Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the Paying a Fair Share Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
As millions of Americans prepare to file income tax returns, the Senate will consider the basic fairness of our country’s tax system.
Today the wealthiest one percent takes home the highest share of the nation’s income since the roaring ‘20s.
But while their bank accounts have grown, their tax bills have shrunk.
The wealthiest Americans now pay the lowest tax rates in 50 years.
And this unfair system has turned the gap between the richest few and everyone else into a gulf.
Over the last few decades, a small number of Americans have seen their incomes skyrocket – by almost 300 percent.
But for the rest of Americans, wages have barely crept up. They haven’t kept pace with the price of a modest home, a good college and a secure retirement.
So times are tough for many middle-class families. But millionaires and billionaires aren’t sharing the pain – or the sacrifices.
Last year, there were 7,000 millionaires who didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes. Instead, ordinary Americans footed the bill – and that’s not fair.
In recent years, some Americans earning north of $110 million a year paid a lower tax rate than millions of middle-class families – and that’s not fair.
That’s how someone like my friend Warren Buffett winds up paying a lower tax rate than his secretary – which is just not fair.
When the richest few are making more than ever before, they can afford to shoulder their fair share of the burden to make this country prosper.
And they shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind tax loopholes that rig the system in their favor.
The Paying a Fair Share Act – also known as the Buffett Rule – would restore fairness to a system that has favored the interests of the wealthy for too long.
This legislation would ensure Americans who earn more than $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
The bill would hold harmless nearly every small business in America – more than 99 percent of small businesses, in fact.
It would maintain the deduction for charitable giving.
And it would be a small but important step toward restoring fiscal responsibility as our nation makes difficult choices about where to spend and what to cut.
Three-quarters of Americans believe millionaires and billionaires should contribute more.
Two-thirds of millionaires say it’s time to even the playing field.
And outside the Beltway, even a majority of Republicans agree.
But Republicans in Congress would rather end Medicare as we know it and slash education funding than ask the richest of the rich to contribute even a penny more.
As Senate Democrats work to make our tax system fair for all Americans, Republicans in the House continue to pursue a budget that would hand more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.
At its heart, this important debate – and the Buffett Rule – is about setting priorities.
America can build a world-class education system that will prepare our children and grandchildren to compete in the industries of tomorrow.
We can honor our commitment to a generation of young men and women who put their lives on the line to serve and protect our freedom.
And we can ensure seniors who worked hard all their lives look forward to a secure retirement and quality, affordable healthcare.
Or we can keep protecting special tax breaks for the richest of the rich. We can’t do both.
We must make smart choices.
President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.”
I hope my Republican colleagues will join Democrats this evening as we choose a path toward economic fairness that allows all Americans to rise together as one people.