By Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) - 02/14/12 11:15 PM EST
Job creation and tax fairness are at the top of voters’ to-do lists for Congress. These days, instead of hacking and slashing investments in our future and creating more corporate tax loopholes, the national conversation is right where it should be: how we get America back to work. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which I am co-chairman, isn’t just listening to the national conversation — we’re going to follow through with action.
We need a budget — not just this year, but every year — that returns “right to work” to its original meaning. Republicans hijacked the phrase to mean “the right to work without labor protections, without unions, without a safety net.” In the budget the CPC will introduce later this year, “right to work” means “right to work,” plain and simple. It means America creates good-paying jobs and doesn’t let millions of people struggle through no fault of their own.
What this country needs more than anything is a return to the idea that people come first in our economy, not just numbers. There was a time not long ago when everyone, no matter their politics, agreed that our economy should work for all the people of the country, not just a lucky few. Somewhere along the way, certain politicians decided they could start blaming poor Americans in their own states, the unemployed in their own hometowns and the union workers in their own neighborhoods for the economic struggles they faced.
That’s led us to where we are now, where it’s acceptable for a leading presidential candidate to say with a straight face that he’s “not concerned about the very poor” — his fellow Americans — despite the lingering unemployment crisis. Any budget worth its name should make reducing the number of very poor Americans one of its top focuses. The sight of our own neighbors going hungry should not be common enough to slide into the background. It should still prick our consciences. In the United States, we don’t let people go down and then say we’re not concerned about them.
The bottom line is that my Republican colleagues aren’t listening to the national conversation. They’re still using last year’s playbook: austerity, union-bashing, blaming the victims of the housing meltdown instead of the perpetrators. That’s why we’re going to see a budget from the House Republicans that treats cutting child nutrition and inventing new corporate tax cuts as responsible decisions. At this late date, after years of blaming working families for layoffs and letting big corporations keep billions of dollars they owe us, my colleagues across the aisle are still trying to do things the old way: Give those at the top everything and wait for it to trickle down.
A good budget will be the opposite of trickle-down economics. It will be grown-up economics, people-powered economics, family-first economics. It will rebuild our nation’s roads and bridges so people can get to work on time. It will keep schools, firehouses and hospitals open instead of closing them to save pennies that go to corporate tax cheats. It will, more than anything, reflect our values as a nation: fair pay for hard work, protections for employees as well as employers, proudly investing in our children and the nation’s future. That’s the real pro-family budget the American people want, and it’s the budget they deserve.
Grijalva is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.