The Progressive Caucus

Floor Speech

Date: April 15, 2010
Location: Washington, DC


Well, I thank the gentleman from Minnesota. And people know, taxes are relative to one's income. I've heard from many people, and of course in this recession people are hurting across the board from the wealthy to the poor. And I think even those who pay the highest rate of tax, many of them would say, you know, I would gladly pay the tax rate we had in the Clinton administration if I had the income that we had through the nineties.

What you pay is relative to how much you earn. Currently, the highest marginal rate at 35 percent, with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will return to 39.6 percent. That's the same rate it was when people were doing very well during the boom years.

Taxes are the investment. They're the price that we pay for the freedoms that we enjoy in our country. They're what fund our public projects and, yes, worthy and unworthy. I, as a taxpayer, wasn't happy that my taxes were going to fund the Iraq war, and continue to. But that's what our representative system is all about.

And I know there's many Americans out there today who weren't happy that their taxes might go to help provide health care for those who can't afford it. But the fact is, it's the price we pay for the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, and we enjoy more freedoms as Americans than people anywhere else in the world.

The noble experiment that was begun by our Founding Fathers over two centuries ago has evolved over the years and become something that every one of them would be proud of having given birth to.

We invest in many public projects. You know, in the nature of a democracy, each and every citizen, in fact, each and every Member of Congress is not likely to agree with every item that's spent. I know I don't. I voted ``no'' on some. I know my colleague from Minnesota voted ``no'' on some. Our colleagues and friends on the other side of the aisle voted against some of those. But this is a representative democracy.

We here in Congress, each serving and being elected by our constituents, are doing our best to allocate those dollars in a way to provide for the common good, the very concept that is conceptualized so effectively in our founding documents. That's what we do every day.

And this being tax time, everybody is reminded of how much they have to pay. And I think it's also important for us to remind them how much they get, the fact that people all over the world would risk dying, going across the desert to try to live in our country, what America stands for, globally, in terms of freedom, of unprecedented levels of prosperity that our middle-class families enjoy. That's what the American Dream is all about. That's what our country is all about.

And, no, it's not just the government that establishes this dream. But what it is is it's the rule of law, and it's a government formed among men governing by the consent of the governed to provide for the common good. We won't always get it right. But that's the investment that we're making when we pay taxes.

And even though I opposed the Iraq war and didn't like to see my tax dollars go there, even though I continue to oppose the escalation of troops in Afghanistan, and don't want to see my tax dollars going there, I know that the investment I make in paying my taxes is one that I can be proud of as an American. Knowing that it goes through title I to serve schools across our country that serve at-risk youth; knowing that it goes to help make health care more affordable for American families; knowing that it goes to help so that people who are unemployed don't lose their homes, can still put food on the table for their families; to know that our seniors have health care; to know that our young people have health care, and we're making it more accessible for people in the middle; to know that we're funding our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, our arteries of commerce that empower the private sector to produce the prosperity that has made America unique--that's what it means to pay taxes.

That's why every year, in April, when I pay mine, I feel that same lump in my throat and in my belly as every American; but I know, deep inside, that I would not trade it for anything else. And I am proud that I have this opportunity to be able to contribute to this greatest of the great countries and help America continue to be a beacon unto the nations and a light for future generations.

I thank the gentleman from Minnesota.