TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
This is an important time for the American people. Congress is back in
session, and expected to tackle many of the issues that affect our citizens in
very direct ways -- from taxes, to health care, retirement, education, campaign
finance reform and the minimum wage. We should all pay close attention to the
deliberations, because the decisions made by our representatives will have real
and long-lasting consequences, and will determine whether we continue along the
road to security and prosperity, or return to the short-sighted and ill-advised
policies of the past.
Under my husband's leadership, this country has witnessed the creation
of 19.4 million new jobs, the longest peacetime expansion, and the largest
budget surplus in history. The latest economic reports show unemployment
dropping to 4.2 percent, the lowest rate since January of 1970.
In order not to squander this hard-won prosperity, we must commit
ourselves to saving Social Security and strengthening and modernizing Medicare.
We must pay down our debt, continue to improve educational and economic
opportunity, and inject new investment in areas still untouched by our
recovery. And we must do these things now.
A proposed increase in the minimum wage is a good example. Working 40
hours a week, 50 weeks a year, a minimum-wage worker earns just $10,300
annually -- not enough to makes ends meet for many families, and below the
poverty level for a family of four. The President and Democratic members of
Congress have proposed an increase of $1 -- from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour -- over
two years, which would boost a family's income by an additional $2,000.
Although critics traditionally predict that raising the minimum wage is
bad for business and benefits mostly middle-income teenagers, the evidence
points in the opposite direction. Since the last increase three years ago, more
than 8 million new jobs have been added to the economy, and unemployment has
declined. And of those who would benefit, 70 percent are adults, and
three-fifths are women, many of whom are the sole breadwinners in their
Raising the minimum wage will be considered as the Senate debates
bankruptcy reform -- another bill that will have far-reaching implications for
America. Bankruptcy reform is in order, and anyone who can repay a portion of
his debts should be required to do so. Bankruptcy reform, however, should be
balanced, and should require greater responsibility from creditors and debtors
As we approach the end of the federal government's fiscal year on Oct.
1, lawmakers must pass the 13 appropriations bills to fund the government for
the next 12 months. As I write this, members of Congress are woefully
underfunding programs like education and health care. In other areas, they are
cutting key programs altogether.
I am appalled that one of the bills passed by the House cuts entirely
one of the great success stories of the last five years -- AmeriCorps. Since
1994, with broad bipartisan support, AmeriCorps has given over 100,000 young
people the opportunity to serve. It has enabled Americans from every walk of
life to work together to revitalize our neighborhoods and our schools.
Cutting funding for AmeriCorps sends exactly the wrong message to our
young citizens who want to make a difference in their communities, and the
President has promised a veto if funding is inadequate.
Not only is AmeriCorps in jeopardy, but other important programs are
threatened by another bill the President has vowed to veto -- the Republican
tax cut bill. This risky proposal does nothing to save Social Security or
modernize and strengthen Medicare. Moreover, in 2009, the Republican plan would
slash domestic programs across the board by nearly 50 percent.
Cuts of this magnitude could mean roughly 425,000 fewer children
enrolled in Head Start, over 7,000 fewer FBI agents protecting our streets, and
the elimination of funding for all toxic-waste cleanup projects nationwide. The
costs of this tax cut would explode just as the baby boom generation begins to
retire, Medicare is projected to become insolvent, and Social Security begins
to come under significant strain.
Now is not the time to abandon our elderly, our children and our future
for the sake of short-term political gain. Now is the time to adopt a budget
plan that addresses critical priorities, such as Social Security and Medicare,
and takes action on the other important challenges facing our country.
Now is the time to pass common-sense gun measures to prevent youth
violence and keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals. Now is the
time to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. Now is the time to
rebuild and modernize America's schools. And now is the time for Congress to
keep its promise to hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce class sizes.
We can meet our most pressing national needs. That's what the American
people want, and that's what Congress should give them.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past
columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
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