Curbelo Joins The Hill for Wide-Ranging Discussion at #LatinosInSmallBiz Event
– Earlier today, Representative Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), joined The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack for a wide-ranging discussion at the “Latino Entrepreneurship & the American Dream” event in Washington. Curbelo discussed his personal experience as a Hispanic entrepreneur, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last year and the current growth of the economy, the recent immigration debate in the House of Representatives, the ongoing “trade war” with China and U.S. allies – like Mexico, Canada, and the European Union – and infrastructure’s role in mitigating for climate change and sea level rise.
A partial transcript of his remarks is available below. Video of the full discussion is available on Curbelo’s Facebook page here.
His Own Experience as a Latino Entrepreneur
“I would say that the Latino entrepreneurial spirit is there, and we see it in Miami at every corner... I think what most of us need the most help with is compliance – filing taxes, all the little things that can really be obstacles and can get you in trouble if you don’t get it right. So, I think coming from that background, it gave me a little bit of an advantage here – obviously, in terms of messaging and public and media relations for sure, but also in understanding what are the unique challenges – what is it that people who are trying to be entrepreneurial, to start a business – what are the challenges that they face?”
“Trade Wars” with China and U.S. Allies
“There’s no question that at least some of the trade policy the President has embraced will hurt growth in our economy. There’s no question.
“Now, I like to be a little nuanced because when it comes to China, I think some of the actions that the Administration has taken are justified. We have known for many years that the Chinese cheat and undermine the international trade system. They steal our intellectual property. If you’re an American company and you want to go do business in China, you have to do it under their terms. They force you to transfer your intellectual property and any trade secrets that you may have, and that’s just wrong, and to have a president that is clearly standing up against that and holding the Chinese accountable, I think is a good idea.
“Now to pick a trade fight with Canada, with Mexico, with our European allies, I don’t think is a good idea. Trade works best when it’s conducted, just like any business, right? We’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs in this room. You want to do business with people who share your values, with people who you trust. And I would propose to the President that we can certainly trust the Canadians, we can certainly trust the Mexicans, and our European allies. That doesn’t mean that they’re perfect, that doesn’t mean that we may not have disputes and sure we would like to see some tariffs eliminated against some of our products, but to start a trade war with these countries, to use national security as an excuse to inhibit trade with Canada, for example, I think is a poor decision that is going to have a negative impact on our economy and offset some of those gains from the tax bill that we discussed earlier.
“So I’m hopeful that over the summer, a lot of these trade disputes can be resolved. I think it would be much easier to do that with our regional and European partners than with the Chinese – I think that’s going to take some more time.”
Tax Reform & Economic Growth
“There is just a lot of optimism in the economy, and look… when we start talking about the tax bill, I always want to focus on the economy first because every piece of legislation these days is politicized… So, let’s focus on what I think everyone could agree on: the economy is growing, unemployment is at a record low, unemployment among Hispanics, African-Americans is also at a record low. So, it is a really good time economically in our country.
“Now, I’m not going to sit up here and say well that’s thanks to our tax bill exclusively — of course not. We know that there are a lot of different things that brought us to this point. But without question, the tax reform bill has pushed the economic recovery deeper into our society. And a lot of Americans – I would say a lot of Americans from minority groups, especially – who felt left out of the economic recovery for so many years – are now starting to experience it and appreciate it. And that is wonderful news, and when it comes to entrepreneurship, we know that this sentiment of optimism is so critical because when people feel confident, they’re more likely to take risks. And I’m seeing this, in my community. We’ve had roundtables, we go out and meet with small businesses and everyone tells us, ‘Things are getting better,’ ‘We may actually hire someone else,’ ‘We may try to open up a new store’ —and that’s good for everyone. So that’s something to celebrate, and anyone who contests that the tax bill isn’t a part of that story, I don’t think is being sincere.”
The Recent Immigration Debate in the House
“The problem is too many of our colleagues in Congress – on both sides – prefer the politics of immigration, rather than the solutions for immigration… What we ended up putting on the floor was a bipartisan bill and the evidence is that 121 Republicans voted for it and 112 of them voted against it, and I guarantee you that wasn’t because the bill was too conservative. It’s because it was a very centrist bill.
“And I regret the fact that a minority of Republicans joined every Democrat to sink a bill that included a path to citizenship for 2 million young immigrants brought to our country, increased border security, ended the policy of separating children from their parents at the border permanently – meaning no Administration could ever do that again – and had some other important reforms in terms of our asylum system and making sure that it’s there to help those who truly are seeking asylum.
“So this issue isn’t going away, and we have to keep trying. We know there are some court decisions on the horizon that can again force action in Congress. What we tried to do through our discharge petition on this was re-create that pressure that the Administration had created last year when the DACA program was cancelled and the President asked Congress to act. A court decision kind of relieved some pressure from Congress. We re-created it, and forced House Republican leaders…
“We achieved that, of course we fell short of our goal which was to pass a bill, but I think that what we did really brought us closer to getting immigration reform done than we have ever been before.”
Infrastructure’s Role in Mitigating for Climate Change and Sea Level Rise
“Sea level rise is a major concern for my district. I tell people, ‘You know, for many throughout the country this climate change, sea level rise discussion is theoretical, and you get into a classroom and talk about it. For us, most people in our community live at about sea level and near the sea, so this is not a theoretical exercise, it’s actually a real concern.’ And something that I think the federal government must do urgently within the next few years is start dedicating some of our infrastructure funding to coastal communities to make sure that we can protect coastal communities from saltwater intrusion, sea level rise.
“I’ll give you an idea of what that looks like in South Florida. The Everglades houses our freshwater drinking supply… If we see saltwater intrusion into the Everglades, eventually that can threaten our ability to live in South Florida because we simply won’t have enough quality freshwater for the approximately 6 to 7 million people who live in South Florida. So we need to do more to invest in coastal communities and infrastructure.
“A city like Miami Beach has put about $500 million into a pump system. Florida Keys, which I represent, is starting to elevate roads. The federal government is going to have to come in and compliment these efforts in the short-term because these communities are economic drivers for the country. As you indicated, these are ports of entry. Tourists, visitors from all over the world come to the United States through these communities and help expand and grow our economy.
“So that’s something I’m focused on, and in the coming weeks, we are looking at filing a broader solution to address both climate change mitigation and adaptation so be on the lookout for that.”