Hastings’ statement on the Congressional Black Caucus Budget
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) made the following statement in support of the Congressional Black Caucus Budget proposal:
“On Jan. 8, 1964, President Johnson came before the nation to deliver his State of the Union address and declared a war on poverty. It has been 60 years since President Johnson gave us that charge, but we have yet to achieve a country free from the burdens of poverty. As President Johnson said all those years ago, ‘It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.’
“President Johnson was correct. The struggle has been neither short nor easy, but he was also right when he said we would not rest until the war on poverty was won. There is no silver bullet, no single weapon or strategy for confronting something as complex as our nation’s struggle with poverty. That is why I rise today in support of the budget put forth by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). This budget is neither a single weapon nor a single strategy, but rather a multi-faceted dynamic approach to responsible governing that will strengthen our economy and reduce our deficit by approximately $1.8 trillion over the next ten years.
“A budget can act as a mirror; a mirror that reflects the priorities, ideals and morality of a nation. When we hold the budget proposed by Chairman Ryan up to the mirror, we see an image that distorts the ideals that provide the foundation for this country. We see an image that prioritizes protecting the wealthy over championing middle class families, small businesses and the poor. We know what we need to do to help those Americans who are struggling. We need to extend emergency unemployment insurance; we need to raise the minimum wage; we need to support the Affordable Care Act; invest in education; invest in job training; and we certainly have to invest in our infrastructure. We need a plan to create jobs. The dynamic budget proposed by the CBC addresses all of these issues and more. Under Mr. Ryan’s Path to Poverty, these critical issues are not addressed. In fact, they are purposely ignored.
“Our tax code is hurting many Americans. It is a code that rewards and protects the rich at the expense of middle class families and the poor. Taken together, the ideas proposed by the CBC would equal roughly $4.3 trillion in revenue enhancement over the next decade in ways that are fairer to more Americans. The CBC only directs the appropriate committees in the House and Senate to find $2.0 trillion in revenue enhancements.
“Those of us who champion the CBC budget provide a number of ways to reach that $2.0 trillion mark. For instance, we could end special tax breaks and close tax loopholes available only to the wealthiest Americans. This alone could get us one trillion dollars over the next ten years. We could also stop the wealthiest among us from using overseas tax havens to avoid paying their fair share. Along these same lines, let us rid our tax code of ridiculous loopholes like deductions for yachts and the loophole for corporate jets. Additionally, we could find $880 billion over the next decade if we taxed capital gains and dividends as ordinary income. We all have constituents back home who work hard all week. They put in their 40 hours, often times more, to provide for their families.
At the end of the week they get a check from which taxes have been withheld at rates for ordinary income. This amount is taxed higher than the gains made in from stocks. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has said that these rates are ‘the single greatest driver of income inequality over a recent 15 year period was runaway income from capital gains and dividends.’ It does not seem unreasonable to ask that the Wall Street banker sitting on a stock portfolio, to pay the same tax rates as a teacher in Florida or a factory worker in Maine
“We have a truly disturbing income inequality situation in this country. Such inequality is unfair to those who work diligently to create growth for this country, but who do not get to reap the benefits there from. This inequality is bad for the social fabric that binds this country together. While corporations and top level executives make record profits and payout larger and larger bonuses, middle class Americans are left further and further behind as they struggle through this jobless recovery.
“Additionally, sequestration did not do any favors for the middle class or poor. Sequestration was the brutal swing of a cudgel of despair aimed right at the hopes and dreams of poor and middle class families. Head Start programs were scaled back, summer sessions were cut, instructors were cut, and students were put on waitlists rather than in classrooms. Seniors were placed in danger of facing food insecurities when Meals on Wheels had to cut down on their deliveries. Sequestration led to federal funding being cut for education including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This was done at the K-12 level and the college level. It will be absolutely impossible for this country to maintain its advantage in an increasingly advanced and complex world economy if we do not invest in STEM education at all levels. These are but a few reasons the CBC Budget responsibly puts an end to Sequestration.
“Our country cries out for a jobs bill that will accelerate economic recovery and helps Americans across this nation. The CBC budget answers these cries by proposing a jobs program totaling $500 billion. This responsible approach to governing will grow our economy by establishing a National Direct Job Creation Program that puts people to work repairing our schools, community centers, parks and playgrounds. This program will add 2.8 million jobs. This responsible approach to growing our economy also includes a plan to modernize our schools. Many of the schools around this country were built decades ago. These schools are approaching the point where we cannot adequately train our young people for the challenges ahead. In order to meet the demands and challenges of the future, our students need facilities that can handle the cutting edge technologies that will undoubtedly form the basis of any decent job of the future.
“The CBC’s responsible approach to governing calls for an immediate investment in our country’s infrastructure. Not only will an immediate investment in our infrastructure lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs dedicated to upgrading this country’s crumbling roads, bridges and railways, but by strengthening our infrastructure, we help businesses small and large alike grow by giving them access to the tools they need to ship goods throughout the country.
“The CBC’s responsible approach to governing also acknowledges the fact that the housing crisis continues to ripple throughout many of our neighborhoods. That is why the budget calls for significant funding to help communities rebuild and helps families facing foreclosures remain in their homes.
“Furthermore, the CBC budget, acknowledges the fact that a person may come into this economy with one set of skills, but through no fault of their own, find that they need a new set of skills to be competitive in a rapidly changing economy. The budget makes sure that these hard working Americans are not left behind by giving them access to technical training, career services, graduate and certificate programs and other job training programs.
“Every day, homeless Americans face constant instability and must cope with difficult and often unhealthy lifestyles. For those living without permanent housing, everyday life is extremely difficult. Storing and preparing food is nearly impossible, and much of the homeless population relies on temporary shelters and soup kitchens to survive. The Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) provides working poor Americans with badly needed nourishment. Cutting funding for this program will only add to the difficulties so many are facing. The CBC budget recognizes this reality, and uses the program savings that will come from raising the minimum wage to help improve and streamline the benefits and ensure that this critical lifeline remain available for those who need it most.
“The budget proposed here today is a budget that protects the poor, while providing security for middle class families. It is a budget that protects the social fabric holding together the greatest experiment in democracy the world has ever known. It is a budget that responsibly rewards innovation, while closing gross inequalities in wealth. It is a budget that helps teachers instill in our young people a thirst for knowledge. It is a budget that invests in this country’s roads and bridges to help our small businesses. It is a budget that will bring us further down the road towards ending the War on Poverty, not further down the Road to Ruin that the Republicans want to take us.”
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.