Washington Memo: Here’s my plan to jump-start the American dream
The celebrated promise of our country has always been that hard work would lead to good jobs, fair pay and a shot at the American dream. For many, though, that fundamental promise has been unraveling: a bailout for Wall Street (that I voted against), too few jobs bills for Main Street, a growing gap between the wealthy and poor, and smaller take-home pay that’s squeezing middle class families.
Our biggest challenge is to jump-start the American dream for middle- and working-class families, the foundation of every New Hampshire community. We must recommit ourselves to building an economy where all can work, where hard work merits fair pay and, as our economy grows, everyone prospers.
America has a jobs crisis, and Congress must take action. During this session of Congress, I’ve helped introduce jobs bills that would jump-start our economy by putting money back into the pockets of hardworking families, ending the job-killing policy known as sequestration, and investing in New Hampshire’s infrastructure. There are many jobs bills waiting for a vote. I’ve sponsored legislation to keep jobs in America. I’ve also written legislation that would permanently double the tax deduction for new businesses, and I authored a bill to help teachers who pay for educational supplies by expanding a tax deduction. I’ve cosponsored legislation that would allow employers to claim a $2,400 credit when they hire a recently discharged veteran. These are commonsense steps to help our small businesses grow, support middle-class families, and stand up for veterans.
Over the past couple of decades, American workers have become more productive than ever, but wages have remained mostly stagnant. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the minimum wage would have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity.
The reason I, along with 63 percent of Americans, support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for hardworking men and women is that we understand that a stronger minimum wage means a stronger economy. Raising the minimum wage helps working families make ends meet, and it drives economic growth for local businesses.
Women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This pay gap is unfair, it hurts families and it’s a drag on our economy. State Sen. Sylvia Larsen of Concord is leading the charge for paycheck fairness in New Hampshire, and in Congress I was proud to help launch the Women’s Economic Agenda. Jump-starting the American dream means supporting the millions of American women working to achieve job security and economic stability for themselves and their families.
Retirement security is another cornerstone of the American dream. Protecting the American dream means protecting the dream of a retirement without fear of financial catastrophe. Before Medicare, only half of seniors had health insurance. Today, virtually all do. Thanks to the prescription drug benefits in the Affordable Care Act, 11,962 Granite State Medicare beneficiaries saved an average of $807 each in 2013. I joined colleagues to introduce the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, which would improve benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, protecting the American dream.
Recently, there have been a number of proposals to balance the budget on the backs of New Hampshire seniors by making dramatic changes to critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed federal budget would eliminate the Medicare guarantee for seniors and reopen the Medicare donut hole, costing seniors hundreds of dollars more each year. I strongly oppose this type of budget and any budget that contains cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits.
The promise of America is not that we guarantee equal outcomes; it’s that we try to provide a ladder of opportunity for all those willing to work hard. We need to increase investments in education from preschool to college, because education is the key to a nation’s prosperity.
Risk-takers and entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their visions, their discoveries and their innovations. Those who work each day to carry out that vision should be paid a fair wage. Fair play and opportunity are woven into the American dream.
As I travel throughout the 1st Congressional District, I hear my constituents say the same thing: People who work hard and play by the rules should still have a shot at success. We might live in a time of divided government, but that is no excuse for inaction. Let’s work together and jump start the American dream now.
(Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.)