Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding income inequality and the Rebuild America Jobs Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
This week Democrats introduced legislation that would put Americans back to work rebuilding this nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
It will hire hundreds of thousands of people to upgrade 150,000 miles of roadways, improve thousands of miles of train tracks and modernize our nation’s runways and air-traffic control systems.
The Rebuild America Jobs Act will invest $50 billion to ensure our world-class economy has world-class infrastructure and get this country working again.
This common-sense plan has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the past. Many of my Republican colleagues in the Senate have spoken glowingly about what infrastructure investments could do to put people back to work and improve the economy in their home states.
Yet this week, Republicans have raised a hew and cry against our plan because it asks millionaires and billionaires to contribute their fair share to the effort to right our listing economy.
The plan would require the richest of the rich in America to contribute a tiny fraction of their income to that effort. They would pay a 0.7 percent surtax on income in excess of $1 million a year.
So someone making $1.1 million a year would pay an additional $700.
Yet my Republican colleagues adamantly oppose this fair and balanced approach because it would require Americans who have done better and better each year for decades to contribute a tiny fraction more than they do now.
They are the top two-tenths of one percent of American taxpayers.
Yet Republicans have put the interests of these millionaires and billionaires ahead of those of the rest of Americans, and it has cost this nation literally millions of jobs.
So I think it’s important that we be clear who these lucky few, these millionaires and billionaires who enjoy the protection of the Senate GOP, actually are.
They are the same millionaires and billionaires whose annual, after-tax income has increased by 275 percent over the last three decades. I repeat, 275 percent. That’s according to a study released last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Between 1979 and 2007, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners saw their wages creep up slowly – 18 percent in all. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw theirs double again and again.
In fact, their share of the nation’s income is higher than at any time since 1928 – just before the stock market crashed, plunging this nation into the Great Depression.
Their share of the national income has doubled since 1979.
And now they now take home more than half of all the money earned each year in this nation, even after taxes.
That means one percent of American workers now makes more than the other 99 percent combined.
That’s not to say that they don’t deserve their prosperity. No doubt many of them have worked incredibly hard to achieve such great success.
But their tremendous fortune – including their tremendous fortunes – means they can afford to contribute a tiny fraction more to shore up the economic future of this great nation.
As John D. Rockefeller, Jr. said, “Every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.”
Seventy-two percent of Americans, including 54 percent of Republicans, support Democrats’ plan to pull this nation out of the worst recession it’s seen since the Great Depression by investing in new roadways, runways and railways.
And 76 percent of Americans, including 56 percent of Republicans, agree the nation’s most privileged citizens should contribute a little more to help pay for it.
They believe in the initiatives Democrats have proposed to jumpstart our economy, but they know the money will have to come from somewhere. They know tough choices must be made.
Asking someone making $1.1 million to contribute a few hundred bucks more every year shouldn’t be one of the tough choices. That’s a no-brainer.
Yet while Democrats fight for the middle class, it seems Republicans will fight for the one percent of Americans who have every resource available to fight for themselves.