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Steve Mainster

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Stop Driving Us Over a Fiscal Cliff

Posted: 12/11/2012 3:54 pm

I have spent my life watching politicians make decisions that affect the lives of people working to put food on their own, and other people's, tables. I used to lead an organization that worked daily with farmworkers fighting to help them survive and help their children. When you do the work that I have done, you realize how disconnected our politicians are from the people who feel the punch of their policy debates. Take the recent fiscal cliff controversies simmering in Congress. If you live in South Florida, you have seen hundreds of families who fell off a fiscal cliff years ago. That is probably why so many of us choose to change the channel when talking heads come on the news to debate this current debacle.

But we may also be tuning out the talking heads because we know that, just like the economic crisis we have inherited, whatever fiscal cliff we are actually facing has been caused by the same politicians that are seeking a supposed solution now. This all started when Republicans refused to agree to come up with a reasonable compromise to solve the "debt ceiling" debate, another manufactured crisis, over a year ago. If the Republicans would have been reasonable back then, there would be no fiscal cliff now.

Those politicians who thought that pure posturing would trump reason were in for a rude awakening when Americans hit the polls in November. Now that the American public is more aware, we understand what the real cause of our current fiscal crisis is and we know the solution. We have to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the ultra-wealthy so that they may begin to pay their fair share. And we need to keep the tax cuts for the 98 percent who have seen their wages stagnate and their buying power decline over the last 20 years.

We also know why some politicians are willing to send our country over a cliff rather than letting the 2 percent pay their fair share. Some of our politicians owe one too many favors to the billionaires that supported their campaigns through their Super-PACs. Rather than biting the hand that feeds them, they would rather bite the hands of people that need to feed their own families. It doesn't matter to them that the tax rates during the Clinton years were much higher for the wealthy and we didn't experience any fiscal cliffs at all. Instead, we experienced record growth and a balanced budget.

And for those who say that the only way to pay down our debt and "save" Medicare and Social Security is by cutting back benefits, I say that there is an alternative solution. Since the average age of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is 10 years less than the population as a whole, let's allow the law abiding ones to stay in his country and seek citizenship through fair minded immigration reform. Their work will generate Social Security and Medicare taxes. Their payments will bolster both systems. Young immigrants paying into the system will support the elderly Americans who need to draw benefits from the systems now and in the future.

If our politicians don't stop creating false crises and start focusing on putting Americans back to work, the middle class will go over a real cliff. As a person that worked with people that put food on all of our tables, and earned so little that they had nothing left to spend on our area business after paying rent and buying food staples, I can tell you that when low wage workers and middle class employees suffer, our nation suffers. Let us hope that our politicians right a fiscal wrong rather than running us over a cliff that they created for us.

 
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