Kitchen Table, Values and Real Solutions
At kitchen tables from Clifton, New Jersey to Clifton Colorado, some harsh economic realities are carrying the day. Concerns range from job loss and rising debt to exploding health care costs and tax bills that keeps getting bigger. Despite this, many in the nation's capitol, chief among them our President, seem totally oblivious.
The President seems to believe that if he just continues to talk about homeland security, and changes a few economic advisors, everything will be just fine. We do face dangerous new threats as Americans. I served on the Democratic Homeland Security Task Force following the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and co-authored legislation to upgrade our nation's emergency preparedness. We must absolutely protect our communities at any cost.
That said, we cannot have real homeland security without economic security, and the deafening silence coming from the White House when it comes to easing these kitchen table concerns is mystifying to say the least.
Rather than offer, or even support, proposals that help average Americans, the President has given us the same ideologically inspired, tried and failed economic policies of the past. We've also seen plenty of staged town meetings, hollow radio addresses, and empty political slogans like "compassionate conservatism." What we haven't seen are any real solutions for families who are struggling just to make ends meet.
Tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest 1% in 2011 is not an economic strategy. It is a political strategy. The terrible events of Septemeber 11, 2001 are not the primary cause of the evaporation of economic prosperity we have endured. The primary cause is an economic policy that is devoid of vision and devoid of values.
There is a massive redistribution of wealth underway in Washington, and its going upward. The middle class is being asked to shoulder more and more of the tax burden in this country while huge corporations are evading millions in taxes each year by opening a mailbox in Bermuda. As Senator John McCain said recently, "Low income Americans in totality bear a higher tax burden than wealthy Americans do. Therefore, there is a growing gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans."
Our unemployment rate is up to 6%, the highest it has been in 9 years. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in 9 years. The median household income fell more than 2% last year. For the first time in 8 years, there is an increase in Americans living in poverty. Budget surpluses have become deficits almost overnight. This has caused seniors to go without prescription drug coverage under Medicare and veterans to be kept in the dark as to benefits they have earned. Enough is enough.
So what do we do? First, we must extend unemployment benefits that have just expired for over 800,000 families. Those trying to find work should not have to worry about feeding their families, and it will help infuse more money into our economy as well.
Second, we should freeze those tax cuts that go into effect later this decade. These cuts do absolutely nothing to immediately spur economic growth. Even by freezing just the tax rate cuts for those making over $400,000 per year, which is one half of 1% of the nation, we would recapture more than $600 billion over the next twenty years for defense and domestic priorities. This freeze of potential upper income tax cuts is part of an economic plan for growth to encourage savings, economic confidence, and shared prosperity.
This is not class warfare or anti-capitalism, for those who might raise those objections. Class warfare and anti-capitalism would be continuing to quietly shift the tax burden onto middle class families.
Third, we should immediately pass legislation that eliminates offshore tax shelters from our tax code. These loopholes cost hard-working taxpayers an estimated $70 billion per year. That's baloney and it must end.
Fourth, we should provide every working American a tax cut right now by instituting a temporary cut in payroll taxes. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has proposed a holiday on the first $10,000 in income, which would provide a $765 tax cut to every worker. This is a good approach.
Fifth, we should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which rewards low-income families for being off the welfare rolls and on the employment rolls, and allow small businesses to defer more federal taxes if they reinvest that money back into their business.
Sixth, we should invest in modernizing our nation's transportation infrastructure, which would create jobs now and greatly enhance our day to day quality of life for decades to come.
When the President gives his upcoming State of the Union message, he should embrace an economic plan that addresses the kitchen table concerns of hard-working Americans. He should embrace an agenda grounded in fairness, and one that what will actually work. Most of all, he should demonstrate that he finally gets it. When it comes to the economy, it's not just the "vision" thing anymore. It is also the "values" thing.