How can we have a consumer economy if consumers don't have enough money in their pockets to consume? Regardless of your income or job, the deplorable state of job opportunities in our economy affects us all. Millions of our fellow Americans are working long hours in multiple jobs and still not earning enough money to make ends meet. Many of our neighbors are forced to take pay cuts just to keep their jobs, while executives of the largest corporations are seeing their paychecks skyrocket. When adjusted for inflation, worker earnings have been stagnant since the 1970's. Meanwhile, in this same time frame, average CEO salaries rose 997%!!
We see nearly all of the new wealth generated in our economy going toward corporate profits rather than into the bank accounts of the workers and consumers that allow businesses to exist in the first place. The rising costs of living impacts everyone in New Jersey; from recent college graduates, to young families, to our senior citizens. Banks borrow from the taxpayers at <1% interest rate while students bettering themselves are charged 5-7%, setting themselves up for a lifetime of debt from the very start. Families are crippled when women earn only $.78 on the dollar that a man earns. Senior poverty is on the rise as those making a billion dollars a year pay the same exact amount into Social Security as someone earning $118,000. The wealth gap between the super-rich and everyone else is wider today than it was immediately before the Great Depression.
The wealthiest individuals and corporations have used their vast sums of money to corrupt our government, and rig our entire economy to funnel even more money to the top. We hear all the time about the "redistribution of wealth." In the last 40 years, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth. It was sucked from the middle and working classes up to a new class of super wealthy never before seen in human history. It is our job to make the economy once again work for us all.
Our 7th district is driven by the downtown mom and pop, the great breakfast spot on the corner, and the tool-wielding machinists who make sure every automobile, home, and business is functioning in tip top shape. When we travel through Flemington, Dover, Somerville, or Union, we find people invested in bettering themselves, their families, and their communities. The foundation of a healthy economy is built through these small businesses on America's Main Streets. Yet, we have "representatives" in Congress who are far more interested in representing their big corporate and Wall Street donors. In order for small businesses to thrive, we must support local entrepreneurship and innovation through tax incentives and proper public investment. We must support local small community banks to provide low interest rate loans to entrepreneurs who have ideas, a plan, and a dream. Small businesses need to be equipped with tools such as an educated work force, skilled labor, and energy efficient infrastructure. Net neutrality needs to be maintained to have a level and fair playing field for all businesses.
Perhaps the most impactful measure we can take to simultaneously benefit small business economies and combat wealth and income inequality is to raise base worker earnings to $15.00 over the next five years, and to tie that value to future inflation. If worker earnings had kept pace with inflation since the 1970's, workers would be earning well above the $15 mark today. The most productive people in the world have earned their raise.
Raising base earnings DOES NOT cost jobs, it actually directly benefits small businesses and local economies. The middle and working class typically spend close to 100% of their income on living necessities. As these millions of people finally have additional discretionary income, they spend that money directly back into local economies. Businesses will then hire more workers to match the increased demand for goods. These new, well paid workers then spend those earnings back into local businesses, and our economy grows. This increases the tax base, enabling the government to reinvest in things like education, infrastructure, and scientific advancement. Working class families are able to send their children to college, which educates modern workers for the modern economy. Robert Reich refers to this as an economic "virtuous cycle," and we can and will create it again.
As our representative, it will be my priority to ensure equal access to the American Dream. We need to invest in our future, rather than continue the practice of gripping to an outdated past. I will oppose subsidies for corporations that ship American jobs overseas, pollute our children's planet, and purchase the influence of elected officials. We want pro-American business. We want the labels on our goods to once again proudly proclaim that they were "Made in America". New Jersey can and will be a new national leader in rebuilding the American Dream.
Paying taxes isn't fun, but it is not a punishment. It is our civic duty to contribute back into our society at a fair proportion of what we are able to earn from it. Devoting portions of our earnings to pay for the expenses of running our country is a patriotic action that says, "I care about my neighbors and the progress of our nation as a whole." Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, correctly points out that it is not fair for him to be able to contribute a lower percentage of his income than does his secretary. Up until the 1980's, corporate taxes accounted for 30% of our national revenue. Today, that contribution is only 10%. Hundreds of the wealthiest corporations have stashed away over $2.1 trillion in offshore tax havens to dodge paying their share of the costs to maintain our society. Many of them have gone years without ponying up a cent! Do you have the freedom or ability to do something like that? Why is it ok for them and leave us footing the bill?
Members of Congress routinely hand out subsidies to the wealthiest corporations with our tax dollars. Excessive tax breaks and loopholes are the reason that the top 0.1% have as much wealth as the bottom 90% of people in America. You, I, and the rest of the American working class are being forced to bear the burden of this greed. It is time for our richest fellow citizens and the wealthiest corporations to stop shirking their patriotic duty, and pay their fair share of the costs to run a modern, first world country.
Jobs & Infrastructure
One immediate result from tax fairness is the ability to make sorely needed investments in upgrading our crumbling and outdated infrastructure. Our roads are filled with pesky potholes, bridges are deteriorating, water and sewage lines are nearing the end of their life cycles, and our transportation and energy systems are obsolete. In fact, highlighted recently in Star-Ledger/NJ.com, 3 of the top 10 structurally deficient bridges are in our own 7th Congressional District. Our nation's broadband internet speeds are slower and yet we spend more than other developed nations. NJ needs $7.9 billion to repair our drinking water systems over the next decade. Our electricity grids are antiquated and vulnerable to cyber-attacks. It is very important that we invest in the clean energy systems that reflect the needs of the 21st century and lower costs. Our corroding infrastructure costs us $200 billion per year. The U.S. invests far less in infrastructure compared to other nations. Not only would this investment rebuild our infrastructure, but it would rebuild a failing New Jersey economy that has caused our state to have the highest amount of people, and tax base, leaving for greener pastures.
Investment in infrastructure is a surefire way to create millions of long-term jobs across the nation and thousands of jobs right here in the Garden State. The construction industry was hit particularly hard in the Great Recession. Such an investment will provide good paying jobs for two-thirds of Americans who do not have a college degree, but who have the vocational skills needed to perform the work of rebuilding America. These projects would involve and benefit workers from every sector of our economy; from finance and manufacturing, to engineering, architecture, and scientific innovation and research. With a Congress blocking attempts to support environmentally sustainable and cost efficient energy production systems and materials, New Jersey is prevented from becoming the national leader in green technology it has the potential to be. 80 percent of New Jersey residents believe the state should invest more in developing renewable energy resources over fossil fuels, and as your representative, I will fight for precious federal dollars to be invested right here to make the Garden State even more green.