August 30, 2012
As we mourn the death of Neil Armstrong, the modest hero who first walked on the moon, we are reminded of the importance of the space program and of space exploration as part of basic science. I have consistently supported NASA, as I have the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Investment in basic science research yields incalculable and often unforeseen and unintended benefits, and basic science needs public funding. Commercial enterprise will not take the risks required to sustain fundamental inquiries.
I had the pleasure this month of meeting two former astronauts, Captain Daniel Burbank and Captain Michael Foreman. Both had spent time on the orbiting space station and talked about the exhilaration of conducting, in space, experiments which could not be performed on the surface of the earth. The landing of Curiosity on Mars is an encouraging sign of continued American interest in inter-planetary science, but I am concerned that the United States will fall behind other nations if we do not sustain these programs.
I recently joined local, state and federal officials in Somerville to announce more than $1 million in Brownfields grants for work at the Kiley Barrel site in Union Square. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the federal funding, which will be used to clean up contaminated soil associated with the site, a former barrel cleaning operation. Union Square is one of Somervilleís most vibrant neighborhoods and these federal funds will help continue the transformation of the Kiley Barrel site, resulting in the creation of additional residential and commercial space, as well as hundreds of jobs. Brownfields funds are an important source of federal funding because they help revitalize neighborhoods. I thank the EPA for recognizing the value of this particular local project.
Last week I joined state officials at the Department of Transitional Assistance to talk with current and former clients about the importance of federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). We heard some compelling stories from folks struggling through tough times and from people who were able to get back on their feet thanks in part to programs like SNAP. SNAP and initiatives like it are safety nets for so many families, providing a small measure of security during difficult times. At the federal level, SNAP program funding is being threatened with devastating cuts, which will hurt many low income Americans. While the federal budget deficit needs to be addressed, that shouldnít happen solely through cuts to programs like SNAP.
This week I met with representatives of Jumpstart, a nation-wide organization seeking to improve early childhood education and make sure that every American child is ready to succeed in school. Jumpstart engages children in an intensive 20 week curriculum to prepare them for kindergarten. They have an outstanding record of training volunteers to coach preschoolers in language and literacy skills. The majority of Jumpstartís volunteers are college students, and they partner with ten local colleges and universities. Staffers also told me that many of their most effective volunteers are older persons, living in the communities they serve. Their oldest volunteer is a woman of 90 years. Jumpstart staffers and volunteers are making a real impact on so many young children, helping them to develop the skills they will need to succeed in kindergarten.
A group of volunteers from MassUniting came to talk to me this week about H.R. 6211, The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012. I am a co-sponsor of this measure, which seeks to increase the federal minimum wage. I appreciate the commitment of these young activists who came to see me, finding the time to get involved in the public discourse about our economy. Although I could not paint a rosy picture for the prospects of the minimum wage bill advancing this year, I emphasized the need for continued activism. Under current federal law the base pay of a full-time minimum wage worker is $15,080.00, and thatís only if they donít miss a day of work. Is this really enough to live on?
Whatís Up Next Week
The House is not in session. The next votes are scheduled for Monday September 10th.