The Middle Class Jumpstart is the new campaign agenda rolled out this week by Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats in a press event held July 16 on the steps of the Capitol. It's the Democrats' promise to America; a list of everything they plan to achieve should they regain control of the House in 2014.
Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Steve Israel, explained the premise underpinning the title of the campaign agenda:
The defining issue of our time is middle class economic security. It’s all about who’s got your back. And this House Republican majority has turned its back on the middle class. It’s time for somebody to stand up for the middle class and get to work for the middle class. That’s House Democrats. That’s what we’re going to do.Essentially, any campaign platform is a contrast between your party and the major opposition. This contrast was particularly stark in terms of timing and location of the campaign agenda's debut. As Steve Israel pointedly put it: "Today, behind these doors, they will waste an entire day and taxpayer dollars, plotting to sue the President of the United States. Meanwhile, we are out here announcing our solutions to support the middle class."
It may not be bold, it may not be all shiny new, but the Middle Class Jumpstart agenda deserves far more attention than it has so far received. It deserves promotion.
The following eight points highlight specifics from the transcript of the press event.
Republicans are about process, Democrats are about progress
In delineating a sharp and very clear contrast between Republicans and Democrats, Rep Xavier Becerra (Cal-34) drew attention to the House Republicans’ frivolous lawsuit, their damaging government shutdown and the insecurity and inadequacy of their stopgap measures.
Are you all ready? Because we’re ready – ready to go. [W]e are gathered here today to send a very clear message to America: you can either sue the President of the United States, or you can do your job here in the House of Representatives and pass laws that help the middle class and working families.
You can shut down the government, taking 800,000 workers and 24 billion taxpayer dollars with you; or you can enact the president's jobs agenda. You can vote more than 50 times to tear down America's new health security and patients' law, or you can make the law even better so every working family in America has a doctor and the peace of mind that comes with it.
You can pass stopgap measures that merely kick the can down the road on our nation's budget or on the construction and repair of our roads, rails, and bridges, or you can do it the right way and pass stable, long-term laws that give our businesses and employers the confidence to hire and grow. You can do nothing other than block a vote to fix a broken immigration system, or you can pass the bipartisan fix that the Senate voted out 384 days ago.
Americans don’t have the luxury to watch the House of Representatives waste time and taxpayer dollars.
Democrats have a straightforward, ambitious agenda. But we will not waste America’s time or taxpayers dollars. Give us the chance to lead the people’s House, and in 100 days, we will accomplish the work of America, putting the middle class first.
In the first 100 days
Rep Steve Israel (NY-03) introduced the Middle Class Jumpstart with an agenda overview:
This is the Middle Class Jumpstart. It is to jumpstart the middle class – 100 days of action to put the middle class first, ahead of the special interests. Now, you couldn't have a more vivid contrast in priorities. They have passed maximum subsidies for the special interests. In the first 100 days, we will increase the minimum wage for America's workers – first 100 days.
They have protected the profits of the big banks. In the first 100 days, we will allow every student in the middle class and working families to refinance their student loans. In their House majority, they have supported putting bosses in charge of women's health freedoms. In the first 100 days, we will require bosses to pay a woman the same as a man for equal work.
That's the difference between them and us: 100 days. Putting the middle class first. More jobs, not more subpoenas. More jobs for the middle class, not more jobs for partisan lawyers. Supporting women and families, supporting affordable and accessible education.
Make It In America
Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer (MD-05) began the unveiling of specific legislative components that make up the Middle Class Jumpstart plan. He also got in a real zinger at the end.
The "Make It In America" plan is a broad agenda for jobs and competitiveness and is a central part of this Middle Class Jumpstart. We want to provide tax incentives to encourage companies to bring jobs home, rather than send jobs overseas.
We want to invest in increased exports, improved infrastructures and skill-training programs that attract jobs and promote a strong manufacturing base. Democrats have a real plan to get things done. And if we have the majority in January, as I fully expect us to have, we will be introducing the "21st Century Make It In America Act."
Americans are tired of a Republican do-nothing and do-bad-things Congress focused simply on partisan divisions.
Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn (SC-06) introduced the tax and infrastructure items on their campaign agenda and began with a stinging criticism of the opposition.
House Republicans have stacked the deck for the wealthiest few at the expense of working families. In the first 100 days of 2015, a Democratic House majority will act to jumpstart a middle class agenda, an agenda that starts with jobs – good jobs; jobs with livable wages; jobs that will expand the middle class and move the families of hard-working men and women into the middle class.
Democrats will pass the 21st century Make It In America Act to provide tax incentives to companies that create good paying jobs here at home.
Republicans voted to give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. House Democrats will pass the "Build American Bonds" Act to boost job growth and modernize American infrastructures by building roads, bridges, broadband technology, and investing in clean energy. And we will pay for it by closing corporate tax loopholes.
Republicans have blocked legislation to make long-term investments in our nation's aging highway system and oppose creating clean energy jobs for the future. House Democrats will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and pass the "Tax Fairness" Act to deny CEOs the ability to claim tax deductions for pay over $1 million, unless they give their employees a raise.
Republicans refused to raise the minimum wage, but give massive tax giveaways to corporate special interests and the ultra-wealthy. America needs an economy that works for working people.
Give America a Raise
Rep Chris Van Hollen (MD-08) expanded on the employment and income theme. The Middle Class Jumpstart addresses the plight of the working poor and unemployed with programs that aim to increase job opportunities, combat income inequality and ensure decent wages.
As we work to shut down those special interest corporate loopholes that encourage American companies to move jobs overseas – as we shut those down and invest those savings in jobs here at home – we need to make sure those jobs pay a decent wage, a living wage, a wage that can support American families. Because when American families succeed, all of America succeeds.
So there are two things we're going to do in those first 100 days. The first is end the scandal that in America, you can work 40 hours a week all year long and still have to raise your family in poverty. That is simply wrong. We need to make sure we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and get that done once and for all.
But we cannot stop there. We need to make sure all of America has a shot at a wage. What we've seen over the last several decades is large increases in worker productivity. We have seen skyrocketing increases in CEO pay and bonuses. What we have not seen is increases in the employee pay. They have been left behind even though they are working to boost that productivity and boost those corporate profits.
So, we have a very simple proposition. We have a proposition called the "CEO-Employee Pay Fairness" Act and that is this: if you're a corporation, you cannot give your CEO and top executives – you cannot take a deduction for their pay over $1 million unless you're going to give your employees a raise. It's pretty simple. It's pretty fair.
After all, the taxpayers should not have to subsidize big corporate CEO bonuses for corporations that are not providing their employees with a wage and pay increase. So, let’s get the job done, let’s invest in jobs here, let’s make sure there are jobs that pay a decent wage for all Americans.
Reducing Student Debt
As Rep John Tierney (MA-06) explains, his bill to allow the refinancing of student debt is crucial to the Middle Class Jumpstart’s economic agenda.
It is simple and it is straightforward. What this bill does is provide existing student loan borrowers the opportunity to refinance their debt at a lower rate.
Banks can do it. Businesses can do it. Families can do it with their home ownership. And students should be able to do it. It would save students and parents and graduates thousands of dollars on their loans. And that savings no doubt will get spent right back into the economy, giving it a boost. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says clearly that it would reduce the deficit by $22 billion in 10 years, so taxpayers also benefit from it.
Right now, the House Republicans are in there trying to find out how to sue the president. We're out here making sure that we're fighting for tens of millions of parents and students and graduates to make sure that they have an equal chance.
This is all about: whose side are you on? And we're on the side of students and graduates and parents.
Strong Start for America's Children
Rep Joe Crowley (NY-14) expanded on the education components of the agenda and focused on the fundamental necessity of early childhood education.
As you know and all my colleagues know, education doesn't start at college. And we also know that our children only have one real shot – one real shot at a quality education. And it's imperative that they get off to the right start, the right jumpstart. Decades of studies have found that quality pre-school not only leads to higher academic achievement and stronger job benefits, but it also lowers crime and delinquency levels – and even more importantly, it reduces poverty, which really is the cause for the prior two issues.
So while House Republicans voted to limit access to early childhood education and essentially squashed the hopes and dreams of America's children, House Democrats will pass legislation to expand access to education and make the investments needed to set our children on a path of future success. The "Strong Start for America's Children" Act is a bold, ten-year, federal/state partnership to expand and improve early learning opportunities for our children.
This bill will expand access to pre-school for four-year-olds and make critical investments to improve the quality of child care for infants and toddlers. We want to jumpstart the middle class, and that must include jumpstarting our children's education – not when they're going to college, but from day one.
When Women Succeed, America Succeeds
Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) wrapped up the press event with a strong finish interspersed with some catchy sound bytes.
Our Middle Class Jumpstart is a tribute to the middle class – the most productive workers in the world. This is a tribute to American entrepreneurship, to the innovation that keeps America number one. It is a recognition that innovation begins in the classroom... so that kids can have a shot at the American Dream and make their contribution to the American economy.This is a ready-made campaign platform for any Democratic House candidate to use this year. It’s simple, straightforward and speaks to concerns at all levels: local, state and national. It’s a promise to voters that’s backed up by all House Democrats and that provides much needed empowerment for Congressional candidates on the 2014 campaign trail.
But one of the best actions that we can take to increase and grow our economy is to increase the role of women in our economy. Our agenda for women and families is "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds". This is not just the title of our agenda; this is a statement of absolute fact. And our agenda presents a stark contrast to what the Republicans have done to roll back women's rights and limit women's opportunities.
You've heard our three categories: (1) Make It In America. (2) Affordable Education to Keep America Number One. This is all about our country. And (3) When Women Succeed, America Succeeds – when Republicans have refused to ensure equal pay for equal work, reduced access to affordable child care and voted against paid sick leave for men and women.
This is important. Children learning, parents earning. It’s about men and women; it’s about families.
As we gather on the steps of the Capitol, as my colleagues have referenced, Republicans are inside wasting time and taxpayer money on partisan lawsuits against the President. Republicans are about process, Democrats are about progress.
So, today with this action plan, we reassert the great truths of our country, of our history, and of our future.