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A Disappearing American Dream?

A Disappearing American Dream?
by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

R.C. Slocum needs no introduction in Texas, or to football fans across the country.  But for those not familiar with his name, he is the former Texas A&M football coach who was just inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.  R.C. is one of the finest men I have ever met; the true embodiment of America and all that is exceptional about our nation.

I sent him a note of congratulations on his induction, and he wrote me back. In his letter, he voiced concerns I’ve been hearing from constituents all over Texas – and concerns I have myself – that the America we grew up in is fast disappearing.

“Although I grew up in a poor family, I was taught that I was privileged because I was born in America, the land of opportunity. We did not begrudge the “rich” but were encouraged that through hard work and education, some day we could be one of them. Thankfully, I was not taught that it was someone else's fault that we were poor or that government would, or should, come bail us out. We worked our own way out and felt the great feeling of accomplishment that goes with it. In my career as a coach, I encouraged my players to try the formula I was given. It still works and I am so proud of the young men that have dramatically changed their lives, and with it, the course of their families' lives.”

This is the story of so many Americans, and of our country itself: people worked hard, got an education and made a better life for their families; they instilled values and a strong work ethic in their children, and that generation went on to do better than the one that came before.  But this is becoming all too uncommon a sentiment and all too difficult a goal to achieve.  The idea that hard work should be rewarded, or that success should be based on merit, seems to be disappearing from the cultural landscape.  And for those who have held to those fundamental principles, the promise we could once make that determination and effort would pay off is no longer a guarantee.  I was stunned when the President recently said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The idea that it is government, not hard-working Americans, who build and sustain businesses that provide jobs and support our economy is perhaps why we are looking at the first generation of young adults who are not expected to do better than their parents.

I do not believe the President or Democrats in Congress have bad intentions.  But I do believe they have a fundamentally different view of our country, one that has brought us to crisis.  And after 41 straight months of unemployment at 8-plus percent, a stagnating economy, a faltering recovery and constant threats of looming tax hikes, it should be no surprise that the American Dream is simply out of reach for too many people.

It could get worse.  If Congress and the Administration fail to reach an agreement, taxes will rise for all Americans in January.  That includes about 31 million middle-income Americans who will be hit for the first time by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), a tax that was created in 1969 to target a few hundred millionaires – without action, it will kick in on working people who make $33,750 per year.  Taxes on small businesses – our nation’s growth engines – are set to increase, which will stall hiring and deliver more bad news to 23 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.  Our corporate tax rate, now the world’s highest at 35 percent, will likely drive business to friendlier climates.  Without action, the landscape for Americans in 2013 is grim: the employed will pay more taxes.  The unemployed will have a harder time finding a job.

An economy cannot grow when burdened with tax hikes, over-regulation, massive debt and out-of-control spending.  We need long-term solutions to our problems, not temporary fixes.  Congress and the President must work together to enact comprehensive tax reform that offers American families and businesses the relief they need to get our economy growing again.  If we act now, families could stop worrying about the future and how they will pay their bills.  Businesses could move forward on projects, investment, hiring and expansion.  We could revive the innovative, job-creating economy that made America great, and again offer the promise to all Americans that hard work will be rewarded and that merit will be the guarantor of success.

Hutchison, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Texas.