These days in our country, people are mad as hell. And I don't blame them: They are frustrated that millionaires and billionaires in our country are not paying their fair share. They are upset that we bailed out the banks yet have failed them. They are angry that they can no longer pay for their housing, healthcare, education, and have to live with constant fear. Today nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed yet we're unable to take action to help them because some in Congress are more concerned with cutting vital programs than creating jobs and hopes for the American people. This is morally wrong and cannot continue.
I am very glad I visited Liberty Plaza this past Saturday to lend my moral support to the Occupy Wall Street protesters and witness firsthand the growing movement by the people in America who are "getting kicked out of [their] homes," "forced to choose between groceries and rent," and are "denied quality medical care," "suffering from environmental pollution," "working long hours for little pay and no rights," and are "getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything." In sum, I met the 99 percent of Americans who are bearing the brunt of the recession caused by tax breaks and loopholes for millionaires and corporations, two unfunded wars, and the financial meltdown due to Republican deregulation.
I am very proud to see that they have started to mobilize and speak up because often in our history, people's protests have pushed America to become greater. I have lived through the Civil Rights movement, marched from Selma to Washington, and know the power of the people. Together, we can take back our country from a handful of people who are holding us hostage.
Republicans have now spent 272 days in the House Majority without passing any legislation to create jobs. Instead, they have merely threatened to shut down the government, gambled the good faith in credit of the United States, and attacked healthcare reform, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, attempted to repeal environmental and labor regulations. Now they are opposing the American Jobs Act that will put people back to work, puts more money in workers' pockets and is fully paid for. They have made it clear that they are more focused on defeating President Barack Obama than to help America get back on track.
Now is not the time for cuts that leave Americans without a home or job. The Occupy Wall Street protests are a sign the American people have had enough. They demand their government's help.
"We're angry, we feel helpless, we're confused, and we're desperate" -- this is what people are saying. What they are ultimately angry about is the empty hope for their future. The percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year, 15.1 percent, was the highest level since 1993. The mental toll of extended unemployment looms large: About 9 percent of Americans were defined as clinically depressed in data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a serious problem. Many are confused; they know they're out of a job, yet they see no help in sight.
When you see the hope for the middle class just dropping, squeezing and pushing people into poverty, we have a responsibility to take action. So yesterday morning I spoke on the House floor to encourage my colleagues in Congress and the spiritual community to join the Occupy Wall Street protesters to lend our moral support, amplify their message, and help them.
I am glad to see that the union groups, my good friends including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson, and fellow Members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have formally applauded the Occupy movement, which I hope would deafen the Tea Party and instead help America progress forward, not backward.
At this critical time in our nation when there are so many people suffering, we need more people to speak out. We need the spiritual leaders from the mosques, churches, and temples to join them. We have a moral obligation to help the poor, the aged, the sick, and those who are hurting and completely helpless.
The American people have made their voices heard. They want jobs. They need assistance. They yearn to reclaim the American Dream. I urge my Republican Colleagues to join us to work together in working to improve the economy, put America back to work, and pump hope back into the hearts of the people who are clamoring for our help.