Every day when I drive to work through West Oakland I see men in rags collecting cans.
They aren't alone. Nearly 1 in 4 children in America lives in poverty. In 2010, 9.2 million families, and 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty.
We've chosen this as a society. Homelessness. Extreme poverty. Children who go without.
32 years after Reagan cut the social safety net and two decades after Clinton passed NAFTA, this is clear. We know what it looks like.
You can hardly go anywhere nowadays without stopping at a chain store, filled to the brim with retail employees. Many of them are young, bright people. They didn't go through our educational system to work at Starbucks or Payless or Target or Cabela's, but, there they are.
As a society, we've chosen that, too.
The Republicans say the answer to all of this is to give more money to Mitt Romney's of the world and to cut expenditures on the least of us, asking seniors to work into their late 60s and accept a reduced retirement.
Democrats disagree. (Or at least I thought we did.)
We held an election in which we told the nation that we think that income over $250,000 per year, or $20,800 per month, should be taxed at a more equitable rate and that those funds should be used to grow our economy and protect those in need. And we won.
Apparently, now, we are backing off that.
Now the Democratic position is that we should give slightly less money than the GOP would give to the Mitt Romneys and Bill Clintons and Barack Obamas of the world, and there should be "shared sacrifice."
46.2 million Americans living in poverty, including nearly 1 in 4 of our children, already know what sacrifice means.
What they need, right now, is not more empty promises or last minute sleights of hand that create carve outs that put money in the pockets of multi-millionaires.
They need jobs. Jobs we can create by fixing roads and bridges and building schools and investing in clean energy infrastructure.
Jobs, that are, in fact, long overdue.
The $250K campaign pledge was a clear, simple promise.
Obama said he supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. He had agreed in 2010 to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all taxpayers.
But that extension ends on Dec. 31, and Obama has said he would let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent—and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy.
Going back on that modest pledge not only makes no sense, but it sends a clear message to every activist who knocked on doors, made phone calls and turned out voters all while explaining this simple campaign pledge for fairness in our tax code.
I am left wondering if there are Democrats in Congress principled enough to stand up and say.
Not now, not this time, Mr. President. This time things are going to be different. America can't wait to take much needed first steps towards economic justice.
Comments are closed on this story.