We are at a pivotal moment in American history, and many Americans watching the deficit talks in Washington are confused, perplexed, angry and frustrated.
This country, which has paid its debts from Day 1, must pay its debts. Anyone who says it is not a big deal for this country to default clearly does not understand what he or she is talking about. This is a nation whose faith and credit has been the gold standard of countries throughout the world. Some people simply say we're not going to pay our debt, that there's nothing to really worry about. Those are people who are wishing our economy harm for political reasons, and those are people whose attitudes will have terrible consequences for virtually every working family in this country in terms of higher interest rates, in terms of significant job loss, in terms of making a very unstable global economy even more unstable.
Our right-wing friends in the House of Representatives have given us an option. What they have said is end Medicare as we know it and force elderly people, many of whom don't have the money, to pay substantially more for their health care. So when you're 70 under their plan and you get sick and you don't have a whole lot of income, we don't know what happens to you. They forget to tell us that if their plan was passed you're going to have to pay a heck of a lot more for the prescription drugs you're getting today. They we're going to throw millions of kids off health insurance. If your mom or dad is in a nursing home and that nursing home bill is paid significantly by Medicaid and Medicaid isn't paying anymore, they forgot to tell us what happens to your mom or dad in that nursing home. What happens?
And what happens today if you are unemployed and you're not able to get unemployment extension? What happens if you are a middle-class family desperately trying to send their kids to college and you make savage cuts to Pell grants and you can't go to college? What does it mean for the nation if we are not bringing forth young people that have the education that they need? They forgot to tell us that. And if you are one of the growing number of senior citizens in this country who are going hungry, they want to cut nutrition programs. And on and on it goes. Every program that has any significance to working families, the sick, the elderly, the children, the poor, they are going to cut in the midst of a recession when real unemployment is already at 15 percent and the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing. That's their idea.
Shouldn't the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations contribute to deficit reduction rather than just the elderly and the sick and working families? They say no. They're going to defend the richest people in this country -- millionaires and billionaires -- and make sure they don't pay a nickel more in taxes. We're going to make sure there is no tax reform so we can continue to lose $100 billion every single year because wealthy people and corporations stash their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, and that's just fine. We'll protect those tax breaks while we savage programs for working families.
Those are the choices that our right-wing Republican friends are giving us. Default with horrendous economic consequences for working families in this country and for the entire global economy or massive cuts to programs that working families desperately need.
Neither of those options is acceptable to me. Neither are those options acceptable to the vast majority of the people in this country. Every single poll that I have seen says that the American people want shared sacrifice. They don't want or believe that deficit reduction can simply come down on the backs of the weak and the vulnerable, the elderly, the children, and the poor. They believe that the wealthy and large corporations also have to participate.
In all honesty, I also must tell you that I have been disappointed by President Obama's role in these discussions. He has brought forth and idea which I categorically reject, that we should make significant cuts in Social Security, that when someone when someone reaches the age of 85, they would lose $1,000 as opposed to what they would have otherwise gotten. This senator is not going to balance our budget on the backs of an 85-year-old person who's earning $14,000 a year. And this senator does not agree with the president that we should raise eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, because I don't know what happens to millions of people who have worked their whole lives, finally reach 65 anticipating Medicare but it's not going to be there for them.
One of the most important lessons in all of this is that elections have consequences. Many people now are beginning to catch on to that. It is no secret that our right-wing Republican colleagues did very well in November 2010. They captured the House of Representatives.
If you believe that we have to start investing in America and creating the millions of jobs that this country desperately needs, elections have consequences. If you believe that we have to address the deficit crisis in a way that is responsible, in a way that asks the wealthy and large corporations also to play a role, in a way that calls for cuts in defense spending and bringing our troops home as soon as possible from Afghanistan and Iraq, you have got to be involved in the political process.
In my view a group of people in the House whose views represent a small minority of the American people are holding this Congress hostage. It is time for the American people to stand up and say, enough is enough; the function of the United States Congress is to represent all of our people and not just the wealthy and powerful.
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