Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding tonight’s State of the Union address and economic inequality. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
For generations, this was the American promise: if you worked hard and played by the rules, success would be in reach.
We called that success the American Dream – to earn a decent wage, buy a home, put your children through school and retire comfortably.
But for many people in this country that dream has drifted further and further from reality.
The recession cost many Americans their jobs, homes, savings and basic economic security. Many are still struggling.
And although the economy has made slow progress toward recovery, there is still much more work to be done before every American who wants to work can find a job.
But the terrible recession is only part of the problem. The same Wall Street greed that caused the financial collapse is fueling the greatest income disparity since the Great Depression.
In the last few decades, the average CEO’s income has multiplied 250 times. Meanwhile, that CEO’s employees have watched their incomes barely creep up.
This country is at a crossroads.
As President Johnson said in 1965, it is time to ask, “not only how to create wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are headed.”
And the path we choose will determine what kind of country we will be.
We can choose to be the kind of nation where hard work of many pays off only for the richest few.
Or we can be the kind of nation where every man and woman shoulders a fair share of the burden and reaps a fair share of the reward.
We can be the kind of country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Or we can be the kind of country where middle-class families share in the prosperity.
President Obama has called this choice a “make or break moment” for the middle class.
And tonight he will lay out a roadmap that sets us on the path to fairness instead of inequality. I look forward to hearing President Obama’s vision.
It begins with an economy that works for every American – regardless of the size of his or her checkbook.
I expect the President to lay out common-sense ideas to spur American manufacturing, create jobs and help small business compete and grow.
His vision is fueled by home-grown, renewable energy. It’s time to stop spending American dollars on foreign oil. It’s time to hire American workers to build wind turbines and next-generation vehicles.
The President will propose a new plan to make sure today’s students are ready for tomorrow’s jobs – and that today’s workers remain competitive in a global economy.
I expect the President’s vision to include ideas from Democrats and Republicans.
For three years the President has reached out to Republicans. Now is the time to work with him on common ideas to produce legislation – not stalemate.
I ask my Republican colleagues to give his bipartisan vision the consideration it deserves.
In 1947, President Truman delivered the first televised State of the Union.
Truman was the 20th president to govern alongside a Congress controlled by the opposing party. (The first was George Washington.)
He said Democrats in the executive branch and Republicans in the legislative branch could and should work hand in hand to shape the nation.
This is what he said: “There are ways of disagreeing; men who differ can still work together sincerely for the common good.”
I hope Republicans in Congress will keep those words in mind tonight. Despite all our differences, together we can build an economy that works for the common good of all Americans.