“M. President –
“I had the enormous privilege to spend the last two weeks traveling around my great state to hear from the people of West Virginia.
“It’s always so refreshing to get a dose of commonsense from people who are working hard every day to balance their family budget, put food on the table and give their kids a better life.
“And I can tell you M. President, that the people of West Virginia are so frustrated and losing confidence in this government, especially when it comes to our broken tax system.
“Whether it was in Beckley, Ravenswood or Wheeling, I heard the same thing from the people of my great state.
“We just don’t understand why hardworking, middle income people are paying a much higher tax rate than some of the wealthiest people in this country. Take our coal miners, who go to the mine every single day to make a living for themselves, for their families, but who are paying a higher tax rate than some people making a million dollars a year.
“Where I come from, that’s not fair.
“Where I come from, that doesn’t make any sense.
“And where I come from, that means our system needs to be fixed – in a real, responsible and fiscally sound way that reduces our debt.
“Now, let me be clear: I’m not begrudging anyone who’s worked hard, who’s taken a risk or who’s done well. But we have to have a solid country under us to achieve those goals. And we need to put fairness back in the tax system to get this country on solid ground again.
“And if we want a fair system, that means that there shouldn’t be privileges that allow the very wealthy to pay a lower rate than hardworking, middle class Americans.
“Right now, the average person doesn’t have those opportunities or privileges. But when people believe the American Dream is in reach, they’ll all pull harder.
“So today, M. President, I rise to speak about my support for the Buffett Rule, which would take a small step toward fixing this unfair system and paying down this country’s nearly $16 trillion dollar debt.
“Now, a lot of people here believe that this bill will fail because of politics on a mostly party line vote. And that is a shame because the only line we should vote is the American line.
“For a year and a half, I have been coming to the Senate floor to urge my colleagues to put party and politics aside and vote for the good of the next generation, whether it’s a Democratic idea or a Republican idea.
“But M. President, even though this vote on the Buffett Rule might fail today on party lines, we cannot give up – we have to find a way to come together for the next generation.
“Now, I’ve said before that the Buffett Rule alone does not address the full scope of the problem. All it does is nibble around the edges of our broken tax code. We still have too many corporations that can take advantage of too many loopholes, credits and exemptions. We’re pushing $16 trillion dollars in debt and we’re still spending more than a trillion dollars more than we take in every year.
“We’ve got to fix the whole thing, so that we can start reducing our deficit, paying down our debt and putting our fiscal house back in order for the next generation.
“To do that, we have a plan with bipartisan support – the Bowles-Simpson framework, which would reduce loopholes, exemptions and credits across the board, lower tax rates and get everyone to pay their fair share. Just as importantly, it would cut spending and starting paying down our debt.
“I can’t tell you how important that is to the people of West Virginia, the taxpayers in every single income bracket who don’t trust the government to spend their tax dollars wisely.
“Just like all Americans have the responsibility to pay their fair share, Washington has the responsibility to show the people of this country – no matter how much money they make – that we’re using their tax dollars wisely and effectively.
“Just like we did in West Virginia when I was governor.
“That’s why I believe we must – and I will continue to fight – to cut back on our spending. We have to eliminate the $125 billion dollars that we spent in waste, fraud and abuse last year alone. And most importantly, we have to pay down the nearly $16 trillion dollar debt hole that has been dug for the next generation.
“The Buffett Rule would take a small step to show the American people that we’re trying to correct those problems and – most importantly – put some basic fairness back into our tax system.
“Even though this vote might fail, in West Virginia, we will continue to work hard. We will continue to pay our taxes. And we will continue to fight to make sure that when our coal miners send in their taxes, that people who bring in a million dollars a year aren’t getting away with paying less.
“The future of this country depends on those of us here in Washington working together to restore confidence in this great nation. Because when people believe that everyone is paying their fair share, they’re all willing to pull their load a little harder. And if people start believing in this country again, there’s no stopping us.”