Coming back to Congress after a post-convention bump for President Barack Obama, Democrats must now ride the tide of public fervor in favor of policies that will benefit the most Americans, not the least. Asian-American and Pacific Islanders are at the fore of this fervor. They have a great stake in the policy frontiers on which Republicans in Congress remain recalcitrant.
As much as Republican obstructionists might prefer, we cannot wait until the next Congress to tackle the reforms necessary - on tax, financial, housing and immigration - to lift up the majority of America, which continues to struggle from the fallout effects of the financial and housing market crises.
On tax reform, fiscal cliff conversations about expiring President George W. Bush-era tax cuts must be coupled with capital gains and investment tax policy reform. Some of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts need to expire in order to ensure sustainable revenue, and a fairer tax policy must be negotiated.
This is especially important for the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders community. Contrary to the prevailing model minority myth that all AAPIs are well-to-do and well-educated, when broken down into ethnic subgroups, the per capita incomes of Americans of Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian and Bangladeshi descent fall below that of African-Americans, with more than one-quarter of Hmong-Americans living below the federal poverty line.
For too long, the super wealthy have benefited from lower taxes on certain income, the likes of which eludes the poorer majority of America. All types of income must be taxed the same, with no exceptions and no bias toward the highest earners' primary source of income: investment-related income.
On financial reform, we must strengthen, not weaken, Dodd-Frank regulations, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That JPMorgan Chase & Co. can lose almost $6 billion dollars' worth of American citizens' investments shows how desperately Dodd-Frank and Volcker Rule oversight is needed.
AAPI communities are acutely affected by consumer finance and fair-lending issues. With one-third of AAPIs being limited English proficient, the AAPI community is especially vulnerable to predatory and discriminatory lending practices. In losing our trust, the banks have indicated that they will stop at nothing in risking everything. We cannot let them loose to freely throw away America's middle-class investments yet again.
On housing reform, the 11 million Americans who remain underwater desperately need our help. For the AAPI community, 59 percent are homeowners, while 41 percent are renters. While AAPIs remain underrepresented in government-subsidized housing, with only 3 percent of AAPIs benefiting, nearly one-third Hmong- and one-quarter Bangladeshi-Americans continue to face the crushing reality of overcrowded housing conditions.
Mortgage refinancing and principle write-downs are possible and in our financial interest. The refusal of the head of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to follow the White House's lead on this is inexcusable and a clear nod to corporate America, despite the fact that refinancing and write-downs are the smarter long-term fiscal decision as foreclosures leave the banks with higher costs and higher losses, not lower.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.