Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Spirit of America

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

As my family and I visited the Statue of Liberty this weekend, Emma Lazarus’s words inscribed at the base of the Statue continue to have great importance today.

My parents, both immigrants from India, came to this country to make a better life for themselves. They understood the great plethora of opportunities available only in America and appreciated the American mantra that when you work hard and honestly, the average citizen can accomplish anything.

With the recent debate over the debt ceiling, our leaders in Congress should remember the United States of over a century ago—where we greeted millions of immigrants who traveled thousands of miles for a dream called Freedom; where we provided solace for those that wanted to work hard; and where “people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them — working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day,” could make a better life for themselves,” (President Obama).

Today, however, Lady Liberty’s torch seems to have dimmed. Although the most recent Republican plan that’s been put forward includes "serious spending cuts", it fails to invest in long-term job growth factors such as infrastructure, education, research, and development and energy. Furthermore, it places a greater burden on the middle class while asking nothing from corporate jet owners, oil and gas companies, and the wealthiest two percent.

The best way to avoid this situation is by increasing the debt ceiling to give America the ability to pay bills that Congress has already accrued. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised by August 2, America will default on its debts for the first time in history.

This means that we will not have enough money to pay all our bills – that includes providing over 55 million seniors with their monthly Social Security checks and paying Medicare costs for over 30 million Americans, of which 8 million are children.

Additionally, for the first time in history, America’s Triple A credit rating would be downgraded. If this happens, investors around the world would be less willing to finance our economy, causing rates for mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit cards to skyrocket.

And although Obama has taken heat from the Democrats for “giving in too much” to the Republicans, GOP leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are refusing to budge on their willingness to compromise because it “ruins the Republican brand”. In other words, those on the right care more about politics than helping the nation get out of a mess that was created by the previous Republican administration in the first place.

What about compromise? According to House Majority Leaders Eric Cantor, the mere fact that his party is even considering raising the debt ceiling is proof enough of their willingness to strike a deal with Obama. But agreeing to discuss the possibility of doing something that every President since the 1950s has argued for; and something that President Reagan did 18 times and George W. Bush did seven times does not sound very compromising to me.

As Obama explained his a recent town hall, what Republicans need to understand is that if you only cut spending without raising any revenues, “it means more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, a bigger burden on services that are going to middle-class families all across the country. And it asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little bit more,”.

On August 2, we need our leaders to act in the spirit of an America that Emma Lazarus envisioned and millions of immigrants traveled thousands of miles for.