Reid: Shared Sacrifice Is The Best Path To Fiscal Sustainability

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Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor about the fatal plane crash in Reno and President Obama’s deficit reduction plan. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

I was saddened to hear of a terrible accident on Friday at the Reno air show, which killed 10 people and injured many more.

My heart goes out to those who were hurt. And my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives, including the pilot of the World War II-era plane that crashed into spectators.

I commend the many first responders who rushed to the scene Friday. Their quick thinking and skillful assistance saved many lives.

While this crash was devastating, I am glad the pilot took quick action to prevent additional loss of life by avoiding a grandstand packed with thousands of spectators.

My four grandchildren attended the show on Thursday. And my oldest grandson, Mitchell was at the even with his scout troop earlier on Friday.

Although officials are still investigating the crash, initial reports indicate that a piece of the plane’s tail broke off prior to the accident.

I hope this terrible event – the first of its kind in this nation – will not deter people from attending air shows in the future.

Thousands of people enjoy these shows every year. The late Senator Ted Stevens attended the Reno show many times and told me it was the best of its kind.

I will continue to monitor the investigation.

This weekend Senator Charles Percy of Illinois, the progressive Republican and father-in-law to our own Senator Rockefeller, died at the age of 91.

Although I did not serve with Senator Percy, I knew him by reputation. He was an independent thinker and a moderate who always put country before political party. The Senate could use more of his brand of pragmatism today.

Senator Percy was a proponent of tougher environmental regulations and consumer protections, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War and a proponent of nuclear nonproliferation. He was also a Navy veteran and a businessman, and was often mentioned as a presidential contender.

The Senate honors him for his faithful service to his country as a sailor and in Congress. My thoughts are with his family, including Senator Rockefeller and his wife Sharon, today.

Last week, the President presented the country with a roadmap to reduce our jobs deficit – a proposal to create nearly 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment by a percentage point.

Today President Obama laid out a common-sense pathway to substantially reduce our budget deficit as well.

It is a concrete strategy to cut the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade and do it fairly. I congratulate him for his vision.

His plan calls for shared sacrifice from all Americans, including those who can best afford to help. It calls on those who benefited from the tax policies that sunk this country deeper and deeper into debt to help get us out of debt.

Americans know shared sacrifice is the best path to fiscal sustainability. Many of the richest few agree, including Warren Buffet.

That is why the President has proposed the so-called Buffet Rule – that no American making more than $1 million a year should pay a lower tax rate than this nation’s middle-class families.

This rule would apply to the top three-tenths of one percent of Americans – the richest of the rich, like Mr. Buffet.

Warren Buffet believes it is unfair that he pays a lower income tax rate than his secretary. This is what he said: “If you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”

There are about 22,000 people in this country who make more than $1 million each year, yet pay less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

The top 400 earners in this country – all of whom make more than $110 million a year – pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than plumbers and teachers and factory workers do.

More than anyone else, these millionaires and billionaires benefited from Bush tax cuts that contributed $3 trillion to our deficit.  They helped plunge this nation into a financial hole.

Yet Congressional Republicans believe middle-class families and seniors – not the millionaires and billionaires who have enjoyed trillions in tax breaks – should bear the burden of getting us out of that hole.

A balanced approach to reducing our deficit means those who have benefited the most from policies that created our deficit crisis should also help solve our deficit crisis.

A balanced approach means everyone pays his or her fair share. It means the middle-class, seniors and those who can least afford it will not bear the heaviest burden.

I commend the President for insisting on basic fairness as we address our deficit problem.

Last week was a productive one here in the Senate.

We reached a bipartisan agreement to pass emergency aid for communities affected by devastating floods, tornadoes and wildfires.

We also reauthorized the Federal Aviation Administration, keeping 80,000 safety inspectors and construction workers on the job.

And we passed a highway bill that will keep 1.8 million people at work building roads and bridges. Congress has no duty more pressing than to putting Americans back to work, and this highway legislation will do that.

But we can and must do more to ease the unemployment crisis in this country.

That’s why this week the Senate will take up Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation. The TAA program helps U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of international trade to learn new skills so they can reenter a changing workforce. And it helps them pay for health insurance while they’re training for new jobs.

A global economy means fierce global competition. And unless our workforce is flexible and well-trained, we cannot hope to compete.

Between 2001 and 2008, America lost 2.4 million jobs because of trade with China. The TAA program is retraining many of those people, getting them back into the workforce and boosting our economy at the same time.

It’s unfortunate that my Republican colleagues, who say they care so much about free trade agreements, have prevented three such agreements from moving forward because of objections to this TAA legislation.

As we struggle to rebound from the worst recession in generations, it is unthinkable that we would abandon hardworking Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. TAA provides the lifeline they need to get back on their feet.

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