For the first hour of the House of Representatives' day, representatives make floor speeches of anywhere from one to five minutes. The speeches are a way of getting specific objections into the record outside of debate, or memorializing someone (like Geraldine Ferraro this week), or discussing issues. Mostly, they go unnoticed by the public and the press.
It's really too bad they're ignored, because some of the best, most passionate, most fiery moments are made during these speeches, framing arguments and messages for both parties and moving forward agendas.
Today's winner of the best floor speech is Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) for his ridicule of stupid GOP cuts to important and small programs in favor of defense spending and oil and farm subsidies.
DeFazio zooms in on the YouthBuild America program, which takes kids who have problems, have dropped out of high school and trains them to build homes for underprivileged, low-income families. They get counseling, job training, and spend a year honing those skills. Here's an excerpt from their fact sheet:
YouthBuild addresses several core needs of low-income neighborhoods including: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. The ultimate goal of the YouthBuild program is to help young Americans transform their own lives and their roles in society by contributing to better outcomes for their communities.
Now, we know why Republicans don't like this program. They don't like it because those now-trained, skilled young people will be able to have productive jobs and even (gasp!) join a trade union as they continue to hone their skills in the workplace. And of course, they really don't like any low-income folks receiving government assistance with housing and the like when it doesn't come as a selective gift from Those Who Have Money To Bestow As They Please.
Remember the Republican maxim. Memorize it: Love the fetus; abandon the child.
Full transcript follows:
DEFAZIO: Lots of talk around here about millions, billions, trillions. But let's just try and put a face on some of the cuts the Republicans put in HR1. I think one of the meanest of their cuts and the stupidest of their cuts is to eliminate a program called Youth Build. Now I'm sure most of them don't know what it is, they've never met with the kids who come back here every year.
This is a program that started in 1992 under George HW Bush. It's a program that takes kids who have generally dropped out of high school, have problems with drugs, with alcohol, other things, but at some point decide they want to get straight and they want to do something better with their lives. So this program takes kids between 16 and 24 and helps them get their GED, gets them some counseling, gets them involved in peer groups, they learn leadership skills, teaches them how to build houses, and the houses they build are for low-income Americans.
In the long term, we've found incredible results with this program. Last year -- and these are almost 100% high school dropouts with problems -- 78% of the kids completed the program. That's pretty extraordinary. And now, after -- when they leave the program -- the longevity of the effect of this program? Seven years after completing the program 75% of the YouthBuild kids -- kids who have problems with drugs, alcohol, homelessness, dropped out of high school, everything else -- are either in college or employed in jobs earning more than ten dollars an hour.
Now that's a pretty darn good investment. Now what does this cost, and why would the Republicans zero it out? Well, it cost $102 million dollars last year. For twenty thousand students. Now, we could I guess instead leave them in the street without their high school degree, hopeless, maybe they get back on drugs, maybe they'll get in trouble, maybe we'll put them in jail and then we'll pay 30,000 dollars a year to pay for them in prison.
$20,000 bucks for one year to get these kids straight and have them become productive members of our society. Zeroed out! By the Republicans.
Now, it is a lot of money. That's almost one hour of spending for the Pentagon across the river. Almost one hour. There's no waste at the Pentagon, though. We're not allowed to look at the Pentagon for waste.
It's almost two days -- that's a lot -- of agriculture subsidies. Paying people not to grow things. So two days of paying people not to grow things or a year's funding for a program that takes kids who have been in trouble but want to do better, want to learn some skills, want to be productive members of society, and helping them get a leg up.
But no, in the Republican world, that's wasteful spending. They zeroed out this program.
I met with eight of these kids last week. I meet with them every year when they come back. I urged my Republican colleagues, for once I asked them if they'd seen the Republican member of my delegation. They said no, they met with a staff person, maybe an intern. Now Republicans can't seem to be bothered but they should listen to these kids. There's a lot of wisdom there and I think future leaders there. They've gotten their lives straight and they've gone through some hard times and we gave them a little help, yeah, one year. They get $500 a month while they're in the program, while they're building houses for low-income people, learning skills. And, as taxpayers in the future, they'll pay that back pretty darn quickly.
I wonder why they eliminated this program. First of all, I'm sure they don't know what it is, they've never met with the kids, they don't care. These aren't people who go to the country club, after all.
But secondly, probably because it's housed in the Department of Labor and we hate anything on the Republican side of the aisle that has the word "labor" in it.
God forbid that America should do things for working people in this country, or working people should be allowed the right to organize and have a better life.
Well, this is a program that should be continued. It should, in fact, be enhanced. They had 19,000 kids who couldn't get in the program last year. On the waiting list. 19,000. We should double the size of this program, maybe triple it.
That would be a huge amount of money! That would be three hours of spending at the Pentagon. Or, almost a week of subsidies, paying corporations not to grow things on surplus lands. Boy, I guess we can't afford that, can we? But we can't cut the subsidies and we can't look for waste at the Pentagon, but we can stick it to these kids.
Good work, Republicans.
Transcript edited 2:00 pm 4/7 to correct cost of program from 102 billion to 102 million