I am proud to be an American. When I think of America, I do not think of the physical landmass, but rather of an ideal, an American ideal. This ideal originated with the Declaration of Independence. Our founders hoped to create a free country that would provide an improved life for all of its citizens. Rather than increasing the standard of living for royalty and the ruling elite, our new country would provide rights, privileges and opportunities for all members of society.
This American ideal was upheld when we extended voting rights to non-property owners and when we ended slavery. It was upheld when we extended civil rights to women, minorities and our gay citizens. It was upheld when we established free public education, and it was upheld when we funded a safety net for the less fortunate among us.
On a recent trip to Toronto, Canada, I had an opportunity to reflect upon being American. Toronto is a very beautiful city with very friendly people. However, what struck me most about Toronto was not what they had, but rather what they did not have. There were very few homeless people in evidence on the streets of that city.
This reminded me of a visit that our family took to San Francisco 14 years ago. We took our young daughter to see the FAO Schwarz toy store. We were sure that she would be overjoyed to see such a remarkable collection of Christmas displays and toys, but she was not. We had walked to FAO Schwarz through a neighborhood filled with homeless people begging for money. She said she was sad to see so many poor people when there were so many rich people that could help them. And this trip came long before the Bush tax cuts gave so much to the rich, leaving an expanded deficit as the legacy for our children and grandchildren.
This income inequality is in opposition to our American ideal. I cannot believe that when we are laying off teachers, destroying our infrastructure, and leaving so many of our fellow Americans high and dry, we are simultaneously giving serious consideration to extending the Bush tax cuts for our country’s wealthiest Americans. This is even harder to understand when you consider that many of these wealthy Americans come from the financial sector, which we recently bailed out.
We should not extend the tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. This tax cut decreases government revenue by $700 billion dollars over the next 10 years. My daughter was right. Those who have so much should do more to help those who have so little. $700 billion dollars would help fund a better safety net. Our founders hoped to provide an improved life for all our citizens. It is our responsibility to carry on that legacy.