Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor on rebuilding America’s economy through economic fairness. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
In 1946, President Harry Truman delivered his first State of the Union message. It was the first since the end of World War II.
The trials of war were behind us. But new challenges lay ahead.
Truman laid out a vision for how America could not only survive those challenges, but thrive in a modern world.
He described the path forward in simple words: “Our basic objective – toward which all others lead – is to improve the welfare of the American people.”
That meant economic prosperity. It meant Social Security and unemployment insurance. It meant opportunity for higher education, access to medical care and the dream of homeownership.
The goal, he wrote, was “that we become a well-housed people, a well-nourished people, an educated people, a people socially and economically secure, an alert and responsible people.”
And in the three decades that followed, that vision was reality. The middle class was never larger and never stronger. And it had never been easier to become a part of that middle class.
Through hard work and ingenuity, Americans prospered together.
For three decades after World War II, the rungs on the ladder to success grew closer together.
But in the three decades that followed, something changed.
The goal was the same – to be a well-housed, well-educated nation of responsible and economically secure people.
But for many, reaching that goal became more difficult.
Incomes skyrocketed for the richest few. But they stalled for the rest. And the middle class lost more and more ground.
Today, the richest one percent holds nearly half of all the wealth in this country.
Today, the richest one percent takes home a quarter of the personal income.
Americans are working just as hard as they worked 60 years ago. But that hard work is paying off for fewer and fewer people.
What does this mean? For the last three decades, the rungs on the ladder to success have grown farther apart instead of closer together.
And the farther apart those rungs grow, the fewer Americans climb that ladder. The farther apart those rungs are, the fewer Americans make it into a disappearing middle class.
We just weathered the worst recession since the Great Depression. But the financial collapse of 2008 wasn’t the cause of the problem – it was a symptom of the problem.
It was a symptom of a system that is rigged to pay off for a few, but leave many behind. And it’s time we evened the playing field.
As we rebuild our economy, let’s rebuild it to last. Let’s rebuild it to work for every American, regardless of the size of their bank account.
This week, President Obama laid out a vision to do just that.
The President’s plan will spur manufacturing. It’s time to reward companies that “make it in America” and end giveaways to companies that ship jobs overseas.
It will reduce our reliance on expensive foreign oil. It’s time to rely on plentiful, home-grown, renewable energy sources.
The plan will ensure today’s students have the skills to become tomorrow’s workers. That is the only way to keep pace in a competitive global economy.
And it will return this country to the core value that made it great: fairness.
Everyone must share the prosperity as well as the responsibility. And every person and every corporation must play by the same rules.
That value encouraged three decades of growth after World War II. And it can make America grow again.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this vision of fairness a reality.