By David Wellstone
Minnesota is known for a lot of things: our winters, our ‘niceness,’ our strong work ethic and hardworking people, and especially for our belief in fairness and opportunity for all.
As I visited Minnetonka last week for a round table discussion on the fiscal cliff it was clear once again that those values remain strong and should guide Rep. Paulsen’s stance: We cannot provide additional tax breaks for the rich on the backs of the middle class.
Minnesota is a place where we have always prided ourselves on building a strong middle class. It’s one of the things that my father fought for, and it is part of our strong tradition of coming together and truly understanding that we all do better, when we all do better.
But it’s more than just building a strong middle class for the sake of building a strong middle class. Our state has long been a national leader with a strong economy because of our priorities: supporting education, building strong roads and bridges, preserving natural lands and the environment, building strong local communities where not only families, but also businesses want to settle down.
Our Minnesota values are strong and have made our state great for generations. Based on those values we have produced leaders of national impact; Humphrey, Mondale, and yes, Wellstone. And now we are at a crossroads.
This election was important, and the people spoke out about what they want for the future of Minnesota and for our country: fairness and progress. Now, as the fiscal cliff grows closer and closer, our Minnesota values that have brought such success to our state in the past should guide us again.
It’s time for action – we need to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and allow additional cuts for the richest two percent to expire. Two thousand dollars. That’s what 2 million middle-class families stand to lose if Congress continues to fail to act. It’s not Monopoly money to families in Minnesota – it will have a real impact on daily life.
$2,200 is 44 tanks of gas that get you to and from work, or the difference between having the money to fix a broken water heater in the winter, or not. For many families, it’s the difference between traveling to see family over the holidays, or not; buying gifts, or not; making it, or not.
But personal finances are only half the story.
What’s at stake here is not just my money, or yours, but the whole idea of America as a country that values fairness and opportunity above all, a nation where everyone gets an equal shot at success because everyone plays by the same set of rules. It’s about our values, as Minnesotans and as Americans.
On the one side - we know that the nation simply can’t afford to spend a trillion dollars on tax cuts for the richest two percent and also provide a level playing field for the rest of us by ensuring our children go to good schools and our infrastructure doesn't crumble beneath us.
On the other are side, there are those who claim they care about the middle class but would rather raise our taxes than ask the richest among us to pay just a little bit more.
These politicians – mostly Republicans - claim raising taxes on millionaires will hurt the economy and by extension, hurt middle class families or small businesses. History proves otherwise. Don’t be fooled by Speaker Boehner’s latest maneuvers; he and the Republican caucus aren't serious about tax cuts for the middle class.
It is simple; ninety-seven percent of small businesses wouldn't be impacted by allowing the additional cuts for the top two percent to expire. And we know that in order for local businesses and our economy in general to thrive, people need to have the money to buy goods and services from those locally-owned places.
It’s time to start making the tough decisions that will balance the budget and allow us to fund our priorities. And in a state that values fairness and having hard work and responsibility pay off, the best option is to pass middle-class tax relief right now and allow additional cuts for the wealthiest to expire.
Minnesotans elect their leaders to bring our values to Washington, not the other way around. It’s time for action -- we need fairness and progress from Congress.