WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid leveled a blistering attack at Republicans Tuesday that echoed the message of Occupy Wall Street, saying the GOP wants to protect the very richest Americans at the expense of everyone else.
Reid (D-Nev.) was arguing against Senate Republican resistance to a $60 billion measure that would pump cash into infrastructure and transportation projects in hopes of boosting the economy.
It would be funded with a 0.7 percent tax on millionaires' income above the first $1 million -- a levy that Reid called a "no-brainer."
Republicans and a few Democrats voted against starting debate on a similar plan last month that focused on police officers and teachers, and three Democrats still have not declared support for this one. Both bills are pieces of President Barack Obama's jobs plan.
So on Tuesday, Reid decided to highlight just how well the would-be surtax payers are doing. He pointed to a Congressional Budget Office report, released last week, that found income inequality at its highest level since the late 1920s, having nearly tripled since 1979.
"They're the same millionaires and billionaires whose annual income has increased by more than 275 percent," Reid said in a floor speech. "Their share of the nation's income is higher than at any time since 1928 ... since just before the stock market crashed, plunging this country into a Great Depression," he said.
"Now they take home more than half of all the money earned each year in this great country, even after taxes," he added. "That means this 1 percent now makes more than the other 99 percent combined."
Citing polls that found large majorities -- including Republicans -- favor forcing the wealthy to dig deeper, Reid said it was only the 47 GOP senators who think those folks should be spared. "The Tea Party even favors this," Reid said.
"And they're not going to allow us to proceed to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, for a tax increase of seven-tenths of 1 percent of the richest of the rich?" Reid said of his Republican colleagues with a hint of disgust in his voice.
"No one deprives them of their prosperity -- they've worked hard," Reid added about the rich. "But their tremendous fortune, including their tremendous fortunes, means that they can contribute a teeny tiny fraction more to shore up the economic future of our nation," he argued, suggesting the GOP should agree.
"They know the money will have to come from somewhere. They know tough choices must be made," he argued. "Asking someone making, for example, $1.1 million to contribute a few dollars more every year shouldn't be one of our tough choices -- it should be a so-called no-brainer."
He noted that this hypothetical taxpayer would pony up an extra $700 a year under the bill.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pointed out that a few Democrats also may oppose the jobs bill, making the opposition bipartisan.
Nonetheless, the GOP has adamantly fought raising any taxes on the wealthy. Indeed, many have argued that the poor and middle class do not pay enough.
Reid capped his argument by making the political case that Democrats are the champions of the 99 percent at the core of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"While Democrats will fight for the middle class, it seems Republicans will fight for the 1 percent of Americans who have every resource available to fight for themselves," he said.
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