The votes have been counted. The election is over. But now we have another decision to make. Over the next few weeks, and likely months, Congress and President Barack Obama will decide between two different visions for America. What they do will have a huge effect on our families’ and country’s future.
By early next year, Congress and the president will decide so many things: Whether to continue Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year; whether to keep the promises of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for working Americans; whether to avoid scheduled cuts in spending that would radically pare all sorts of domestic programs, from providing tuition grants for college, protecting our food, water and air, to eliminating food assistance for hungry Americans; whether to move the economy forward by creating good jobs repairing bridges, roads and schools.
As we enter these deliberations, Congress should keep four principles foremost in mind.
First, we must end the Bush tax cuts for couples earning more than $250,000 a year, which will save $1 trillion over the next decade, almost the amount of the automatic spending cuts. Instead of more tax breaks for higher incomes, the revenue would be better spent providing vital services to our families and investing in good jobs at home.
Second, we must keep our seniors and families secure by not cutting benefits for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The financial future of all Medicare and Medicaid can be secured by building on the steps taken in the Affordable Care Act to eliminate wasteful spending and payments to insurance companies. The life of the Social Security trust fund can be extended beyond 2075 simply by having those who earn more than $110,000 pay into Social Security on all of their income, like most Americans do.
Third, Congress must not allow huge, automatic cuts in vital services for our families. These cuts are scheduled to begin next year, and, if they do, two things will happen, both bad. First, millions of jobs will be lost because of the money that is suddenly subtracted from our economy. And second, middle-class families will be further traumatized by the loss of services they depend on: anything from Pell grants for college students to moms, babies and children who depend on the WIC program.
Fourth, Congress must invest in good jobs for America by rebuilding roads, bridges and schools. Creating green jobs in our communities to save money for families and businesses and move us toward energy independence. We should put more people to work caring for our children and elders and create a big youth jobs program.
The bottom line is that Congress and Obama must make decisions that invest in the middle class. The middle class is the engine of our economy, but it is not built by accident. We can only build a powerful economy, driven by working families and the middle class, if we make the right decisions.
Together we decide whether to help people get a world-class education and create a culture of opportunity, so people can afford a decent home, send their kids to good schools and have access to affordable health care and retirement security.
The election is over, and the mandate is clear. Americans chose “we’re in this together” and rejected “you’re on your own.” Now it’s up to members of Congress to listen. Will they continue to favor the super-rich and CEO campaign contributors? Or will they choose prosperity for working families and the middle class?
Jesse Graham is executive director of The Maine People’s Alliance.