Sestak Addresses Economic Crisis

Congressman Joe Sestak met with banking representatives to address the economic crisis and with auto dealers concerning the impending bailout.  From the inbox:

Philadelphia, PA – As the economy enters its second year of recession, Congressman Joe Sestak continues his efforts to work with local, state, regional, and federal experts to bring relief to the citizens and businesses of his district and the nation.  Today Congressman Sestak visited the Small Business Administration (SBA) District Office in Philadelphia to meet with over 40 representatives from a number of banking agencies to discuss how they can help bring economic relief to Main Street.

Today’s event was one in a continuing series of SBA banking roundtables with elected and appointed officials, subject matter experts and interested citizens from across the state. At the venue, Congressman Sestak provided a federal legislative update to complement information provided by representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Department of Banking, The U.S. Treasury, and the Small Business Administration.  “Now is the time for honest, transparent, hard work by all the agencies affected by this crisis” commented Congressman Sestak.  

“I am especially interested in helping our small businesses.  They are the engine of our economy and we all benefit when they are efficient and successful” noted Congressman Sestak. “These meeting allow us all to establish how the economic stimulus package is performing.  I am convinced there must be more oversight in this process to see that banks are getting funds to the businesses that need and deserve them. If small businesses cannot get loans and are forced to layoff employees, unemployment rises and, with less household income, the downward spiral of foreclosures and business failures continues.”

Addressing issues of small businesses and retention in the region, the Congressman, who serves as Vice Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, noted Delaware County’s low 4 percent unemployment rate, but added that that statistic alone is insufficient. For example, Delaware County has lost 762 small businesses in the last six years, 22 percent of them in manufacturing, and manufacturing employment overall is down about 14 percent since 2001. Moreover, the median household income in Delaware County is more than $300 less, when adjusted for inflation, than it was in 2001 per capita and per household. In short, people are earning today less in real terms then they were six years ago.

The Congressman has addressed this issue via the FY 2008 appropriations process when he procured $187,000 for use by the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce Foundation the Community Partnership for Job Readiness Program. That program, administered by the Foundation of the Delaware County Chamber, will provide workforce development services in the municipalities of Trainer, Marcus Hook and Upper Darby.  This project will coordinate technical training for residents, develop a community infrastructure to communicate those services, and prepare residents to meet the employment needs of area businesses and industries in the near future.

Further, the Congressman has successfully passed several pieces of legislation that support small businesses and their owners. He recently sponsored, and the president signed into law, an amendment was added to the Defense Authorization Bill and requires market research to be conducted by the Department of Defense on the ability of small businesses to do the work prior to awarding contracts of more than $5 million dollars. Another one of his amendments addresses the fact that in our district, small businesses have historically received only 6.7 percent of federal contracts that come into the district, despite a federal goal of 23 percent. This legislation stops the government from unfairly “bundling” small contracts into “mega-contracts,” a practice that makes it harder for small business to compete. Another piece of legislation provides grants and entrepreneurial tools for critical management and technical assistance to small business owners. Still another provides trade assistance to small business to increase their exports.

Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) voted for, and the House passed by a vote of 237-170, the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act (HR 7321). The Congressman supported the proposal because it provides bridge loans until March 31, 2009, that will prevent the imminent collapse of the domestic auto industry — while demanding strict accountability for taxpayer funds and industry restructuring to achieve viability, international competitiveness, fuel efficiency, and reduced emissions.

And:

Washington, D.C. – At a critical time for the health of domestic auto companies, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) brought together representatives from 14 dealerships across the Seventh Congressional District to explain his position on the approach needed to deal with the struggles of an industry vital to a national economic recovery. Attendees had the opportunity to offer their perspectives on ways the government can most effectively intervene to preserve an industry responsible for millions of jobs. The Congressman has made clear that the methods used to assist the auto industry must reflect the fact that dealerships are small businesses, which are responsible for more than 70 percent of job creation.

“It is my responsibility, especially in the midst of the current fiscal crisis, to engage my constituents about what is being done in Washington to diminish – as much as possible – the negative impact of this economic downturn,” said Congressman Sestak. “Part of the federal government’s overall effort must include assistance for the domestic auto industry. I was disappointed that the Senate did not agree to the legislation that we passed in the House last week, which would have provided bridge loans until March 31, 2009; however, I assured the dealership representatives today that I would continue to work to prevent the industry’s collapse. In addition, our economic plan as a whole must take into account the vital role of small businesses, such as these car dealers.”

The U.S. domestic industry accounts for about ten percent of U.S. industrial production and Ford, GM, and Chrysler support about two to three million American jobs, including auto parts manufacturers and auto dealers across all 50 states.

The Congressman spoke about his correspondence with President Bush that stressed the importance of restructuring the domestic automobile industry so that it could emerge as a viable and competitive global leader. He stressed his position that government intervention was not about saving the present industry, which made significant mistakes, but rather the need for a bridge to put in place the building blocks for a transformed, lean, competitive industry that could be a strong source of jobs and a restructured manufacturing capability necessary for our economic security, while avoiding the devastating near-term loss of confidence in our challenged economy. In calling for the use of funds allocated by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act for automakers, the Congressman said it was with the auto industry in mind that he specifically supported language stating that the application of those resources was not limited to financial institutions.

A point of emphasis during today’s event was that all actions taken to aid the auto industry would include accountability for the use of government resources. The Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act that the Congressman voted for last week held car companies accountable for developing and implementing viable long-term restructuring plans; included restrictions for the use of taxpayer funds to prevent them for being used inappropriately for executive compensation, dividends or distributions; and ensured taxpayer protection through warrants.

“While we must accept that there will be good and bad stretches for the economy in our free market capitalist system, the loss of accountability for use of taxpayer resources has made our current crisis much worse,” said Congressman Sestak. “Restoring this basic principle must be part of every effort our government undertakes.”

The Congressman’s involvement with plans for the auto industry is another example of his ongoing efforts to restore federal transparency in the midst of this economic crisis. In addition to involvement in Congressional hearings examining the root causes and effects of the turmoil in our economy, Congressman Sestak has written to Secretary  Paulson last month noting that the “restoration of public confidence in our governmental and financial institutions can not begin until the American taxpayers see consistent enforcement of the oversight provisions – and behavior from the financial institutions acknowledging that many of them share the responsibility for the economic crisis that has engulfed our country and the rest of the global economy.” Therefore, it is most incumbent upon Congress to ensure full transparency through accountable oversight of the actions taken by the Federal Government – correcting the absence of these which led to the market’s failure.

Furthermore, the Congressman wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in November to ask her to join him in demanding Secretary Paulson follow the accountability measures specified in the Stabilization bill and calling on the Democratic leadership to accelerate the assignments of positions on the Congressional Oversight Panel so that is could meet its requirements for supervising use of taxpayer funds. The final appointments were announced on Thursday 21 November, more than 6 weeks after the bill was originally passed by the House and Senate.

Congressman Sestak also has sent a letter to United States Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting him to “conduct an appropriate and thorough investigation into any and all financial institutions, corporations, and individuals that are suspect of criminal action relating to our current economic crisis.”

Sestak: GAO Report Flawed

From Congressman Joe Sestak:

Media, PA – Congressman Rob Andrews (NJ- 01) and Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) today held a joint press conference announcing the release of the report on the study conducted by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed redesign of the airspace covering the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia region.

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At the request of Congressmen Andrews and Sestak, the GAO completed the investigation into the cost, operational efficiency, and environmental impacts of the FAA’s plan because of community concerns that noise mitigation, air emissions, and other environmental impacts may not have been adequately addressed.

“Representative Sestak and I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an investigation into the cost and noise and environmental impact of the airspace redesign on South Jersey and Pennsylvania because we did not think the FAA had provided accurate answers on its own,” said Representative Andrews. “I have been extremely concerned that this air space redesign is a colossal mistake. The GAO study confirms for me that the process was flawed.  The GAO identified a stunning set of omissions.  Even if the law does not require cost-benefit analysis and implementation plans, common sense certainly does.  These conclusions must force the FAA to look at other options.”  

“I have worked aggressively with Congressman Andrews and other leaders in Congress, as well as at the state and local level, to address the concerns my constituents have over the noise and environmental impact of this redesign and the lack of certainty around costs and benefits,” said Congressman Sestak.  “I’ve said all along that the FAA’s actions were based on flawed models and assumptions. This study conducted by GAO confirmed that the FAA had not conducted a true cost-benefit analysis.  And, in addition, the GAO found that the FAA had no detailed implementation plan and had reached its conclusions without an assessment of the risk and uncertainty around its assumptions.”

Both Congressman Sestak and Congressman Andrews thanked the GAO for their efforts in completing the investigation. While the report found that the FAA complied with legal requirements, the GAO described a number of limitations in the FAA methodology and made recommendations regarding Airspace Redesign Projects.  

o       “FAA did not analyze various economic impacts, such as implementation costs… A cost-benefit analysis would provide more information about the impacts of various alternatives.”

o       GAO also indentified that an uncertainty analysis “would provide more information about the level of uncertainty associated with the operational analysis [of alternatives].”

o       “FAA has not developed a detailed implementation plan for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign with a schedule…..  In addition, the final project configuration and costs are unknown since FAA has not determined the type of equipment and software that will be needed.”

Congressman Sestak said, “Both Congressman Andrews and I are appalled that the FAA would begin to implement a project of this magnitude and complexity without proper guidance that would come from a detailed understanding of the likely benefits of the project and the true costs that are necessary to realize those benefits.  But I can’t say that we are surprised.  Back in April 2007, in response to a question from Congressman Andrews, Marion Blakey, the FAA Administrator at the time, said that she did not know how much the project would cost – despite having worked on it for close to ten years.”

A detailed assessment of the FAA’s assumptions also shows that the benefits expected for Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) were marginal (compared with the other airports involved), and would not be realized until full implementation of an Integrated Control Complex (ICC).  However, as confirmed by the GAO study, there have been no cost estimates prepared, and no decisions made regarding the ICC.   So the FAA has implemented a plan for PHL which may provide only marginal benefits – but with no idea of the costs, and no plan to deliver the benefits.    

“Congressman Andrews and I will continue to fight to stop this flawed plan.  First, we will continue to work for legislation in the House and the Senate to withhold funding for implementation, until the proper cost-benefit analysis and detailed planning are completed.  Second, we will support efforts already underway in the Courts.  Presently, there are twelve lawsuits pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit asking for review of the FAA Record of Decision.  The petitioners include residents from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, a state government, various municipal governments, and various citizen groups.”  Congressman Sestak said, “I will continue to fight the FAA and its redesign proposal to protect the safety, health, and educational development of our citizens.  We must address this issue in a bi-partisan and comprehensive manner so that our transportation system can operate better than it has.”