Have I mentioned that I love Tom Harkin?  He is a tonic for when I have lost my optimism that Democrats stand for anything but bailing out banks and tacking to the right when someone says "boo."  

This week Tom introduced the Rebuild America Act.  I am not so optimistic that I think this would pass the House of Representatives.  But I love seeing a Democrat lay down a marker for what Democrats should be advocating, and I look forward to telling the rest of the Iowa delegation that they should get off their haunches and support it.  You are invited to do likewise next time you have an opportunity to communicate with your member of Congress.

More on this legislation below the orange thing.

The bill has three parts:

1.  Invest in America to Create Jobs and Future Growth by modernizing our transportation and energy infrastructures, bringing our schools and community colleges into the 21st century, preparing our workers for jobs of the future, and directing the creation of a national manufacturing strategy.

2. Create Financial Stability and a Better Future for Middle Class Families by increasing access to quality child care, expanding time-and-a-half overtime pay, establishing a fair minimum wage, allowing all Americans to earn paid sick leave, ensuring that Americans have the right to join a union, opening new paths to the middle class for people with disabilities, and strengthening Social Security.

3. Restore Balance and Fairness to the Tax Code by instituting the “Buffett Rule,” adopting a Wall Street trading and speculators tax, ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and protecting pensions.

Among the specific ideas in the bill are:

- update the Child Care and Development Block Grant to offer more subsidies for child care.
-Increase the minimum wage.
-Fund hiring of teachers, firefighters and others by local governments.
-$300 billion for infrastructure.
-Raise Warren Buffet's taxes.
-Take away the hedge fund manager loophole, which enables Pete Peterson to get away with a 15% rate on his income froim Blackstone Group while lobbying to cut Social Security benefits for people who are living on $14k a year.  Also, too, Mitt Romney.
-end tax breaks for outsourcing.
-expand the tax credit for working Americans with disabilities.
-place a financial transactions tax on the activities of Wall Street
-penalties for employers who tromp on the right to organize.
-establish a manufacturing strategy.
Hell yes.

An impressive list of endorsements is on his website.

In the letter I received today, Tom focused on the Social Security piece of the legislation, although there is lots more in it to like.

Dear 2laneIA,

In the past, you’ve written to me regarding Social Security and the importance of protecting the integrity of the program for current and future generations of seniors. Given your interest, I wanted to make you aware of some recent developments in the House of Representatives that could significantly undermine the benefits that seniors receive from the program.

On Thursday, March 29, the House passed a budget for the upcoming year on a largely party line vote. The budget proposal calls for huge reductions in spending that are largely cancelled out continuing a series of large tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration that were targeted towards the very wealthy. This proposal is an unprecedented assault on middle class Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet.

While not directing immediate benefit cuts to Social Security, the plan would erode Social Security benefits in the short term while forcing deep benefit cuts in the long term, making it even harder for Americans to retire with dignity.

In the short term, by increasing the Medicare Eligibility Age, the plan would significantly increase out-of-pocket health care costs for Americans aged 65 and 66. As a result, this would force these retirees to use more and more of their Social Security benefits to cover Medicare costs, making already stressed budgets even shakier.

In the long term, the plan would force deep cuts in benefits through misplaced policies like increasing the retirement age, means testing, and reducing annual Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). By explicitly rejecting the most common-sense way of strengthening the program – lifting the wage cap so that all Americans pay equally on every dollar they earn – the plan necessitates significant Social Security benefit cuts.

In contrast to this pessimistic vision, which says America can’t afford programs like Social Security, I have an alternative vision for a better future that will make retirement better for millions of Americans. That is why this week I introduced the Rebuild America Act – an ambitious bill to help rebuild the American middle class.

Among other policies, as part of the Rebuild America Act, I’ve included an ambitious Social Security proposal that stands in direct contrast to the cuts included in the House budget. My proposal would both increase Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries and greatly improve the financial stability of the program. It does so in the following way:


-Increasing the amount of earnings covered by higher replacement rates in order to increase benefits by approximately $60-70 per month
    -Changing the way the COLA is calculated so that it better corresponds to the typical expenses of seniors
    -Removing the cap, currently $110,100, that unfairly protects the highest earning Americans from paying into Social Security like the majority of hardworking Americans.
To read more on my bill, please click here: http://harkin.senate.gov/...

All told, according to the Social Security Actuary, this proposal would extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund to 2052 and decrease the long term funding deficit in half. Quite simply, we do not have to cut benefits to make the program stronger.

Social Security is the most successful program in our nation’s history. It is not in crisis. With sensible steps, like those in my legislation, we can make the program stronger and help offer greater financial security for future generations.

Thank you for your interest in this matter and please do not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is of interest or concern to you.


Tom Harkin
United States Senator

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