Our nation is currently faced with a $14.3 trillion debt ceiling that must be raised to preserve the full faith in credit of the United States of America. Ten years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law a series of irresponsible tax cuts that has led us into our current fiscal crisis. Combined with our two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a culture of deregulation, the Bush Administration turned President Clinton's $5.6 trillion surplus into record budget deficits and has brought the economy to its knees.
Unfortunately, rather than offering a long-term solution to balance our budget, the Republicans have been ruthlessly intent on extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans on the backs of our seniors, the disabled and the poor.
Extending all of the Bush Tax Cuts beyond 2012 would cost $2.4 trillion ($3.9 trillion if coupled with continued patches to the Alternative Minimum Tax). Even allowing the upper income tax cuts to expire, the remaining tax cut extensions could still cost over $1.7 trillion. Big corporations have for too long benefited from tax loopholes while working families across our great nation are barely struggling to get by. Unfortunately, GOP has chosen to gamble America's financial future by refusing to lift the debt ceiling unless they cut drastic funds for those who need it most by slashing Medicare and Medicaid.
The Republican agenda is reckless: It ends the guaranteed health care coverage seniors paid for, and instead puts them at the mercy of private insurance companies. Seniors would see their out-of-pocket costs rise by more than $6,000 and would have to spend more on prescription drug costs. They will also lose benefits, such as free preventive care under Medicare, which went into effect under the Democrats' health care reform.
The GOP plan also calls for drastic Medicaid cuts that would impact over 69.5 million Americans who depend on it. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the proposed $207 billion cut from repealing health care reform along with the additional cuts proposed by the Republicans would result in a loss of 2.1 million jobs over the next five years and potentially leave up to 44 million people across the nation without medical coverage.
It is time to get serious about creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and providing opportunities for people to contribute to our economic growth. I recently introduced with Congressman Aaron Schock the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Improvements Act of 2011. This bi-partisan bill would extend tax credits to spur employment for high-risk youth and discharged veterans after those provisions were not renewed at the end of 2010. Moreover, several hiring tax incentives -- which include an Indian hiring credit, D.C. hiring incentive, and two credits for Empowerment Zone residents -- would be consolidated and placed under the core WOTC program. I also plan to introduce legislation to reform our corporate tax code, not only to simplify them but to generate corporate revenue by closing massive loopholes.
I have never stopped fighting for the working families in America. Our deficit will not be reduced by ending Medicare and Medicaid. It makes no economic sense; it certainly is not morally justifiable. We must honor the moral obligation that our country has to help the less fortunate among us.
Follow Rep. Charles Rangel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cbrangel