Durbin: I’m Hopeful About Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on progressives' help in the fiscal showdown today, saying activists can play a role in shrinking the deficit, restoring the economy, and protecting the bulk of Americans in the middle class.
Durbin, speaking at the Center for American Progress, our parent organization, served on the super-committee on deficit reduction and drafted the DREAM Act. He has also been involved in recent high-level negotiations surrounding the fiscal cliff.
"Progressives cannot afford to stand on the sidelines of fiscal cliff conversation," Durbin said, emphasizing the importance of the progressive principles that motivate people to get involved in politics. "We have to look to reform and change that is significant, that preserves many of the values and programs that brought us to political life, and we cannot believe that merely ignoring these programs, or not engaging, is going to solve the problem."
Here's what Durbin says are the key goals that need to be at the heart of any deal:
- Strengthening the middle class by freezing tax rates for families making less than $250,000 a year. Durbin cited a Senate-approved bill currently facing the House that would avert the fiscal cliff for nearly 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses.
- Maintaining a safety net for America. "There will always be people in this country who need a helping hand," Durbin said, emphasizing that the needs of the working poor, the retired, and the impoverished cannot be overlooked.
- Keeping recovery on track without compromising economic needs. As policymakers implement deficit reduction, they cannot forget to be sensitive to economic growth.
With these goals in mind, Durbin recommended raising revenue and avoiding cuts to key programs young people, seniors, and the struggling Americans count on most:
- Using Simpson-Bowles as a guideline for a meaningful budget deal. In order to get back on track, the United States must increase revenue as a share of GDP while continuing to decrease spending.
- Grants and loans cannot be jeopardized. Durbin called for cuts in education spending that will maximize resources for "real education."
- Revisit entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, realizing that the danger of depleting funds could be avoided by revisiting program reforms incrementally. That said, policymakers should "be sensitive" to Medicare, which assists an estimated 41 million Americans, and Medicaid, which provides necessary resources for 67 million children, elderly, and the poor.
Durbin said politicians who pledge allegiance to all Americans by striving to cut a fair deal will go a long way in terms of our credibility here and abroad. "If we get the fiscal cliff solved, think about the message to the world," he said. "Our currency would be the strongest in the world. It takes a lot of hard work but it's worth the effort."
Quoting Steven Spielberg's recent film Lincoln, Durbin noted that this fiscal showdown is "about proving that democracy is not chaos."
"Democrats, Republicans, and the President," Durbin said, "get to work and do it together and get the job done. I think we can do it."
Jennifer Hicks is a Communications Intern for Campus Progress.