THE BLOG

Those Who Benefit Must Give Back

04/14/2011 12:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2011

Civil rights proponents and progressive forces need to counter the pro-Ryan Tea Party factions by putting people in the streets and on the hill to support President Obama's debt reduction plan. On the Monday following National Action Network's convention, we opened our Washington bureau precisely to monitor Congress and the White House from a civil rights advocacy standpoint -- and this will be our very first project. Even though the debt reduction plan has things we don't agree with, the basic principles are items we cannot go without.

Following weeks of negotiations, private meetings and a near federal government shutdown, President Obama delivered his official response to the budget crisis: those who have benefited the most from our way of life can afford to give a bit more back.

In a resounding speech Wednesday at George Washington University, the president proposed reducing our current deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years or less. Outlining a roadmap to achieving this goal, he first highlighted the complex set of circumstances that led to our current crisis -- including increased spending for two wars and tax cuts for every 'millionaire and billionaire in the country'. Maintaining his commitment to protecting working families and the middle-class, Obama emphasized the need to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. At a time when many mothers and fathers are juggling multiple jobs in order to provide for their children, and others are still struggling to gain employment in this economy, everyone should be relieved that we have a president who understands that the burden of debt should not be placed on the most vulnerable among us.

Unlike Paul Ryan's earlier proposal, President Obama's plan isn't a decisive argument on social issues, but rather a clear strategy on how we can eliminate wasteful spending and bring down our rising deficit. By enacting a debt fail-safe trigger, and a balance between spending cuts and tax reform, the president is providing actual solutions as opposed to partisan rhetoric that we see too often emanating from the right. And unlike what many in the GOP suggest, arbitrarily reducing funding from integral areas like education, transportation, Medicare or Medicaid will once again place the onus of responsibility on working families, the elderly and other innocent segments of the population.

President Obama has clearly stated that we all must share in the sacrifice of resurrecting our nation from the immense amount of debt we find ourselves in. And when two-thirds of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense spending, some reforms will have to be made. But what this president also reinforced and emphasized today is the notion that the wealthy can no longer get away with placing fiscal responsibility on everyone but themselves. I myself have recently tackled paying off old tax liens, and have graduated to a higher tax bracket. So what the president is doing is not in my personal best interest, but it is in the country's best interest and therefore we should all be on board. As he so aptly highlighted, the average income of the bottom 90% of working Americans declined in the last decade, while the top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. It is wealth disparity that is incomprehensible, unjust and outright despicable.

In early May, Vice President Biden will conduct regular bipartisan meetings with the goal of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit by the end of June, according to the president. Although Republicans and Democrats have stark differences on how to resolve the budget crisis, we cannot allow ourselves to get caught in the mire of political posturing. The stakes are simply too high. So to those on the right, instead of continually attacking the president every step of the way, or spreading inaccuracies about jobs which are never created, or scapegoating working and poor Americans for our multitude of challenges, perhaps you should stop and think twice -- or else you will simply find yourselves on the wrong side of history.