Tonight President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner offered to the American people starkly differnt visions for America as together we face a looming crisis that comes with August 2nd and the end of our debt ceiling - the nation's ability to borrow.
President Obama said tonight that to deal with our nation's deficit we need a balanced approach that involves shared sacrifice - including asking millionaires to pay their fair share of taxes:
Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need. The debate is about how it should be done. Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?
That’s not right. It’s not fair. We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country – things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research.
Keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98% of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all. None. In fact, I want to extend the payroll tax cut for working families. What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade – millionaires and billionaires – to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make. And I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in. In fact, over the last few decades, they’ve pitched in every time we passed a bipartisan deal to reduce the deficit. The first time a deal passed, a predecessor of mine made the case for a balanced approach by saying this:
“Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment? And I think I know your answer.”
Those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan. But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach – an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, President Clinton, myself, and many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate. So we are left with a stalemate.
Speaker Boehner unveiled his latest plan today - one that could cause the greatest increase in poverty in American history - which calls for no shared sacrifice, only continued benefits for the wealthy at the expense of middle class and low-income families.
Tonight the speaker said:
The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen. You see, there is no stalemate in Congress. The House has passed a bill to raise the debt limit with bipartisan support.
What they actually passed was a highly partisan bill that couldn't even muster half a dozen democratic votes in the U.S. House. Now they want to pass the buck by voting for another bill that will cause Congress to have this entire debate again in just six months - instead of dealing with the problem now.
President Obama sounded like a statesman but Speaker Boehner sounded like another partisan pol.
Like other religious leaders, I want to make sure that any agreement reached protects the middle class and the poorest among us, especially children and elders. Over 6,000 clergy have written to President Obama with this message - I've written him personally - and I'll share that message again with White House staff this week.
I hope Americans take up President Obama's call to reach out to Congress to demand a plan to deal with the deficit that includes new revenues and also the protection of our national safety net. Make your call today, toll free at 888.907.1485. Click here for more from the Half in Ten Campaign on Protecting the American Dream.