After a narrow victory over incumbent Congressman Allen West, Congressman-Elect Patrick Murphy (D-District 18) told the Town-Crier this week that he is ready to get to work, emphasizing bipartisan efforts to improve the small business environment and the economy.
Murphy recently attended two weeks of orientation in Washington, D.C. He learned rules and regulations, received committee assignments and got his office location. He will formally take office Jan. 3. The district he will soon represent encompasses all of Martin and St. Lucie counties along with northern areas of Palm Beach County, including most of The Acreage and parts of Royal Palm Beach.
At a small temporary office in Palm Beach Gardens, a handful of staff members work from laptops and sit at folding tables. However, plans are underway for Murphy to open district offices in each county.
“As far as long-term goals go, and short-term goals, it’s still the same as it was in the campaign, and that’s still bipartisanship,” Murphy said Monday. “I had the opportunity to sit down with several Republicans in Congress. Bipartisanship is still No. 1… because I think whatever the problem is, there is a bipartisan solution. That includes the ‘fiscal cliff’ and everything going on with that.”
Murphy explained that the “fiscal cliff” is a combination of many things happening at once. “You have the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, you have some new healthcare taxes coming into effect, and then you have this sequestration that was set up a year or so ago by Congress to assure that we would reach a compromise,” he said. “The thinking was it was so bad they’d have to compromise. Well, lo and behold, they didn’t compromise. They’ve waited until the very end, so now we’ve got 25 days left before this all happens at once.”
Murphy said the consequences of all those things happening could deeply affect the economy. “First, I think it’s an embarrassment that we put ourselves in this situation,” he said. “Second, we haven’t been sitting down for the last six months or so compromising, coming up with what the deal should be, where the increases in revenue need to come from and where some of the potential savings need to come from. To me, that is a shame.”
Murphy said he has his fingers crossed that it will be resolved before he gets there. If not, he is particularly worried about how an economic downturn, even a small one, might affect the world economy.
“The bigger picture is what’s happening in the world — with Asia and India slowing down, Europe still in recession, Brazil, South America not doing as well as they were,” he said. “America has the opportunity to lead all these countries out of this recession. If we go off this so-called cliff, I think that will really hinder our position in the world as a leader, and enable a lot of these other countries to take the lead from us.”
Murphy’s longer-term goals are job creation and getting people back to work. “What we need to do is provide stability for business owners,” he said. “That above all is what I think is lacking in our country — any sort of vision or predictability.”
Businesses hire based on demand for their product or their service, and if taxes go 2 or 3 points higher, they will still make money and there will still be a demand for their product, he said.
“It’s creating stability in the marketplace that businesses know what to invest in, and right now people don’t know what is going to happen in the country,” Murphy said. “When you look at Fortune 500 companies sitting on $2.5 trillion in cash, they’re not spending it, that’s 80 percent above their average amount of cash.”
Murphy said now is the time to lay out a plan so everyone in the nation can see the vision for the next 10 years. “Then you’re going to see that money start flowing and businesses start investing that money,” he said. “They’re going to buy factories, they’re going to buy cars and trucks and new buildings, and they’re going to start investing and get the work force back to work.”
Murphy said he anticipates the tax structure will change. “As a CPA, in a perfect world I would rewrite the tax code from scratch, start over, completely simplify it to five pages if I could,” he said. “That’s not going to happen, especially with this short window that we have right now. So what I think should be done is eliminate the Bush tax cuts but ensure it’s there for the middle class. I consider myself more fiscally conservative than the president. I drew the line at $1 million. He has it at $250,000. I think that is a good starting point.”
Local issues he is concerned about include the Everglades and the environment in general, which he said is also tied to the economy. “If we invest in our environment, that attracts tourism, which is a big part of our economy,” Murphy said. “Real estate values are based on beaches and clean air and clean water. If all of a sudden our beaches are gone, or we’re drilling for oil in the Everglades, or the dike breaks and everything is washed away, our economy is going to take a huge hit. A little bit of investment in our environment will lead to a big return for our people, our quality of life and our economy. I’m going to focus on our environment, not only because I like it and want clean air for my kids and grandkids, but because I think it will help our economy.”
With nations such as China focusing on quantity of manufacturing under working conditions that are poor and wages that are a fraction of those here, Murphy said he thinks the U.S. should focus on quality. “As economies develop, things change, and we can’t actually be the world’s largest manufacturer, but we can produce the best,” he said. “We can use our intellectuality and brain power here and our advances to build the best windmills, the best solar panels, the best biotech robots, and then export those things.”
That philosophy is couched firmly in education, he said. “As economies evolve, it’s going to come back to having smarter people, qualified to do higher-level jobs,” Murphy said. “If you start cutting education, you’re not going to make it long-term.”
Murphy said the exporting of jobs from America to foreign countries reflects a greed by CEOs that harms the nation. “I think in the last 50 years or so, we have become a very selfish society,” he said. “It’s been, ‘How do I get ahead despite everybody else.’ I think we used to always want to put a hand out and help someone out, and pay them more, and we’re all in it together, but that’s not the mentality nowadays.”
He said there is room for adjustment on both sides, adding that he supports labor union calls for fair pay, fair benefits, good working conditions and training for employees. “There are some bad apples who have ruined it and made certain perceptions for unions, but for the most part, the union members I’ve met with are hardworking people,” Murphy said. “They want training, they want good benefits, they want to be able to retire, so that’s not asking too much.”
He said there is a better atmosphere for cooperation in the next Congress. “The Republicans and Democrats elected in this Congress, the ones I have spoken to, were elected on a message of bipartisanship,” Murphy said. “This is a big freshman class. I think there’s 80-something new members… That’s a powerful group. If we can relay a message to leadership on both sides that says, ‘Hey, we’re here to compromise. We want to get something done,’ then I think the voters will respect it and we will actually be able to do it.”
To learn more about Murphy, visit www.patrickmurphy2012.com or call his temporary office at (561) 847-4105.
ABOVE: Congressman-Elect Patrick Murphy in his temporary office.