12/01/2010 06:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Letter to My Children

This is a birthday message I sent to my children following a Thanksgiving conversation about the tax cut dynamics.

Dear Anne and Jon,

I'm sorry to be in Washington, DC and miss your birthday dinner. It's frustrating that after so many years of you on the other side of the planet for work, travel, or the Peace Corps, you are both in Portland and I am stuck back here.

Fortunately, the task at hand is what to do with the $4 trillion that so many are willing to borrow to extend all of the expiring tax cuts. We discussed this at Thanksgiving, so I know you don't want the extra debt in exchange for what would be modest tax cuts. You pointed out that in the last ten years the cuts didn't seem to help the economy all that much.

As you prepare to start new phases of your careers and perhaps think about the grandchildren I hope to someday have, instead of extending the tax cuts, I would offer the following birthday gift-list for you and your generation. These are the areas where we should be investing to rebuild our nation, creating millions of family wage jobs and a brighter future for our country.

  • $500 billion to fully fund the next two transportation reauthorization bills; 10 years of rebuilding and renewing America.
  • $325 billion to connect dozens of cities with high speed rail and frequent service.
  • $320 billion to modernize over 30,000 school buildings in America.
  • $60 billion to finish weatherizing the homes of low-income Americans, saving them money and increasing our energy independence.
  • $20 billion to restore and maintain our Nation Park and Forest trails, roads and buildings, providing jobs in rural communities, starting with our own Mt. Hood.
  • $10 billion to extend tax benefits for renewable energy to provide more energy options for our future and to build America's renewable energy industry.
  • $270 billion to clean up America's superfund sites and the toxic legacy of unexploded ordinances and military pollution that leave millions of acres unsafe and unusable.
  • $55 billion will fund the environmental programs for American farmers and ranchers to protect their land and everyone's water, while also supporting local agriculture.
  • $300 billion will stop the annual threat of last-minute political and budgetary tricks to avoid payment cuts to doctors who treat America's seniors -- which no one supports.
  • Speaking of health, how about $15 billion for child nutrition and food safety?
  • You have both seen the global impact of poor water and sanitation. $10 billion will allow the United States to give another 100 million people the clean water and save tens of thousands of lives. You know from your own experience that this is the cheapest investment there is to make America safer.
  • In the United States, $310 billion will double the budget of the National Institutes of Health, accelerating progress against disease and suffering. Imagine the possibilities for neuroscience, cancer and heart disease.
  • $800 billion to eliminate the Alternative Minimum tax. You may not favor the tax extension, but the Alternative Minimum tax is staring you in the face, threatening every middle income family with children. Investing 800 billion will eliminate it forever, sparing you and 30 million other families from this unfair and complicated tax.

This is a long list, but it totals to less than $3 trillion. This means there is over a trillion dollars less to borrow that will not be a future burden for you or your children.

I know it is a long shot that the rush to borrow money from the Chinese to cut taxes can be reexamined, but it makes me feel better to think about what we could do for you, and all of America's families.


P.S. This is a long way from being finished and I hope that reason prevails. If not I will vote for an extension of the tax cuts for middle class to avoid a worse outcome. Sad, when we know we can do better.