Tom Harkin says occupiers have a point

Sen. Tom Harkin

As lawmakers in Washington look for answers to ongoing economic woes, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said he and his colleagues would be “foolish to ignore the voices” of people throughout the nation who have begun to take part in the Occupy Wall Street movement by protesting and demonstrating against the current inequitable system that is “rigged against their interests.”

“For more than a decade we’ve been told that endless tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy would result in millions jobs and a booming economy. That’s the same old trickle-down economics that has never worked before and it is not working now. For most Americans the only thing that has trickled down are wage cuts, upside-down mortgages, mass unemployment, personal bankruptcies and disappearing pensions,” Harkin said on a conference call with the media Thursday morning.

“Instead of this failed trickle-down economics for the rich, it’s time for percolate-up economics for the rest.”

Lawmkers, he said, would be remiss if they didn’t pay attention to the demonstrators and what they are trying to convey.

“I think we are now seeing rank-and-file Americans stand up and demand more fairness and equity in our tax policy, and on focusing on putting people back to work. I think, quite frankly, for too long both the President and members of the Democratic Party here in the Senate and the House have laid back. Now is the time to understand that there is a big movement going on in America and it’s not just on the tea party side,” he said. “It’s on the side of people who are out of work, who understand the system is rigged against them in terms of taxes and who is paying their fair share. I think we need to pick that up and move as aggressively as possible on this.”

As chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Harkin said he has been asked to submit recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

“I have a simple message to the Super Committee, and that is: Go big on jobs,” he said.

“I’m urging members of the super committee to break free from the Washington group-think that defines success very narrowly in terms of maximizing deficit reduction. They need to embrace a more powerful and broader definition of success that includes boosting the economy and creating jobs. After all, the most effective way to reduce the deficit is to help 25 million unemployed and under-employed Americans find jobs and become taxpayers again.”

Without a return to normal levels of employment in the nation, he added, there can be no sustained reduction of the deficit. And, if Congress does meet with anticipated gridlock over the American Jobs Act, which is President Obama’s proposal to seed the economy, the American people are going to have to make a decision and let their voices be heard in the next election, Harkin said.

“Do we want to continue down the path of trickle-down economics, tax benefits for big corporations and the wealthy, continued high rates of unemployment and continued imports of products from China that are subsidized because of the way they manipulate their currency? Or are we going to have a different course of action in the future?” he asked.

“We are going to have make these decisions, and I hope we come down on the side of those who are demanding a fairer system in this country.”

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