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Praise for Harkin Bill to Rebuild the Middle Class

Since Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) unveiled The Rebuild America Act, economists, advocates, and policy experts have weighed in to applaud the bill and its various provisions:

Robert Borosage, Campaign for America's Future: "Senator Harkin's Rebuild America Act offers strong medicine for what ails America - and a stunning rebuke both to those who say we can't afford to invest in our future and to those who would cut vital investments to the bone. Harkin's bill is common sense. If we want to rebuild the American middle class and revive the American Dream, we have to invest in areas vital to our future - a modern infrastructure, modernizing our schools, investing in education and training for 21st century jobs. And we have to be serious about a national manufacturing strategy so we make things in America once more. And, as Harkin's bill shows; we can afford to do this, with sensible and fair tax reform. This common sense approach to investing in the future for our country would help us revive opportunity and the core American promise --the idea that any kid willing to work will have the opportunity to grow up and make it in America."

Dean Baker, Economist: "Senator Harkin has put forward a bold proposal that should move the economic agenda in a positive direction. It is focused on both providing a short-term boost to the economy and laying a basis for longer-term sustained growth. The bill will boost the economy in the short-term by providing state and local governments with the money needed to sustain essential services such as health care and education. These funds will help them avoid layoffs and allow for the rehiring of many workers who have already lost their jobs. The bill also provides funding for infrastructure and research and development, which will lay the basis for longer-term growth. It also tries to fix our trade policy, which can lead to millions of new jobs in manufacturing."

Leo Hindery, Chair, U.S. Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative, New America Foundation: "The 'Rebuild America Act' is the first piece of proposed legislation in the last decade that comprehensively addresses all of the far-ranging systemic problems confronting the American economy and the nation's workers. By addressing, at once, upgraded infrastructure, better education, fair wages, trade reform, tax reform and the imperative for a much larger, more stable manufacturing sector - each with identified objectives and outcomes - we can finally contemplate a tapestry of initiatives that will truly reinvigorate the middle class, achieve near full real employment, and eliminate our massive trade deficit in manufactured goods."

Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals: "NAESP supports the ambitious agenda outlined in the bill to invest in our nation's infrastructure, modernize schools, and train our workforce for the 21st century to reinvigorate America's manufacturing prowess... Principals applaud the comprehensive strategy and the investment in professional development on college and career ready standards to build the capacity of teachers, principals and other school staff so that they may help every student reach their full learning potential."

Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, Co-Chairs, Strengthen Social Security: "...we are facing a retirement security crisis amongst Americans in their 40s and 50s, many of whom have lost significant amounts of home equity and suffered setbacks in saving for retirement because of the loss of a job, pension assets, or other savings. In light of this very real challenge, your legislation takes several important steps to make sure that Americans can enjoy security in their retirement, or if they are faced with lost wages as the result of a serious, permanent disability or the loss of a family member."

Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League: "...the National Urban League is pleased that the proposal will include a strong job training component with opportunities for regional partnerships to provide immediate pathways to emerging employment opportunities and current local job openings...We applaud your proposal to raise the minimum wage and provide for automatic future raises. This is something the National Urban League has long supported as it will help prevent working families from losing ground by maintaining their purchasing power."

Donna Butts, Executive Director, Generations United: "...this legislation will improve retirement security and strengthen income protection for millions of children, working families and seniors across America. By strengthening Social Security, we can guarantee economic security for retirees and families faced with the loss of a breadwinner's support because of death or disability. The Rebuild America Act will help ensure that Social Security meets its obligations to future generations."

Marty Ford, Director, Public Policy Office, The Arc: "We are particularly interested in the provisions of the Rebuild America Act that seek to strengthen Social Security and to expand and extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for Americans with disabilities... People with disabilities and their families have an enormous interest in strengthening Social Security to promote solvency and adequacy of benefits, in a way that is balanced and preserves the program's already-effective structure... The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a valuable tool to increase employment among targeted groups, including people with disabilities."

Paul J. Tobin, President and CEO, United Spinal Association: "We particularly appreciate your consistent recognition that growth is not achieved in the American way without all qualified individuals being given equal opportunities, such as those living with disabilities who have been forced out of the workforce since the recession at three times the rate of able Americans and continue to experience unemployment rates in the double digits. Your attention to those in their senior years is essential as the value of retirement funds continues to face tremendous uncertainty and half of those on Social Security would be on the precipice of poverty without it."

Lisa Guide, Associate Director, Rockefeller Family Fund: "I want to thank you for including the Healthy Families Act and a plan to ensure that all working Americans have access to paid sick leave in the Rebuild America Act. As you are well aware, access to paid sick days can make the difference between a working family in distress and one with economic security and the ability to meet their responsibilities both on the job and at home... thank you for your continued dedication to improving the lives of America's working families."

Mike Lux, CEO, Progressive Strategies: "Tom Harkin has the right legislation with the right message at the right time. This country desperately needs legislation and legislators focused like a laser beam on rebuilding and expanding the great American middle class, and this bill that Harkin has introduced is exactly what the doctor ordered. It is one of the best pieces of economic legislation I have seen in a long time, doing a great many important things that will help revitalize our hard pressed middle class."

Heather Booth, Democracy Partners: "It is always important to have a vision of what we want and need to get the economy moving and to put people to work. This bill provides such effective proposals for these important priorities. From rebuilding infrastructure and modernizing our nation's schools to requiring a national manufacturing plan, teacher training and job training for the 21st Century, this bill--if enacted--will help us Rebuild the Middle Class. It is fully paid for by restoring balance to the tax code, helps decrease the deficit and extends the stability of Social Security. And it includes the Wall Street Speculators Tax--to make them pay to clean up the mess they created. All that is missing is the political will and organizing to make it a reality. This gives us a goal to fight for. Thank you, Senator Harkin. Thanks for designing something to lead us out of this economic morass and into an economy with the right priorities for 99% of people in this country."

Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder, NDN: "[The Rebuild America Act] stands in stark contrast to recent Republican plans which don't acknowledge, or seem to understand, the need for America to invest if it is to provide its workers and its kids the same level of opportunity provided to previous generations. It is a smart approach that will help stimulate the right kind of debate, and one that helps us move beyond the simplistic and inappropriate calls for austerity heard from far too many corners in Congress today."

Kim Anderson, Director, Center for Advocacy, National Education Association: "On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we would like to offer our support for your proposals to help strengthen the middle class. We thank you for your leadership in introducing this legislation and in particular for your focus on investments in education... Public education is the greatest tool we have to maintaining, increasing and strengthening the middle class."

James K. Galbraith, economist and professor, The University of Texas at Austin; former Executive Director, Joint Economic Committee: "Senator Harkin once again demonstrates his vision and leadership by presenting a bill that would actually forge what others only talk about: a powerful, effective and wide-ranging strategy to rebuild our American middle class."

Jeff Blum, Executive Director, USAction: "Senator Harkin's proposal will address our economic crisis and rebuild the middle class. He understands what a successful economy looks like and the role we as a society play, together, in making the investments that will build an economy that works for the 99 percent instead of just the one percent."

Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families: "Every day in this country, countless workers have to choose between their health and their families' economic security because they don't have access to basic workplace protections like paid sick days. More than 44 million workers in the United States are faced with this impossible choice. That is why we are so pleased to see that the Rebuild America Act includes the text of the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would give hardworking people the right to earn paid sick days and provide families with much-needed financial stability...the Rebuild America Act would raise the minimum wage, protect overtime pay and workers' right to stand together, and fund investments in education, child care and infrastructure. It is an ambitious, comprehensive bill that addresses the real issues facing America's families. It would surely go a long way in moving the country forward."

Chris Bern, President, Iowa State Education Association: "On behalf of the 34,000 members of the Iowa State Education Association I offer our support for your proposals to help strengthen the middle class. We know how important a good education is in improving our chances for economic recovery as a strong workforce demands the 21th century skills taught in today's classrooms. We are also keenly aware of how important it is to infuse our public education system with the proper resources so that our students and teachers receive all of the support they need to succeed. We thank you for your leadership and focus on strengthening America's middle class. The Iowa State Education Association looks forward to working with you as this legislation moves through Congress."

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director, MomsRising: "...It's no surprise that [the Rebuild America Act] aligns with much of the 'mom agenda' that MomsRising and our million members have been working so hard to advance, promoting issues like affordable child care, paid sick days and fair and realistic wages. The Rebuild America Act would provide subsidies for child care, which in some states now costs more than college tuition, placing it out of reach of working families who so desperately need it. It would also bring the U.S. in line with every other industrialized country and eliminate the impossible choice between a paycheck and sick child, by guaranteeing that every worker can earn up to at least seven paid sick days a year to recover from illness or care for a sick family member. And the bill would help the millions of families struggling to get by on a minimum wage that is far too low...We are proud to have an ally as strong and caring as Senator Harkin and we will work with him to press for passage of this important and much-needed bill."

Lawrence Mishel, President, Economic Policy Institute: "Senator Harkin is to be applauded for thinking big and thinking correctly. The Rebuild America Act tackles many of the biggest problems that hold back the American economy and shut off opportunity for working families. The impact will be to generate millions of jobs, to raise wages for all types of workers and to provide the retirement security that America desperately needs."

Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education: "Your legislation... would invest in the nation's students by investing in their teachers. The Act would help to improve college and career readiness, by providing competitive grant funding to states and their local school districts to implement effective models of collaborative, job-embedded, and sustained professional development focused on the successful implementation of college- and career-ready standards."

Eric J. Karolak, Ph.D., Executive Director, Early Care and Education Consortium: "We thank you for recognizing that child care is crucial in supporting parents' employment, and for calling for investments to ensure that early care and education providers can offer high-quality opportunities for young children."

Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans: "For far too many Americans, the outlook for a secure retirement is becoming increasingly dim. The number of employer-provided pensions, with protection from the types of market fluctuations that decimated the values of so many 401(k) plans, has declined dramatically. Personal savings accounts have been wiped out by increasing health care costs and falling housing values...The Rebuild America Act offers practical ways to ensure that retirement security is once again achievable for all Americans. Your legislation restores this opportunity in ways that both enhance benefits and strengthen the long term solvency of Social Security."

Katy Beh Neas, Senior Vice President for Government Relations, Easter Seals: "The Rebuild America Act includes policies that will empower people with disabilities of all ages to have greater opportunities for success. Easter Seals is especially pleased with the policies in the bill that will increase the supply of quality child care for all children, including those with disabilities."

Michael Casserly, Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools: "Urban school districts have yet to recover financially from the severe economic downturn of the past few years. The proposed Teacher Jobs Stabilization program and the School Modernization initiative of the bill could help urban school districts maintain the student academic gains they have demonstrated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress while awaiting state and local education revenues to rebound from the recession."

David B. Fisher, MD, Ph.D., Board, National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery: "The Rebuild America Act includes policies that will empower people with disabilities of all ages to have greater opportunities for success. It is particularly important that the legislation will increase the incentives of employers to hire persons with psychiatric disabilities as well as all other disabilities. It is also important that there are provisions for Social Security Reform, which will decrease the fear of coming off Social Security supports in transitioning to work."

Celine Coggins, Founder and CEO of Teach Plus: "... I thank Senator Harkin for his leadership in ensuring that our nation's teachers will receive the professional development they need to fully realize the potential of college- and career-ready standards and assessments. Our best teachers know that professional development is important not just for teachers but, ultimately, for students because strong professional development helps teachers guide their students to higher levels of achievement and success."

Ronald Thorpe, President & CEO, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: "We applaud the bill's investment in helping states and districts, in collaboration with non-profit organizations, provide teachers with the professional development necessary to successfully implement college- and career-ready standards. In the world's highest performing countries, there has been a conscious investment in building the strongest possible teacher workforce, and this bill makes a clear statement that the U.S. is determined to do even better."

Alan W. Houseman, Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Policy: "A stable middle class means stronger families, better outcomes for children and stronger fiscal health for the nation. The Rebuild America Act would offer opportunities such as education and training, child care assistance, and paid sick leave to ensure more ordinary families have the tools they need to access jobs have the chance to reach the middle class."

Carrie Hines, President and CEO, American Small Manufacturers Coalition: "The American Small Manufacturers Coalition supports the Committee's focus on manufacturing and technology as a venue for America's future economic growth. ASMC and its Manufacturing Extension Partnership center members and clients believe that manufacturing innovation - in its products, people and processes - is critical to rebuilding and growing this country's industrial engine. ASMC commends the HELP Committee for its commitment to this effort and looks forward to working with the Committee to ensure that MEP centers continue to lead the way."

Jerlean Daniel, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Association for the Education of Young Children: "High quality early childhood education helps America prosper and reach its potential. By investing in high quality early childhood learning and development, our society reaps not only fiscal rewards from lower special education and other remedial costs, but also puts children on a positive path for successful learning, work, and productive adult lives."

Ari Ne'eman, President, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network: "[The Rebuild America Act] holds true to your commitment to Americans with disabilities as well as helping our economy grow stronger. We applaud your proposal to increase the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and extend it to not only those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments and/or vocational rehabilitation services but also those who are receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) payments or who are eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services."

Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs: "We strongly support this legislation designed to support working families and create jobs with the initiatives paid for with fair and progressive revenue sources. Its provisions are a thoughtful and comprehensive package of initiatives that will provide resources for all Americans to contribute to and benefit from rebuilding America's still-fragile economy."

Curt Decker, Executive Director, National Disability Rights Network: "The Rebuild America Act will help all students, including students with disabilities, be able to attend schools that are conducive to learning, by providing safe environments and teachers who have the skills and knowledge to prepare them for post-secondary education or the workforce. Your legislation will also take important steps toward decreasing the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities by increasing the amount of wages that may be used toward the Work Opportunity Tax Credit when an employer hires an eligible person with a disability...This would help open up the labor market to people who historically have had difficulty finding employment[.]"

Van Jones, President, Rebuild the Dream: "This bill is a breath of fresh air in the staleness of Washington. I'm glad to see Tom Harkin leading the way, and turning the focus back to everyday people. For too long, this country has allowed the wealthy and powerful to prosper, at the expense of hardworking families who have fallen further and further behind. This bill will help restore fairness to our society, and set our economy back on the right path for the future."

Gerald W. McEntee, President, AFSCME: "Senator Harkin's "Rebuild America Act" is a blueprint for transforming our nation into an America that works for all of us. Creating jobs, strengthening the middle class and investing in infrastructure should be the top priority of every elected official in this country. We can no longer just sit and watch while our roads, bridges and water systems crumble and turn a blind eye to the billionaires who are filling their pockets with tax breaks."

Bob King, President, United Auto Workers: "We commend your bold vision and strong leadership in drafting legislation to rebuild the American middle class. Your bill addresses a number of pressing needs and will increase economic growth, revitalize domestic manufacturing, rebuild America's infrastructure, increase wages for the lowest-paid workers, improve retirement security for all Americans by extending the stability of Social Security, and bring fairness to our tax code. The middle class has struggled for too long and this legislation will rebuild America and prepare us to compete in the global economy."

Main Street Alliance: "The single most important thing small business owners need to create jobs is more customers - more demand, not deregulation. Not weaker workplace standards that jeopardize the health of our workers and customers. Not toothless watchdogs for the financial sector actors that brought down the economy in 2008. Not more tax loopholes and "holidays" for corporate tax dodgers that drain our country's resources and tilt the playing field against small businesses. What we need is more customers. A strong middle class customer base is the bedrock of small business success. That's why we strongly support the Rebuild America Act."