I am deeply concerned about the growing income inequality of today’s workforce. Many middle-class workers are slipping further behind, struggling to pay monthly bills or provide educational opportunities for their families. If Congress fails to help America's middle class achieve greater economic security, our country will lose its competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Congress has implemented a number of measures over the past several years to protect America’s working families. Within a month of entering Congress, I was proud to vote for the first minimum wage increase in more than a decade. We also enacted an economic rebate package that put hundreds of dollars into the hands of more than 130 million American families -- including seniors and disabled veterans. More recently, we enacted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to protect workers from pay inequalities and discrimination. And I continue to fight to extend tax breaks for middle-class families and to preserve programs that provide critical assistance to families in the workforce.
Still, we have a long way to go to restore economic security for today’s working families. One of the most important actions we can take to protect American jobs is to stop U.S. companies from outsourcing jobs overseas. We must provide more incentives for businesses to remain or expand in the United States. We must close the loophole in our tax code that encourages companies to locate offshore in order to avoid paying taxes. This inconsistency encourages United States corporations to shift jobs and finances overseas, placing a greater tax burden on American families.
President Obama has said he wants to work with Congress on these efforts to strengthen the middle class by creating a Middle Class Task Force, whose goals are to expand education and lifelong training opportunities, improve work and family balance, restore labor standards, including workplace safety, help protect middle-class and working family incomes, and protect retirement security.
Finally, we must always strive to provide America’s workers with a safe and acceptable working environment. This not only includes a fair wage and safe working conditions, but also reasonable benefits that help employees take care of themselves and their families during times of poor health or family loss. One of the best ways to ensure this is to protect workers’ international rights to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits. Working people are the backbone of our economy, and protecting the rights and benefits of workers is critical to America’s ability to thrive in the 21st century.