Transcript: Democratic Radio Address

Below is the transcript of Saturday's Democratic radio address, delivered by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.


Good morning, this is Congressman Charles Rangel of New York. I am the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

And right now, I guess all the eyes of the country are looking at this current economic downturn and really seeing what it means for hard-working people and their ability to meet their needs.

The president and the leadership of the Congress have come together in a bipartisan way and put together an economic stimulus package. The premise of this package is to put money in the hands of people who are in such dire economic straits that they have no choice except to spend the money back into the economy.

In other words, the president is not doing this for compassionate reasons, but he is targeting the families who are struggling to put a roof over their heads, food on their table, send their kids back to school, and they want them to get the rebates because they are forced to spend the money to survive.

This is not a compassionate act. It's really done in order to spur businesses. They want businesses to be able to serve their goods and their services to people who right now, even thought many of them work everyday, just can't afford to buy it.

So as we move forward to refine and to make more perfect this package, I think we ought to really ask the president what got us involved in this in the first place.

• Transcript: President Bush's Radio Address

In the 1990s we had periods of strong economic growth, but in recent years we have had rising gas prices, weakness in the housing and credit markets and dramatic increases in the cost of health care and education.

Millions of families are left out because of their stagnant wages and the erosion of their retirement benefits. They are feeling insecure and they should feel insecure as we find out that more than 5 million people have slipped into poverty since the year 2000.

And yet during this very same time period, the incomes of the wealthiest in our nation have grown to new heights. In fact, the share of pre-tax income going to the top 1 percent of households is at the highest level since 1929.

We know what happened in 1929; we don't want to go back there, but there is something wrong with the picture if we find so many people going into poverty. Poverty is deadly, it is expensive, it is a threat to our nation and it has been ignored for too long.

Now while this package is maybe a good first step, it seems to me after recovery — and we will recover — that we have to really take a look to see what caused us to get to this situation and how we can get out.

One thing for certain, if we had a more equitable tax system, a more equitable tax code that treated the people in the middle class with some of the dignity and preferential treatment that we give to those people in the higher income, they would not have to be targeted.

Another thing is that we ought to make certain we have unemployment compensation. Every time we have had a recession we have used unemployment compensation to ease the pain of the people that are suffering here.

Another thing we should really take a look at is what are we going to do to provide a public safety net — that is to make certain that we do have universal care, that we do have education for our kids and jobs opportunities, and that we do make certain that our old folks are being taken care of.

We look forward to working with the president in a bipartisan way. We haven't enjoyed this in the past, but during the last few months of his administration, it gives us an opportunity to work together to avoid people having to say: I work every day. I want my dignity, I want my pride and I don't want to have the government to give me a rebate.

So, Americans have always been a driving force for change in the world. We have done this since the beginning as a nation. Now it is time for all of us to band together, Republicans and Democrats, to work with this president and ask him to help us to rekindle the dream that has faded for so many of our brothers and sisters.

This is Congressman Charles Rangel. Thank you so much for listening.