What are Washington Democrats doing to keep you from losing your savings? Unfortunately, not much. But where the Democrats have refused to lead, Republicans are stepping up and offering better solutions — in this case, a better plan to help Americans rebuild their college, retirement, and personal savings.
Consider this: A recent National Public Radio poll indicates that Americans’ concerns about the decline in the stock market and investment losses trumps even concerns about losing their jobs. This poll underscores the uncertainty middle-class families and small businesses are feeling during this ever-deepening recession. Even for those who are fortunate enough to be holding on to their jobs during the downturn, savings for college, homeownership, and other priorities are evaporating.
These are Americans who are acting responsibly and playing by the rules. They are paying their bills on time and saving for the future. Yet, each and every day, it seems they are falling farther and farther behind. They are enduring the pain of this recession and looking to both parties in Washington for solutions that will help get our economy moving again. So far, they haven’t gotten any.
Instead of taking action to help people restore their savings as quickly as possible, Washington is pursuing policies that are causing savings to disappear even more quickly. There are new programs that force those who acted responsibly to bail out those who didn’t; a trillion-dollar “stimulus” chock full of wasteful spending that will be paid for by our children and grandchildren; the $410 billion omnibus spending bill loaded with some 9,000 unscrutinized earmarks; and the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget that spends, taxes, and borrows too much. All of these measures will force higher taxes in the future and slowth economic growth to make saving more difficult than ever. Some are even proposing to wipe out 401(k)s entirely, replacing them with government-run accounts that put bureaucrats in charge of families’ savings.
What’s missing are proposals that will help people rebuild their nest eggs. That’s why House Republicans have developed a plan, to be formally introduced when Congress returns from its Easter break, that will make it easier for individuals and families to save more for their retirement; effectively reduce by up to half the cost of a family’s contribution to 529 college-savings plans; allow more Americans to increase their income without being hit by the Social Security earnings penalty; immediately suspend the capital-gains tax on newly acquired assets for the next two years, and suspend taxes on dividend income through 2011; and preserve employee-controlled 401(k)s by blocking the aforementioned efforts to wipe them out.
Working to forge bipartisan support for safeguarding families’ savings is a road I have been down before. Several years ago, as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I had the opportunity to guide a landmark pension-reform bill through Congress. It gained support from both parties and was signed into law in 2006. This legislation updated retirement-security protections for the first time in a generation, made it easier than ever to enroll in a 401(k) program, and gave workers access to independent investment advice as a workplace benefit for the first time ever. Republicans and Democrats didn’t agree on this bill easily; rather, my colleagues and I worked to identify common goals and debate means of achieving them.
This is exactly the formula that Congress and the White House should embrace at this critical time. We owe families and retirees more than the agenda of massive spending and higher taxes that Democrats in Washington have delivered this year. We owe them better solutions to stem investment losses, rebuild their savings, and restore confidence in a system that has performed so well for so many.
– John Boehner (R., Ohio) is House minority leader.