While the American economy has expanded over the last decade, it is painfully clear that the very top has benefited from most of these gains. Middle class families continue to be squeezed and their economic circumstances are increasingly precarious. Although the overall unemployment rate was decreasing in the beginning of 2020, many workers saw little growth in their wages.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended everything. It wreaked havoc with our health, our livelihoods, and everyone and everything we hold dear. The impacts have been particularly pronounced on the least well off, including low and moderate-income families and minority communities. The estimated economic impact are numbers not seen since the Great Depression. To get ahead of both the health and the consequent economic crisis, I pushed for relief packages to address the pandemic. Our plan supported hospitals and health care workers, provided for testing and vaccine research, mandated paid and emergency sick leave, funded emergency disaster loans for businesses, and directed aid to States and localities. But I know it is not enough and I will not stop fighting for the residents of northern New Jersey during these hard times.
The rampant inequity in our economy forces families to work longer hours or to take on more than one job. Whether it’s making next month’s rent or mortgage, putting food on the table, or retirement security, too many Americans are worried about their future. The American Dream – receiving a decent education, quality health care, and plentiful, affordable energy – still remains out of reach for millions of Americans. I have used my position on the powerful Ways and Means Committee that has broad jurisdiction over economic policies to fight for an economy that works for all Americans.
As a longtime champion of the working class, I proudly opposed the Republican 2017 tax scam because it made the growing inequality in our economy worse. It was a missed opportunity to create a fairer tax system. The top one percent received over 80 percent of the benefits and the bottom ninety-nine percent were barely left with crumbs. It also gutted the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction that many New Jerseyans benefited from.
I have fought for the restoration of the full SALT deduction, and versions of my bill passed the House of Representatives twice in the 116th Congress. I strongly support raising the federal minimum wage to $15. I voted to make the temporary middle-income tax cuts that would have expired in 2012 permanent and have used my voice to champion middle-income taxpayers who have continually seen so little in the way of tax relief in recent legislation.
On trade issues, I have heard too many stories of plants closing and American workers being left behind. I focused on a trade agenda that protects American workers and our environment because we cannot ignore the impacts our trade policy has on climate change. I opposed many trade agreements, including the recently renegotiated NAFTA, precisely because they did not do enough to protect jobs here at home or reduce climate change.
I know that the middle and working class needs to be the focus of our economic recovery. A true recovery will only be complete when we have empowered the engine of our economy – middle and working-class Americans. I remain committed to that fight every day.