stimulate demand and just think of what it would mean. People would come into a showroom, buy whatever is their choice between Thanksgiving, if we pass this bill, and it would be retroactive to the day I announced it. They could actually buy something that would put them on the road with a car that’s more fuel efficient and lower carbons. And at the same time, jobs, jobs, jobs.

“You know, as I said, there are 20,000 new car dealerships nationwide. They employ close to a million people. In my own home state, there are 300 dealerships. You know, most people don’t realize that the dealers in many parts of the rural parts of my state usually employ over 50 people in sales, the auto mechanics, as well as the administrative positions. This legislation would help them because they’d actually be working.

“It would help the people who are actually making these. You know, Senator Spector said he’s been traveling his state. I’ve been traveling mine too. I went to the General Motors plant in Maryland at White Marsh where they make the new power transmissions Mr. President, and right now they can make a Tahoe Hybrid. A Tahoe! A big muscle car with the hybrid technology that they have now could get the same mileage as a Toyota Camry.

“If you also talk to the people who work there, where they could employ 1,000, they now employ 250 people. If you were with me in the car dealership, you would talk to people like the mechanic. I talked to a mechanic who works for a Chevy dealer in Bethesda. He’s worked there for 23 years. He said to me, ‘Senator Barb, all my life I’ve loved to work on cars. I just love it. I love to fix them, I love to repair them. If they’re new, I want to make sure they’re fit for duty and I’ve earned a good living. I’ve been happy and I think I’ve helped make a lot of other people happy. But the only way I can stay happy is if I continue to work. I’ve got a mortgage. “I’ve got to kids in college. Maybe they’re going to go into engineering, I don’t know, but if we don’t get more people into this dealership, my job could be gone.’

“And talk to the dealer. The dealer’s name is Sam. The first thing you note about him is that he wears the little rotary pin in his lapel because he’s the guy that not only provides jobs, tries to provide deals to customers, but also is part of the Chamber of Commerce, part of the United Way. We are talking about people that are part of the fabric of our society. We are not talking about an abstraction and we’re not talking about a single zip code, like Wall Street. We are talking about the automobile industry which is in every state and every community. So when we help them, we are helping ourselves.

“People say, ‘Well, what is the cost of this, Senator Barb?’ Well, I’ll tell ya, it’s about $8 billion. And they go, ‘Oh!’ Well, we just spent $350 billion and threw it down the rat hole. We don’t have anything to show for this $350 billion but more arrogance, more greed. And while they want America to go on Lean Cuisine, they’re doing spa cuisine. So I think it’s time we help the people in our community, help the people who want to participate in the economy.

“Maybe you know somebody who works for a hedge fund. I don’t. But I do know the people who work for the automobile industry, whether it’s the dealers or the receptionist that came to work there 43 years ago right out of high school. And she said, ‘Senator Barb, women couldn’t sell cars in those days, but I’ve been here in and out of this same dealer for 43 years. Raised my kids, earned a good living, did the back office wok and I want to keep on doing it. I’m not ready for social security and for God’s sake don’t put it in Wall Street.’ Well, I say don’t put social security in Wall Street and don’t put another nickel in Wall Street. If we’re going to really help with our economy, let’s do it where it creates jobs.

“So, Mr. President, the bill I’ve introduced today I’m going to bring up as part of our economic recovery plan on Wednesday. I wanted to explain it, but most of all what I wanted to be able to say is that the Congress should not go home until we feel how we are going to help this economy get rolling. I think my amendment that’s been cosponsored by Senator Bond, that my amendment puts wheels on the American economy and I hope I have victory later on this week.”

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