Decades ago, for instance, we could afford to send millionaires pension checks and pay medical bills for even the wealthiest among us. Now, we canít, so the dollars we have should be devoted to those who need them most.
The mortal enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who, in contempt of the plain arithmetic, continue to mislead Americans that we should change nothing. Listening to them much longer will mean that these proud programs implode, and take the American economy with them. It will mean that coming generations are denied the jobs they need in their youth and the protection they deserve in their later years.
Itís absolutely so that everyone should contribute to our national recovery, including of course the most affluent among us. There are smart ways and dumb ways to do this: the dumb way is to raise rates in a broken, grossly complex tax system, choking off growth without bringing in the revenues we need to meet our debts. The better course is to stop sending the wealthy benefits they do not need, and stop providing them so many tax preferences that distort our economy and do little or nothing to foster growth.
Itís not fair and itís not true for the President to attack Republicans in Congress as obstacles on these questions. They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down time and time again by the President and his Democratic Senate allies.
This year, it falls to Republicans to level with our fellow citizens about this reality: if we fail to act to grow the private sector and save the safety net, nothing else will matter much. But to make such action happen, we also must work, in ways we Republicans have not always practiced, to bring Americans together.
No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.
As a loyal opposition, who put patriotism and national success ahead of party or ideology or any self-interest, we say that anyone who will join us in the cause of growth and solvency is our ally, and our friend. We will speak the language of unity. Let us rebuild our finances, and the safety net, and reopen the door to the stairway upward; any other disagreements we may have can wait.
You know, the most troubling contention in our national life these days isnít about economics, or policy at all. Itís about us, as a free people. In two alarming ways, that contention is that we Americans just canít cut it anymore.
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.