Washington, D.C.– Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the need for shared sacrifice in deficit reduction efforts. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Today the Senate will consider legislation calling on millionaires and billionaires to contribute to this country’s effort to reduce our deficit.
Republicans have already asked the poor, the middle class, children and seniors to make sacrifices to help get our fiscal house in order. This legislation would reaffirm the Senate’s commitment to ensuring the extremely wealthy are asked to make similar sacrifices.
This principle – that all Americans should contribute their fair share as we work together to reduce the deficit – is so common sense it should go without saying. Yet Republicans have boasted about their opposition to having the wealthy contribute their fair share.
This is the simple, straight-forward statement my Republican colleagues oppose: “Any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those earning $1 million or more per year make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.” My Republican colleagues reject that.
Democrats are willing to go on the record saying we believe all Americans – including those who can afford private jets and yachts – should contribute to the collective effort to reduce the deficit. The question is, why aren’t Republicans willing to do the same?
They say it’s because they’re looking out for the people. That claim is ridiculous. It is without foundation.
Let’s talk about the millionaires and billionaires Republicans are determined to protect above all else. Less than one quarter of one percent of tax returns filed in the United States each year belong to people making more than $1 million.
These same people are among the one percent of Americans who control half the country’s wealth.
We are talking about the Warren Buffets of the world. Warren Buffet is my friend, and I have great respect for him. But he is very, very wealthy.
So, what does Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world, say about contributing his fair share? He welcomes it.
And Buffet criticized a system in which his secretary gives a greater share of her income to the government each year than this man worth $50 billion.
“If you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.” That’s what Warren Buffet said about contributing his fair share.
Since the late 1970’s, incomes for the lucky one percent in America have risen by 281 percent.
The last three decades have been a very, very good time for the very, very wealthy.
President George W. Bush called these people the “Haves and Have-mores.” He also called them his base. And right now the Republican Party is putting what is good for this very small base ahead of what is good for this great nation.
The legislation before us asks only this: that each American be part of the solution rather than of part of the problem.
In poll after poll, Americans have endorsed this principle. They have said they believe we must address our deficit both by reducing spending and by ending tax breaks for the wealthiest citizens and corporations. Democrats have heard them.
If Warren Buffet chooses to buy a private jet – or a whole fleet of them – that’s alright. But the American taxpayers shouldn’t give him a special tax break for doing it.
This country is facing a crisis. We face mounting debt brought on by a decade of war and tax breaks for the wealthy. And we face the prospect that Republicans will force us to default on our financial obligations for the first time in our nation’s history.
Difficult choices must be made. Together we will consider cutting programs that help real people in very real ways. Eliminating tax breaks for oil companies making record profits, corporations that ship jobs overseas and the owners of private jets and yachts should be the easy part of solving this problem.
Yet Republicans walked away from the negotiating table when a solution was in sight because they said no to fairness.
Democrats had already agreed to trillions in difficult cuts in order to prevent a default crisis and avert a world-wide depression. Then Republicans walked away from the table to help the one percent of Americans lucky enough not to need any extra help.
How will Republicans explain this to their constituents back home? As middle class families struggle to make ends meet, my Republicans colleagues are risking the financial future of this country and world for the sake of people who can afford private jets and yachts. I can’t imagine that conversation.
Asking millionaires and billionaires to contribute to solving this nation’s deficit crisis is not unreasonable. It’s just plain common sense and simple fairness.