Good Morning. I'm United States Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
Like most Democrats, I came to Washington to make life better for the millions of ordinary, hard working Americans. We are here to serve you — to address your needs and to improve your lives.
Unfortunately, many middle-class Americans look at Washington and see an out-of-touch government that doesn't share your values and is uninterested in the problems you face. The skyrocketing costs of health care. The rising price of gas and home heating. And the exploding costs of college tuition.
It's getting to the point where even those with decent jobs who work long hours, still struggle to make ends meet and achieve a basic level of financial security.
Unfortunately, Washington Republicans just don't seem to care. Rather than focusing on the needs of working families, they're pursuing an agenda driven by the powerful few. And it's middle-class Americans who are paying the price.
There's no better example than the budget President Bush released this week.
This is a budget that does more than ignore the problems facing the middle class — it actually makes them worse. At the same time, the budget includes a wide variety of handouts to the President's special interest friends, including billions of dollars of wasteful spending that would help add $4 trillion to our nation's debt
How will the President's budget harm the middle class?
It will increase the cost of college by locking in the largest student aid cut in the history of our nation.
It will increase health insurance premiums and out of pocket costs through new schemes that will expand tax shelters for the healthy and the wealthy and drive up costs for the rest of us.
It will leave many in colder regions, like my state of New Jersey, with higher heating costs, by underfunding the one federal initiative designed to help.
And it rejects Democratic proposals to crack down on oil company price gouging, even though Big Oil has reaped record profits while gas prices have shot through the roof.
These are the burdens middle-class families will bear as a result of the President's budget.
Now, consider the benefits it showers on the powerful few.
The president proposes spending $648 billion on tax breaks for those earning more than $1 million. That's more than six times the amount needed to restore the President's proposed cuts in Medicare.
He insists on spending billions of dollars on a wasteful slush fund for HMO's.
And he wants to spend billions more on tax breaks that subsidize the outsourcing of US jobs overseas.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. And they prove a point that Democrats have been making for some time.
We will never deal with the real needs of middle class families until we have a change in priorities and a change in values in Washington.
My fellow Democrats and I believe America can do better.
We know that government is supposed to serve the public interest, not special interests. And we've proposed a wide range of reforms to restore the public's faith in their elected officials.
Unfortunately, after initially claiming to have seen the light, the Republican congressional leadership is already running away from reform. Why? Because, in truth, most Republicans just don't want it.
I hope you will join with Democrats in pushing for change. Because when you get right down to it, this is the greatest country in the history of the world. And together, America can do better then what we are getting from Washington today.
We can have a government that puts progress ahead of politics. We can have a budget that honors our values. And we can make sure that middle-class families — not special interests — always come first.
I'm Senator Bob Menendez. Thank you for listening.