From Senator Jeff Merkley, Dem., Oregon
I’ve got a pretty simple test when I’m considering legislation. Will it help the middle class and small businesses create opportunities and get ahead? It's a test the debt bill couldn't pass, which is why I voted no. All policymakers should use that criteria, but the debt plan we voted on today proves that not to be the case.
After over two years of a devastating recession, and a decade of stagnant wages before that, our number one goal should be creating jobs and making sure our kids have opportunities in the future.
Instead, this deal will cut off jobs and pile burdens on middle class families who are already paying the price for a decade of bad policy choices.
Imagine: Americans who may have lost a job, whose mortgage is under water, who can’t afford their kids’ college anymore and have seen prices skyrocket for food and gas are asked to tighten their belts.
At the same time, the very wealthiest Americans and big, well-connected special interests are 100% insulated from any sacrifice. Their lavish tax breaks and sweetheart deals sprinkled throughout the tax code have been conveniently put off limits for any cuts.
The conventional wisdom says we have to swallow this deal. But if we give in to these ransom demands and allow the extremists to continue their assault on the building blocks of middle class prosperity in order to protect the wealthy and well-connected, we’ll be facing more ransom demands soon enough.
I don’t discount the need for tough choices to bring down our unsustainable deficits. But they can’t be only tough choices for those who can least afford the sacrifice, while those in the penthouses and boardrooms continue amassing more and more and more.
This is a fight about more than how we lower the deficit, it’s a fight for our country’s basic values, and our future. Too many in Washington seem to have forgotten that America’s economic strength is inseparable from the well-being of its middle class. If we continue to sacrifice their prosperity to provide more to the well-off and well-connected, we sacrifice America’s greatness. Let’s not let that happen.