Sen. Barbara Boxer challenged by California “small business” woman on NPR radio

California Senator Barbara Boxer was a guest on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, hosted by Neal Conan (October 6. 2010).

Listen to her answer. Californians, are you awake?

The text is below.

CONAN: Let’s see if we can get Gail(ph) on the line, and Gail’s calling us from Walnut(ph) in California.

GAIL (Caller): Hi, yes. I had a question for the senator. You know, she keeps referring to small business or businesses, million-dollar businesses shipping jobs overseas.

I’m a very small manufacturer and because of the EPA regulations and all the different regulations that she signed and others like her have signed, most of my business, a lot of my business we’ve had to move overseas in order to get the parts made.

Then we have to ship them back over here, and then we put them back together so we can sell them. The only way we can be competitive here in California and not have to move our business out of the state, like a lot of other people have or entirely ship it overseas, is by doing that. And that’s because of the onerous regulations that have been passed.

And I want to find out: Do you understand that those regulations, that those jobs that we have to ship overseas are not million-dollar businesses? I have a very, very small, under-one-million-a-year operation, but I employ 10 people.

I provide all their medical coverage. I give them vacation times. I am a good employer. I’m a small-business owner, and the taxes are killing us. And we’re doing everything we can. We’ve financed or refinanced our house and put all the money back in our business.

And you keep referring to us as some sort of millionaires, and we’re not. We’re just small businesses trying to stay afloat. And yes, we have to use China labor and China manufacturing because everything here, the worker’s comp, the EPA and everything has just been overwhelming to us.

Can you understand small business? I don’t you know, come and see us.

CONAN: Gail Senator Boxer?

Sen. BOXER: Sure. Well, actually, I wrote the small business jobs act, in which we gave no less than 10 tax breaks to small businesses. And I have huge support among small business.

And I really do want to respond. I don’t sign any regulations, but I do support the Clean Air Act. You know, dirty air actually is a factor in asthma in our children. It is directly responsible for tens of thousands of people dying prematurely. And I believe it’s very important that we and when we do trade agreements – and this is where I have a disagreement with my opponent.

She said she’d support every trade agreement. I’ve only supported half of them because you want to make sure that we don’t have onerous regulations here, but we allow other countries, who, you know, try to import products to our country, they have no environmental laws or no labor laws. And they use child labor. That’s wrong.

GAIL: Well, dont you think…

Sen. BOXER: So yes, small business is a major priority of mine. I urge you to understand that we’re giving $40 billion worth of tax credits for health care to small business. We just gave a break. If you hire a long-term unemployed, you get a totally free tax holiday. We’re allowing you to write off very quickly any investments that you make but…

CONAN: Senator, you may not have heard, Gail was trying to get in with a follow-up question. I don’t mean to interrupt. But, Gail?

Sen. BOXER: I’m sorry.

GAIL: You know, when you’re talking about – I don’t – I’ve already – you know, my – to hire another employee, my employees have all every one have voluntarily taken a one-day cut in pay, every single day, every single employee. Instead of laying somebody off, each – one of them has one day a week, they’re taking a day off without pay. That’s four days a month for each one of my 10 employees. I can’t afford to hire somebody else. Tax breaks don’t mean anything to me. I’m so far in the red; I don’t need another tax break.

What I need is less regulation. I need to be able to bring my manufacturing back here. I need to expand my business here in California. I need to break through these regulations. And I understand we can do this, and we still can be good stewards of our environment. But to have environment in California and not environment or even environment in Los Angeles County versus no environment in San Bernardino County versus no environment regulations in Nevada is not going to do anything in terms of the overall air quality. Everybody has to work together, and it has to comprehensive. It has to be a worldwide…

CONAN: Gail…

GAIL: …comprehensive.

CONAN: …give the senator a chance to respond.

Sen. BOXER: Well, yeah, if I could just say, you need – in order to work, you have to breathe clean air. You have to drink clean water. And I know you share that. And I agree with you, it has to be fair. That’s why I don’t support trade agreements which are tougher on our own businesses and work to make sure that there’s fairness there.

But clearly, small business, you are the job creators. Sixty-two percent of all the jobs in the last 15 years have been created by small business. So I understand you don’t want tax breaks. Other small businesses tell me it’s necessary.

And let me tell you the main thing I’ve heard from them, and it may not be your case. They need access to capital. And they want to expand, but the big banks aren’t lending. So that’s why the small business jobs bill we passed was so very important. But I really feel when it comes to the environment, if you take the global look at it, over the past several years in America, since – it was actually Richard Nixon who signed most of these landmark laws. You talk about Richard Nixon before. He signed these landmark laws. Overall, they have made our country healthier, more prosperous. Weve had great economic growth. We are in a rough, rough patch right now and…


Sen. BOXER: …small business need access to capital.


Sen. BOXER: They need relief on health care, and they need relief on trade, and I’m trying to bring that to you.

CONAN: Gail, thanks very much for the phone call. We appreciate it. Senator Boxer, thank you for your time today, and we wish you the best of luck.

Sen. BOXER: Thank you so much, Neal. Bye.