The Andy Hour
Anderson Scooper: Welcome to the Andy Hour! I am Anderson Scooper, and we’ve got a great episode today. Later, we’ll be joined by California Senator Martin Arroyo to talk about the Amazon HQ and immigration policy. But first, we’ll begin by covering major news out of the US Senate, as the first hurdle of a major education reform mission was overcome.
The Employer Participation in Repayment Act passed the United States senate today with unanimous approval. The bill would allow employers to get a tax break if they pay off their employees’ student loan debt, hoping to create incentives for loan repayment benefits in the American workforce.
The student debt crisis has dominated our nation, seeing the amount of debt balloon to more than double its size in just ten years, from $600 billion in 2008 to more than one-and-a-half trillion dollars in 2018. And it appears only set to grow.
While the 2016 campaign was dominated by calls for universal free college, spearheaded by progressive firebrand Bernie Sanders, Congress has accomplished little to address the crisis since until today. The EPRA’s sponsor, Senator Luke Recks of Arizona, has cheered the bill’s unanimous passage on twitter.
We caught up with the Senator in the Capitol today, as well.
*cuts to Senator Recks in the Capitol’s hallways*
Sen. Luke Recks (R-AZ): "The Senate lending its unanimous support behind the Employer Participation in Repayment Act shows that we are serious about using the free market to reduce the student loan debt crisis."
*Camera returns to the studio*
AS: We’ve reached out to Speaker Haynes (D-MD) office regarding scheduling House debate. The Speaker did not rule out its swift passage after its arrival from the Senate, saying that it will be reviewed and considered for docket space after the House finishes its current business.
AS: Welcome back to the Andy Hour! We’re joined now by Senator Martin Arroyo of California. Welcome, Senator!
Sen. Martin Arroyo (D-CA): Thank you, Anderson, it's great to be here.
AS: Well let’s start with the big news in California, and that is the growing protests around the Amazon HQ2 in Los Angeles, something you've received a lot of credit for bringing to your home state. What do you say to the people protesting the headquarters? Why did you want to bring Amazon to California?
Arroyo: When I first heard that Amazon was searching for a new location for their HQ2, I was immediately interested. But I also knew that we had to do better than what the New York plan offered. And by offers, I'm talking about what we're delivering for the people and not just Amazon alone. These protesters, their concerns are not unfounded. They are based in the reality that the New York City deal with Amazon would have left local residents and working-class New Yorkers in a bad place. Housing costs would have skyrocketed under that proposal. So that is the first thing I addressed when I began to assemble our bid for Amazon HQ2. I worked with Governor Newsom to launch the largest expansion of housing in the history of our state. Right now, as we speak, we are building 3.5 million new homes across the Golden State to ensure no family goes to bed at night without a roof over their head. This deal makes certain that the supply and demand changes in housing do not escalate housing costs for local residents and instead make it more affordable for lower-income and working families to purchase a place of their own. I am proud to say we are building new homes in our state just as I am excited for the 25,000 new high-paying jobs that are arriving. Not to mention the billions in additional economic production and commerce that will be pumped into the city of Los Angeles. This is a historic deal and an example of the power of the public and private sector working together to better the lives of the people. It has been an honor to be a part of such a special success story.
AS: What has been done to allay the concerns of gentrification in Los Angeles, forcing locals living near the proposed site out of their homes with skyrocketing costs?
Arroyo: The location we have set for Amazon HQ is the Warner Center in the Valley. This area is a business district and Amazon's arrival will not displace local residents. As a matter of fact, we're going to make sure minorities and the good citizens of Los Angeles have a better chance of landing these high-paying jobs by delivering more than $100 million in job training to those applying for work at Amazon. We are going to invest in preparing and enhancing the workplace skills and potential of our friends and neighbors so the LA community prospers thanks to this relocation. Furthermore, the arrival of Amazon will help the local economy by boosting the wealth of the local consumer base. This deal is designed so that every young and ambitious Californian who wants a good paying job can find one right there in their community.
AS: The major part of the Amazon HQ has been bringing jobs to California. Your Voices of the People Tour is focused on jobs, too, visiting unemployment offices and closed manufacturing plants while talking about raising the minimum wage and creating new jobs. Why do you think it was important to bring this focus on jobs during the Trump Administration into the national spotlight?
Arroyo: Anderson, I grew up the child of a single Latina mother who worked two jobs just to provide for us both. I understand how blessed we are to live in a country where there are opportunities to lift oneself up out of the ashes and onto the pathway to success. However, I fear that promise of the American dream is disappearing. It fades with every factory that is shuttered and every car that pulls into the parking lot of the unemployment office. To put it simply, there is no greater ticket to a better life and a brighter future than a good paying job. And frankly, Donald Trump and the Republican Party have failed to deliver for the citizens of this country. The Lordstown General Motors plant that I visited is closing and thousands of local residents now have to make previously unimaginable decisions about their financial future. And perhaps what's most tragic about it all is that this does not have to be happening. We can do so much better as a country. If we would just stop fighting against one another over ideology and instead bridge the gap between the public and private sectors, we can better the lives of the American people. That is what I did with the Amazon deal. I made sure that we delivered for the people of this state with 25,000 high paying jobs, 3.5 million new homes, and $100 million of new investments in job training to boost upward mobility. That is the power of our public servants putting the people's interests first by listening to both the workingman and the business owner. It is time for America to begin a new era of prosperity that is built upon cooperation and goodwill. The American people are deserving of that new day and I believe Washington can still deliver.
AS: You argue for big job investments, and a growing public-private partnership. But that seems pretty strongly out of step with the progressive base that views big business as an enemy of economic security. How should Washington be working to regulate these new jobs, to ensure families get a better shake, with higher wages and quality healthcare?
Arroyo: I believe in public and private partnerships that are built on responsibility and a commitment to bettering the lives of not only the stockholders but of the assembly-line workers, the forklift operators, and the people who work the extra shift. While there are some who would abuse the benefits of capitalism to put down others for profit, I am confident we can establish the right rules and framework for ensuring no American is left out of their share of our nation's prosperity or put in danger because of the recklessness of some Wall Street elites. That begins with restoring the Glass-Steagall Act to split up investment and savings banks, strengthening anti-trust laws, and reducing the red tape to make sure more corrupt CEOs and stockbrokers are convicted when they try and break the rules like they did in 2008. Next, we need to reward businesses who create jobs and disincentivize outsourcing. Our current corporate tax code is a corrupt scheme to treat all corporations the same. Instead, we should offer a lower tax rate for businesses whose workforce is made up completely of US citizens. If you hire American workers, then the United States should give you a tax cut. However, if you're a Wall Street fat cat who is closing down factories in the Midwest and shipping the jobs to China, then you're going to have to pay way more than you're paying right now. We need to restore a progressive corporate tax code to re-empower the good-willed business owner who wants to create jobs in their neighborhoods and communities. And third, we have to make sure American wages are the best wages on the planet. This country should be the best place in the world to be a blue-collar citizen. We must make sure no American begins so far behind that they cannot even provide for their daily needs. That's why we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately and tie it to the cost of living index. No more hesitation. No more delay. With these three ideas, we can begin a new era of opportunity and prosperity based upon responsibility, cooperation, and the belief that we are all in this together.
AS: Shifting gears, you recently went to El Paso to discuss the border, where you called for improved border security. If that doesn't mean a wall, what are you and other Democrats going to pursue to improve border security? What is the alternative to the President's border agenda?
Arroyo: We need a secure border, but dropping $50 billion on a border wall is like spending $100,000 on a garage door. It's one of the least cost-efficient proposals out there and it does not solve the drug or human smuggling issues we have at the border. Cartels have been tunneling under the border for decades now and no wall is going to stop that. The city of El Paso proved long before slats were placed along their side of the divide that America could be secured without an archaic wall. Now, what will stop the tunneling and the violence is securing the border and changing the drug war by weakening the drug lords. We can begin securing the border by finishing the agreed security measures in 2006, boosting our manpower on the ground, expanding our aerial surveillance of the southern border, and expanding intelligence sharing with Mexican authorities along the border. And we can weaken the drug lords by legalizing marijuana, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences on innocent Americans, and instead focusing the sentencing on the twisted monsters who would bring in drugs like cocaine and heroin. It's time we start clearing away the legal red tape to go after these cartels and seize their assets and lock them away for good. We need to be locking up the drug lords and human traffickers instead of innocent minorities in the United States. That is how we will secure the border.
AS: You call for increased aerial surveillance of the border. Would you support the Border Patrol utilizing unmanned drones as a part of their border surveillance efforts?
Arroyo: I am not on board with unmanned drones as I do not believe we have settled the constitutional questions regarding the privacy of the American people. Until that matter is addressed, I know there are other ways to address the problem with more cameras, more boots on the ground, and enhanced intelligence sharing.
AS: Thank you, Senator. Final question. What is your reaction to the President’s decision to move forward with building the border wall?
Arroyo: My reaction? As a veteran, I can say it’s a damn shame that he's taking the paychecks out of the hands of my brothers and sisters in arms to fund this political stunt. As an American who just visited Flint, Michigan, I have to wonder how this so-called national emergency on the southern border peaks his interest, but children living without running water is somehow not a concern to him. My reaction is that it's time for new leadership in Washington.
AS: Thank you for coming by Senator.
Arroyo: Thank you again, Anderson. You're the best.
AS: That's all for today. Tomorrow on the Andy Hour, we’ll be joined by members of both parties to discuss President Trump’s hotly contested NAFTA replacement! Thank you for joining us!