Letters

Let’s jumpstart the American dream

Friday, March 14, 2014

By CONGRESSWOMAN CAROL SHEA-PORTER

D-N.H.

The celebrated promise of our country has always been that hard work would lead to good jobs, fair pay and a shot at the American dream.

For many, though, that fundamental promise has been unraveling: a bailout for Wall Street, too few jobs bills for Main Street, a growing gap between the wealthy and poor, and smaller take-home pay that’s squeezing middle-class families.

I believe that our biggest challenge is to jumpstart the American dream for middle and working-class families who are the foundation of every New Hampshire community. We must recommit ourselves to building an economy where all can work, where hard work merits fair pay, and, as our economy grows, everyone prospers.

America has a jobs crisis, and Congress must take action. During this session of Congress, I’ve helped introduce jobs bills that would jumpstart our economy by putting money back into the pockets of hardworking families, ending the job-killing policy known as sequestration once and for all, and investing in New Hampshire’s infrastructure. There are many jobs bills waiting for a vote. I’ve sponsored legislation to keep jobs in America. I’ve also written legislation that would permanently double the tax deduction for new businesses, and would help teachers who pay for educational supplies by expanding a tax deduction for them. I’ve cosponsored legislation that would allow employers to claim a $2,400 credit when they hire a recently discharged veteran. These are common sense steps to help our small businesses grow, support middle-class families and stand up for veterans.

Over the past couple of decades, American workers have become more productive, but wages have remained mostly stagnant. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the minimum wage would have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity.

The reason I, along with 63 percent of Americans, support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for hardworking men and women is because a stronger minimum wage means a stronger economy. Raising the minimum wage helps working families make ends meet, and it drives economic growth for local businesses.

Women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This pay gap is unfair, it hurts working families, and it’s a drag on our economy. State Sen. Sylvia Larsen is leading the charge for paycheck fairness in New Hampshire, and in the U.S. Congress, I was proud to help launch the Women’s Economic Agenda. Jumpstarting the American dream means supporting American women who are working to achieve job security and economic stability for themselves and their families.

Retirement security is another cornerstone of the American dream. Before Medicare, only half of seniors had health insurance. Today, virtually all do. Thanks to the prescription drug benefits in the Affordable Care Act, 11,962 Granite State Medicare beneficiaries saved an average of $807 each in 2013. I joined colleagues to introduce the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, which would improve benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, protecting the American dream.

Recently, there have been a number of proposals to balance the budget on the backs of New Hampshire seniors. The Ryan budget would eliminate the Medicare guarantee for seniors and reopen the Medicare doughnut hole, costing seniors hundreds of dollars more each year. I strongly oppose this type of budget and any budget that contains cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits.

The promise of America is not that we guarantee equal outcome; it’s that we try to provide a ladder of opportunity for all those willing to work hard. We need to increase investments in education from preschool to college, because education is the key to a nation’s prosperity. Education brings higher incomes, which helps not only the individual and his or her family, but the community as well.

I believe that risk-takers and entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their visions, their discoveries, and their innovations. I also believe that those who work each day to carry out that vision should be paid a fair wage. Fair play and opportunity are woven into the American dream.

As I travel throughout New Hampshire’s First District, I hear my constituents say the same thing, regardless of their political differences. Our citizens say that people who work hard and play by the rules should still have a shot at success. We might live in a time of divided government, but that is no excuse for inaction. Let’s work together and jumpstart the American dream now!

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents N.H.’s First District.

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