With the Senate having just voted to roll back the Bush-era tax cuts for households above $250,000 and the House expected to vote in favor of protecting tax cuts for the richest Americans, the debate over what to do next is taking center stage in Washington. The answer: we cannot afford to extend the tax cuts for billionaires and millionaires. There are better places to put that money and more important national needs than making the rich richer and keeping tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent.
If the House got its way, it would extend the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of Americans, costing $1 trillion over ten years. But imagine if instead that money was invested in real national priorities like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, reducing economic inequality, and putting people back to work. This country has too many unmet needs to give $1 trillion in tax cuts to people who don't need them.
According to the Society of Civil Engineers, the United States has an infrastructure deficit of over $2 trillion. Roads are crumbling, levees are breaking, and mass transit lags behind the rest of the world. The infrastructure we do have, especially our water infrastructure, is antiquated -- left over from the 20th century and not adaptable to the needs of the 21st century.
With the right investments, we can make our buildings and transportation infrastructure more energy efficient. But it is only a start. We need move away from our reliance on fossil fuels; we need a new way of thinking and doing that turns attention to the needs of our country and planet rather than giving money to the richest Americans.
Such investments will not only help our planet, they'll create long-term benefits and growth. Imagine a society where businesses spend less on energy, workers have shorter commutes, households can do more with less, and clean industries provide millions of secure, family-supporting jobs that are not at risk of being outsourced for years to come.
Given the state of the economy, investing in our nation's future instead of millionaires will also provide short-term returns-- mainly in the form of jobs. Currently, eight percent of our workforce is unemployed. Joblessness rates among the African American and Latino communities are far worse, at 14.4 percent and 11 percent, respectively. If there has ever been a time when we've needed a jobs package, it's now. And through smart investments in clean industries, we can reemploy many Americans from the construction, transportation, technology, management, and education sectors.
The economic benefits of these investments far outweigh the costs of letting the richest Americans keep their tax breaks. According to former McCain adviser Mark Zandi, every dollar spent on infrastructure creates $1.44 in economic activity whereas every dollar spent on the tax cuts creates only 35 cents. The tax cuts targeted at the wealthiest Americans would create even less growth, compared to investments in job-creation and infrastructure.
Letting the tax cuts expire for the richest two percent will allow us to fund infrastructure investment and grow our clean industries. This $1 trillion can finance growth and create jobs, particularly in communities still struggling under the weight of the recession.
Congress must stand up to special interests and change our tax code so it is fair to all Americans. The House should follow the Senate's lead and end the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. We need to make sure we have a stronger, cleaner, more competitive economy and environment than the one that we have today. Let's start solving today's problems by investing in our nation's clean industries -- future generations need and deserve that change.