Message to D.C.: Invest in our economy!
HARTFORD — With U.S. financial markets on a roller coaster last week, the irony of positive economic news for Connecticut was not lost on Congressman Chris Murphy (D-5) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who teamed up Aug. 8 to present the results of a manufacturing survey in a televised press conference at the state Capitol.When they launched the survey in April, the congressman and senator provided online links to a questionnaire, asking respondents to give their outlook for the future of their businesses and to identify pros and cons of doing business in Connecticut. Murphy said they collected responses from 151 manufacturers from across the state who suggested that business is beginning to recover. Murphy said he and Blumenthal would be taking the survey results back to Washington to lobby for support of education and job-training programs and to address manufacturers’ concerns about health-care costs, tax structure and regulations. “There is a lot of new information in this report, but some of it simply confirms a lot of what the senator and I have been hearing as we’ve been traveling around the state,” Murphy said. “For me, it reaffirms some of the work that has already been underway and gives me new impetus to be a stronger voice on many issues.”Manufacturing is vitalManufacturing is vital to that recovery, Murphy said, and he and Blumenthal noted that 89 percent of manufacturers surveyed reported that they had plans to hire new workers or maintain current employment levels in the next year, which is in contrast to a decade of decline in manufacturing in Connecticut and across the country. “The optimism that you hear nationwide from manufacturers is reflected in Connecticut,” the congressman said. “We are on the brink of a reindustrialization of this nation, and Connecticut has to make sure that it is part of that manufacturing rebirth.”Murphy said the primary lesson from the data was that America should not decrease its investment in education and vocational programs. “When you hear that almost 90 percent of manufacturers want to expand and almost 90 percent are having trouble finding trained workers, it should be a caution to anyone in Washington who is talking about dramatically cutting funding for education or job training,” he said. “Cuts that could come down to the state of Connecticut could result in a reduction in slots at community and technical colleges and that could have a devastating impact on Connecticut’s ability to be a part of this manufacturing renaissance.” “The takeaway here,” Blumenthal said, “is that almost all manufacturers are looking forward to hiring or maintaining their present workforce and that what they need is the skilled workers to fill those potential openings.”Bad day for the economyBoth Blumenthal and Murphy acknowledged that the positive economic news was coming on a bad day for the U.S. economy.Financial markets declined the afternoon of Aug. 8, ending the day significantly down, and continued to see-saw through the week. Blumenthal had particularly strong words for Standard & Poor’s, which he said was partially responsible for the country’s fiscal crisis. The agency downgraded the United States’ credit rating on Friday, Aug. 5.“Standard and Poor’s has completely surrendered, in my view, any claim to credibility and integrity over the years by its contribution to the fiscal crisis that brought this nation to the precipice of catastrophe,” the senator said, adding that the credit-rating agency was “a little bit like the arsonist setting the house on fire, pouring fuel on it and then wanting to claim a reward for reporting the house on fire when the fire department’s already there.”Blumenthal also noted that, in his first six months on the job as a senator, he has been “astonished by the gridlock, even paralysis,” that exists in Washington, but said he remains encouraged by the manufacturing survey response. “I think there has to be consensus that the American economy needs more jobs, that we need to rescue the home manufacturing industry and we need manufacturing to thrive, and the way to do it is to provide workers to fill those openings,” he said.