October 18, 2022

Congressman Moulton Delivers Remarks at the New England Council

Congressman Moulton delivered the following remarks at the New England Council this morning:

Good morning everyone! It’s such a pleasure to be here with you all in person today. I’m eager to get to your questions, because that’s always the most fun part for me. But first I want to share a few thoughts on a topic that I know is top of mind for all of you, the business leaders of our community, and that is how we keep Massachusetts competitive, innovative, and leading…both nationally and globally.

John F. Kennedy once said that “change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Our world has changed a lot since I last joined you in person. We’ve experienced a pandemic, an insurrection, and are still in the midst of the largest land war in Europe since World War II. Our realities have changed in many ways. 

There’s no question that the way you all do business is different… remote work makes attracting and retaining talent harder; supply chain challenges mean that simply maintaining inventory is a lot more complicated; and inflation makes everything more difficult, at work and at home.

During the worst of the pandemic, Massachusetts wasn’t perfect… but we often set the example.  We followed the science, even as our understanding of COVID evolved. Our healthcare system was prepared and resourced. We built an impressive COVID-testing infrastructure by working with partners like MIT and Harvard.  The Commonwealth’s own Moderna developed one of the world’s best COVID vaccines in record time. We’ve had our missteps… but when it comes to how we move forward from the pandemic, how we live with and manage COVID… I am very optimistic. 

But in our post-pandemic world, we’re falling behind in many other important measures. 

Massachusetts’ ability to attract the best in business, in tech, in talent has historically been because the Commonwealth is a great place to live and a welcoming environment for business and innovation. Yet last year, we lost more people to other states than anywhere but Illinois, California, and New York. 

We also have the best universities in the entire world, yet at the Joseph G. Pyne Magnet School in Lowell, ceilings are literally falling down in classrooms due to rust and water damage. And there are stories like this from schools across the Commonwealth.  Our schools need to be much better equipped for the future.  But we also need to look back and have an honest, fact-based debate about whether or not we kept students out of school for too long during the pandemic. That’s a debate many people around here want to avoid, but it’s part of following, and learning, the science as well. Because this probably won’t be the last pandemic we face, and we’re going to be facing the consequences of this pandemic for years to come.

To re-use an over-used cliche, which happens to be true: Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. And miss the future in the process.

So a few thoughts on where we go from here:

First: The number one issue holding back growth in Massachusetts for years, in study after survey after study, is transportation. And the access to housing that good transportation generates. Yet I don’t know if our infrastructure has ever been worse. Our traffic is the worst in the nation. They closed the Orange Line for a month–for the first time in its history–and the trains are now slower than before.

And as our trains careen off the tracks, so have our aspirations.  We sure as hell are not going to entice top-tier companies to Massachusetts with a 125-year-old transit system that is FINALLY restored to operating like it did…125 years ago.

So what is transformative? It’s not adding lanes to highways–which has been proven to increase congestion, especially in cities.  And don’t get me wrong, I love electric cars… But let’s dispel the myth that they’ll solve our problems. Subsidizing cars means more people drive. We’ll just be in silent traffic jams.

No, transformative infrastructure means fixing the housing crisis by connecting Springfield to Boston with trains the rest of the world has that get you there in forty minutes, on time, ten times a day. Morocco is doing it. We can do it in Massachusetts.

Many of you probably have houses on the Cape. Well, if we just expand the bridges over the canal, there will be more cars on Cape Cod jamming up our small towns.  High-speed rail to Hyannis would get you there in 25 minutes, on summer Friday afternoons. And back in 25 minutes on Sunday evenings. That would be transformative. Now maybe there’s some crazy reason I haven’t thought of why you think these are bad ideas, but we’re not even having that debate. The world is passing us by.

Let me address another elephant in the room: Taxes. If we pass the Fair Share Tax this election day, our transportation system could finally get a transformative level of investment. But first we have to show people that their taxes will in fact be invested in transformative projects, with real return on investment because they make a difference in our lives, not just more of the same, more of the same that we should be doing in our sleep with the revenue we already have.

Second: We need to ensure that the industries that have traditionally kept us on top stay that way. 

An example: We all know biotech and what competitiveness in biotech means, but Massachusetts also has one of the most talented defense and technology sectors in the entire world. Yet we’ve taken that superiority for granted for too long. A few years ago I led the bipartisan Future of Defense Task Force, which warned that the U.S. wasn’t modernizing quickly enough. Notably, we called out the critical role the private sector plays in research and development, in partnership with university-funded research.

I just spent the week in the western Pacific visiting Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam on the eve of Chairman Xi’s big party speech.

Right now, America has two very bad options if China were to invade Taiwan. We either ignore it, and the credibility of our deterrent is torn to shreds the world over–achieving not “peace through strength” but, inevitably, “war through weakness,” costing American lives for decades to come. Or, we take on China as we’ve implied we will, and a lot of young Americans die right away. Two terrible options, which is why it is so critical–1000 times more so than in Ukraine–that we deter and prevent this war from ever starting. Showing China we will be them in defense technology is critical to achieving this. And while some progress has been made, we are still not even close to where we need to be.

Leaders in defense in Massachusetts have a critical role to play, but we need much more innovation and productivity out of our defense industrial base. If our biggest defense contractors don’t feel the urgency to “move fast and break things”– to experiment and innovate–it comes at a cost to our state, to our troops, and to our country.

Third: We must be healthy enough to rise up to these challenges.

Massachusetts leads the world in healthcare innovation. We led on COVID response. Now let’s lead the world in mental health.  It’s the health care challenge of today, and we are already well-positioned to do this. 

I co-authored the bill to establish 9-8-8 as the national mental health hotline with a fellow veteran from across the aisle, and I’m thrilled to say that the number went live nationally almost exactly three months ago.Massachusetts was one of the best-positioned states to launch 9-8-8. When call volume increased over 40% this summer, we were ready to answer the phones and get people help, already saving countless lives. But this is like the lowest-hanging fruit. The ROI on mental health care is so high because it’s been ignored for so long. There’s a lot more to do. 

There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll end with this: To do all of this right – to confront the future head-on – we have to have a strong democracy under our feet.  We need to be able to have tough debates about our future in an honest forum. Not one where shouting matches on cable TV for “vicious” fights on Twitter score the most points.  I want you all to know that you may not always agree with everything I say–I’m sure there’s nobody in the room today who agrees with everything I’ve said–but I’m someone who believes in having that honest debate. It’s why yesterday morning I was on MSNBC and 20 minutes later was on Fox News, alongside a Republican colleague, not afraid to debate but also not afraid to find common ground.

It’s why I’m proud to rank consistently as the most bipartisan member of the Massachusetts delegation. And why I will always work across the aisle to get things done, whether it’s spending a week in the Indo-Pacific with a Republican from Florida or partnering with a Republican Air Force veteran from Utah to pass 9-8-8.

The craziness has got to stop. There is too much important work to do.

Thank you for listening, and I look forward to your questions.