Mr. REID. Madam President, last night the President of the United States laid out an agenda to strengthen the middle class and expand upon our economic progress. He outlined an agenda that will restore the core value that makes this Nation great: fairness.
Senate Democrats stand ready to work with the President to make this vision--a vision in which every American shares the prosperity as well as the responsibility--a reality. President Obama's agenda calls for commonsense investments in our future, investments which will breathe new life into a struggling middle class, investments which will make America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing once more, investments which have been deferred for too long due to the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The President's plan will give American manufacturers the support they need to thrive, while ending giveaways to companies that ship jobs overseas. His plan will create jobs building world-class roadways, railways, and bridges which our economy may rely upon tomorrow.
The plan will prepare current and future workers to compete in a global economy by making K-12 schools the best in the world again and college affordable for every graduate. His plan will break our addiction to foreign oil and encourage investments in reliable energy, a change which will be good for the environment and for the economy.
As he said last night, it will be done without adding a single penny to the deficit. These investments in a strong middle class are not just right for our country, they are right for our economy as well. Our efforts to restore prosperity will mean little unless Congress acts immediately to deal with arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect.
If the looming sequester strikes, 70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start and 10,000 teaching jobs would be at risk. The Small Business Administration will be forced to reduce loan guarantees to small businesses by up to $540 million. Democrats believe we should replace this harsh austerity with a balanced approach that targets wasteful spending, tax loopholes, and asks the wealthiest among us to contribute a little more to reduce the deficit.
The American people know we can't cut our way to prosperity. They agree. We can't ask the middle class to bear the burden of the entire deficit reduction. Later this week Democrats will release a plan to avert the so-called sequester.
Republicans say they agree the deep cuts they voted for will be damaging to our economy and to national security. Republicans would rather cut Medicare, education, and medical research than close a single wasteful tax loophole or ask a single millionaire to contribute a little more. The Republicans should stop protecting millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations and start working with us to pass an alternative to these terrible cuts that protect the middle class. We want to start to do something to begin changing this so we protect the middle class. We must not jeopardize the progress of the last 4 years.
Even though our work to restore economic prosperity must continue, we should take pride in the 35 months of private sector job growth and 6.1 million new American jobs. Imagine how many more jobs could be created with just a little cooperation from our Republican colleagues.
Now our friends across the aisle have another opportunity to engage constructively. They have a second chance to work with Democrats to rebuild the middle class by investing in that which in the past has made Americans strong--world-class roads, bridges, dams, peerless schools, industrial factories, and creative entrepreneurs who are the best in the world.
President Ronald Reagan, in his first address of a joint session of Congress, spoke of these building blocks of prosperity. Ronald Reagan said:
Substance and prosperity of our Nation is built by wages brought home from the factories and the mills, the farms, and the shops. They are the services provided in 10,000 corners of America: the interest on the thrift of our people and the returns for their risk-taking. The production of America is the possession of those who build, serve, create, and produce.
He didn't say the substance of our Nation is built on profits gleaned from shipping jobs overseas. He didn't say the prosperity of America is the possession of investment banks or wealthy oil companies alone. Rather, he said, our substance and prosperity are earned in factories, mills, farms, and shops. The rewards belong to all those who build, serve, create, and produce--not only to the few strong enough or rich enough to take for themselves.
It is time to return to those roots. It is time to remember fairness is not just a principle for which to strive but a powerful engine of growth and prosperity for all Americans.