Powerful, sobering remarks from Congressman Chris Smith

Rep_Chris_Smith_addressing_House_subcommittee (800x508)Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4), Dean of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation will address the NJ Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Walk to Washington Dinner this evening.  His remarks as prepared for delivery are as follows:

On a myriad of fronts, the number of seemingly insurmountable challenges facing America today demands sober, serious and sustained problem solving by Congress, the President and stakeholders of every stripe.

Thankfully we have highly motivated and informed experts from the private sector including and especially the Chamber of Commerce showing the way forward.

Like you, I’m a big fan of principled bipartisanship.  Working across the aisle for important causes and goals often yields positive results.

However, in both Washington and Trenton, healthy partisanship has a place as well.  A benign adversarial system—with an emphasis on benign—ought to produce well-vetted policies that serve the public.  At least that’s the theory.

But we live in an age of the perpetual political campaign where truth and the common interest often take a hit. Enabled in part by distortion, surface appeal argument,  the 24/7 cable news cycle  and an increase in negative political advertising, the public is increasingly ill served and tackling tough issues with good faith compromise has become more elusive than ever.

On the national debt, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) a few weeks ago cautioned with understated alarm that our massive current-day debt of $17.5 trillion will skyrocket to $27 trillion in just ten years.  The interest payment alone will be $876 billion in 2024—an amount greater than the combined budgets  this year for Homeland Security, HUD, Justice, Transportation, Agriculture,  all discretionary spending for HHS including the National Institutes of Health, Science agencies and the Department of Defense.

Ballooning annual interest payments as far as the eye can see are unconscionable.

As we borrow our way to insolvency, have we calculated the profound negative implications of unsustainable debt on our children and grandchildren?

While success won’t be achieved overnight, it’s time the federal government moved decisively in the direction of balance and paying down the debt.  Inspired by both the Kennedy and Reagan administrations, we need to embrace pro-growth policies that incentivize innovation, hard work, and prudent risk in order to unleash job creation and wealth brought to us by you—the private sector.

On trade, I respectfully urge you to take a fresh look at doing business in Africa—if you are not there already.

A few weeks ago, I chaired a dialogue with representatives of over forty African countries including 16 ambassadors. The bottom line from the Africa side was trade, not just foreign aid.

With its emerging middle class, abundant natural resources and growing entrepreneurial class, Africa—as many of you know already—is emerging as an economic powerhouse.

In the past ten years, Africa has been the home to 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world.   Yet in 2009, China surpassed the US as the leading trading partner of African nations.

Senator Durbin of Illinois and I have introduced bipartisan companion bills in the Senate and House respectively to boost American exports to these emerging markets.  At its core, our legislation—Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act—creates a comprehensive strategy to increase exports to Africa by 200% over the next ten years by promoting the alignment of US commercial interests with development interests in Africa and by developing relationships with American businesses with expertise in infrastructure—including electrification of the sub-continent—technology, telecommunications, energy and agriculture.  The US Chamber of Commerce has endorsed our legislation and my subcommittee approved the bill last November.

On combatting human trafficking, some of you may know that I am the prime author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TPVA)—America’s landmark law designed to fight sex and labor trafficking at home and overseas.

Governor Christie’s aggressive plan to halt or at least mitigate the sale and purchase of girls and women as commodities in proximity to the Super Bowl last February was an enormous success.  Proactive measures suppressed the anticipated spike of this cruelty and exploitation of women and law enforcement rescued  70 victims including 25 minors.   Approximately 40 pimps were arrested.

NGOs and New Jersey businesses—especially the hotel industry—made a major effort to protect victims by facilitating situation awareness training of their personnel.

Internationally, I am extremely grateful that Secretary of State John Kerry made the diplomatically tough but right call to designate China’s government among the worst violators of human trafficking based on minimum standards prescribed by my law and therefore subject to sanctions. As a direct result of China’s draconian one child per couple policy—a policy that makes brothers and sisters illegal and has resulted in tens of millions sex selective abortions of little girls—China’s missing daughters and the consequences of an  unprecedented gender disparity have made China the largest  magnet on earth for sex-traffickers.

And finally, Standard and Poor’s has identified global aging as the dominant threat to global economic stability.  In Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth S&P writes: “No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health…as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.”  Turns out that population concerns aren’t as much about babies as it is about baby boomers—as the world gets significantly older and grayer.

Today, approximately 150,000 New Jersey residents—5 million nationwide— suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a crippling, fatal disease for which there is no current cure despite over 150 clinical trials.  By 2050, that number is expected to spike to 15 million patients in the US alone.

And according to Alzheimer’s Disease International, more than 115 million people worldwide will likely have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050—unless we find the cure. Unless the current trajectory is reversed, the impact on patients, caregivers, health care systems and the global economy will be catastrophic.

Last December in London the G8 committed to advancing and coordinating research on this dreaded disease with the goal to “identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025” –a target that comports with the US goal.

Speaking as the only industry speaker at the summit, Johnson and Johnson’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels, compared the challenge of Alzheimer’s to the HIV-AIDS pandemic thirty years ago and said “there are many lessons to be learned from how the global scientific community tackled the HIV crisis,” including “collaboration around science, biomarkers, early diagnosis, novel regulatory pathways and patient advocacy…”

After chairing a series of congressional hearings on Alzheimer’s disease over the years—I’ve co-chaired the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force for 15 years—I introduced bipartisan legislation in February to establish the Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Plan, under the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO), building on public and private sector expertise.

Finding the cure for Alzheimer’s disease must be a when and not an if and sooner would be far better than later.

Not surprisingly, New Jersey’s J&J—and other Jersey pharmaceuticals—are helping lead the way with vision and innovation.

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith | Tags: , , | Comments Off

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