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Bernie Sanders writes: "The rich are getting richer. The middle class and poor are getting poorer. What is the Republican solution to the deficit crisis? More tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Savage cuts in programs that are desperately needed by working families."

Former President George W. Bush waves while signing copies of his memoir, 'Decision Points,' at Borders Books in Dallas, Texas, 11/09/10. (photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Former President George W. Bush waves while signing copies of his memoir, 'Decision Points,' at Borders Books in Dallas, Texas, 11/09/10. (photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)



Deficit Reduction Requires Shared Sacrifice

By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News

14 March 11

 

he rich are getting richer. The middle class and poor are getting poorer. What is the Republican solution to the deficit crisis? More tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Savage cuts in programs that are desperately needed by working families.

There is another approach, which is why I've just introduced legislation imposing a surtax on those households earning a million dollars or more and the elimination of tax loopholes which the big oil companies take advantage of.

Everyone agrees that this country has a major deficit crisis, but few discuss how we got there. When George W. Bush inherited the White House from Bill Clinton we had a significant surplus. Now we have a $1.5 trillion deficit. How did that happen?

First, against my vote, Bush and Congress launched a war in Iraq. By the time we take care of our last veteran that war will end up costing us some $3 trillion. When the war drums were beating do you recall any of our Republican friends wanting to know how that unnecessary war was going to be paid for? I don't.

Second, Republicans for years have pushed for huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people. I didn't hear them ask how that was going to be paid for.

Third, under President Bush and a Republican-run House, Congress passed a $400 billion-plus Medicare prescription drug program. Written by the insurance companies and the drug companies, it barred the government from negotiating better prices. It drove up drug costs, padded pharmaceutical company profits and added to the deficit.

Fourth, again over my objection, Congress voted for a massive bailout of Wall Street. I didn't hear too many people talking about how we would pay for that $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. I didn't hear them worrying that it would drive up the deficit. Wall Street, having destroyed the economy through their reckless and illegal behavior, needed a welfare check and Congress provided it. End of story.

Those are some of the reasons we now have a deficit crisis, reasons Republicans don't talk much about when they provide soaring rhetoric about the dangers of large deficits.

The corporate media have been very lax in describing the devastating and unprecedented pain that the Republican House passed budget bill, HR 1, would bring about for low and moderate income families. Let me briefly mention just a very few of their cuts.

The Republicans want to decimate the Head Start Program. Every working family in America knows how hard it is today to find affordable childcare or early childhood education. At a time when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, the Republican solution is to slash Head Start by 20 percent, throw 218,000 children off the program and lay off 55,000 Head Start instructors.

The cost of college education today is so high that many young people are giving up their dream of going to college, while many others are graduating deeply in debt. The Republican solution? Make a bad situation much worse by slashing Pell grants by $5.7 billion and reducing or eliminating Pell grants for 9.4 million low-income college students.

Social Security is another target. We get calls in my office every week from senior citizens, people with disabilities, widows who are having a hard time getting a timely response to their Social Security claims. It takes much too long to process the paperwork today. What is the Republican solution? They want to slash the Social Security Administration, the people who administer Social Security, by $1.7 billion. That means half a million Americans who are legally entitled to Social Security benefits will have to wait significantly longer to receive them. (Become a citizen member of the Defending Social Security Caucus.)

When it comes to health care, we have 50 million Americans with no insurance today, and 45,000 Americans die each year because they don't get to a doctor in time. Last year, as part of health care reform, I worked very hard to expand community health centers so that more and more low-and moderate-income people could walk into a doctor's office, get health care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs, mental health counseling. What is the Republican response to the health care crisis? They want to drastically cut-back funding for community health centers and deny primary health care to 11 million Americans.

For the poorest of the poor in our country, the Community Services Block Grants provide the infrastructure, the mechanism to get out emergency help for food, heat, housing and other very basic necessities of life. With homelessness and poverty increasing, the Republicans want to slash $405 million from the Community Services Block Grant Program.

In cold weather states like Vermont, where the weather can get to 20 below zero, home heating assistance is critically important. In fact it is a life and death issue. At a time when home heating oil costs are soaring, the Republicans want to cut $400 million from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

After decades of progress cleaning up our air and water, and preventing much illness, the Republicans want to slash the EPA by 30 percent and undercut enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Republicans also want to cut the WIC program, which provides supplemental nutrition for women, infants, and children. They want to cut that by $750 million.

Everybody understands we have problems with education right now, including large dropout rates. At a time when states are laying off hundreds of thousands of teachers, Republicans want to cut $5 billion from the Department of Education.

On and on and on it goes.

In my view, we do need to boldly address our deficit crisis, but we need to do it in a way that is fair - that is not on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor. In other words, we need shared sacrifice. The wealthiest people in this country, who are now doing phenomenally well, are also going to have to help us with deficit reduction. That is why I introduced legislation which would place a 5.4 percent emergency surtax on income over $1 million. The revenue would go into an Emergency Deficit Reduction Fund. Just doing that - asking millionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes after all the huge tax breaks they have received - will bring in up to $50 billion a year.

I think that is a good idea, but it is not just me. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll recently asked the American people about the best ways to go forward on deficit reduction? Eighty-one percent of the American people believe it is totally acceptable or mostly acceptable to impose a surtax on millionaires to reduce the deficit. My legislation also would eliminate tax loopholes that enable the big oil companies from avoiding their fair share of taxes.

The American people get it. They understand that we cannot move toward deficit reduction just by cutting programs that working families, the middle class, and low-income people desperately need. They understand that serious, responsible deficit reduction requires shared sacrifice. They know that at a time when the top 1 percent earn more income than the bottom 50 percent, that when the effective tax rate for the rich is now lower than at any time in recent history, that it is absurd not to ask the wealthiest people in this country to provide additional revenue to help us lower the deficit.

The federal budget is not just a bunch of big numbers. It is the document that speaks to the values of our country, our national priorities and our hopes for the future. At a time when the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, it is a moral abomination to give more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, while cutting programs for the most vulnerable people in our society - the children, the elderly, the sick and the hungry. The Republican budget proposal must be defeated.

 

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+14 # Jon Awbrey 2011-03-14 09:22
And the meek shall inherit the altar of shared sacrifice.
 
 
+9 # ronaldbosch 2011-03-14 11:19
Quoting Jon Awbrey:
And the meek shall inherit the altar of shared sacrifice.


Shared sacrifice?? Helloh ! Were we sharing in the profits? Sharing sacrifice is grossly unfair until the elites have paid up, THEN we should consider sharing.
 
 
+6 # DaveW 2011-03-14 19:31
Jon Awbrey, The meek have already inherited that "alter of shared sacrifice." For a lot of Americans "their inheritance" began 30 years ago when a 2nd rate actor with 1st rate delusions of grandeur systematically convinced what may be the stupidest people on the planet that the rich would make evrything better if we just gave them "more money." It's all worked so well. For the rich, who can only be saying "the sky's the limit." What America is experiencing is "Social Darwinism" in a virulent form not seen for one hundred years. Sanders represents what SHOULD embody a MAN. Compassion and concern for others along with a willingness to battle for them. He's light years ahead of the "empty suit" who now inhabites the White House. Please Bernie, at least let us dream. Run for President.
 
 
+37 # raine51 2011-03-14 10:20
Thank you Senator Sanders. Would that all of our legislators were this wise and cared this much about the country and her people.
 
 
+25 # Jawbone Grouch 2011-03-14 10:47
The silence HERE is deafening.
Is no one listening?
What does it take to get a Wisconsin response on the congressional juggernaut decimating the middle classs and the poverty stricken poor!

We are all UNder Water...not just the houses!
 
 
+16 # colpow 2011-03-14 12:06
Yes, TAX THE RICH!
 
 
+6 # Dan Isaacson 2011-03-14 14:39
Why do the ultra rich hate America so much
that they refuse to pay their fair share?
 
 
+20 # agronomo 2011-03-14 12:33
Thank you, Senator! You are one of the few in Congress that I respect.
 
 
+10 # lee willis 2011-03-14 12:36
Right on, Bernie Sanders !!! I'm proud to be a Vermont taxpayer. Lee Willis
 
 
+9 # angelfish 2011-03-14 12:51
God Bless you, Bernie! You are one of the FEW who WILL speak TRUTH to Power! I can't understand how the ReTHUGs can continually beat the drum for the filthy rich in this Country when so many of the regular folk are in such dire straits. HOW can they justify giving BILLIONAIRES Tax Relief while taxing the working poor into oblivion? There are several newly elected ReTHUG Governors who want to rescind ALL Corporate taxes as WELL as those for their wealthy constituents! This is INSANE!!! Sadly, I think "sharing" was a concept they were never taught as children or learned once they reached the age of reasoning for themselves. Their greed and self-interest knows NO bounds! NEVER stop calling them out re: their Greed and Avarice, Bernie, you are one of the few in Congress who actually CARES for his Constituents.
 
 
+9 # Lolanne 2011-03-14 12:53
Would that we had more like Bernie Sanders in Congress! He and Kucinich seem to be the only two who get it. This piece of Bernie's is right on. Yes, we all have to share the burdens of government. But when our illustrious government decides to even the playing field and stop giving all the breaks to the already wealthy (both individuals and corporations), then and only then might we look to working people to shoulder additional burdens; then and only then could I agree to look at cutting essential programs by even one penny.
 
 
+5 # AML 2011-03-14 13:13
Bernie/Kucinich 2012!!!
 
 
+3 # wrodwell 2011-03-14 13:15
A recent poll of 1,000 millionaires undertaken by Fidelity Investments found that most respondents claimed they had problems getting along on a yearly income that averaged $7.5 million. They were worried about the state of the economy and how that uncertainty could undermine their accustomed lifestyles. If that's the case and these people can't handle such an income, they should give it to those who could. Example: my fixed income is $24,000 per year. Divide that into $7.5 million and you get about 312 people of equal incomes who'd be more than happy to try and get along on just $48,000 per year. If all 1,000 millionaires did this, 312,000 people would benefit equally. Think of the impact on the economy! If this program was done across the board and the Super-Rich parted with just half their incomes, the economy would improve exponentially and we might even be able to wipe out the deficit.
 
 
+7 # DPM 2011-03-14 13:33
I listened to HLN for two hours this morning and heard not one word about recent and ongoing demonstrations in the Midwest. Other news, from over the weekend, but not anything regarding the protests in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana or Ohio.
People in other parts of the country are not hearing much, except that it is, simply, just budget cuts that unions object to.
Apparently, the sponsors of the major news networks and network news (MSNBC and FOX excepted) have a lot to say about what is reported. Another way Fascism is seeping into out society.
 
 
+5 # hms 2011-03-14 14:30
BERNIE SANDERS IN THE WHITE HOUSE!
 
 
+4 # tanis 2011-03-14 16:28
People in this country are so used to salesmen and women and that includes politicians who lie to get a vote. Bernie Sanders never lies, people can't tell the difference! Somehow, the truth has got to get across. Anybody got any ideas besides Sanders and Kucinich? When will people begin talking to their neighbors? When will we be able to trust each other, we need to start sometime, how about now?
 
 
+3 # Patch 2011-03-14 17:31
The reason the Republicans have done so well is that they understand how stupid the American people are and play it to their advantage. The Democrats keep thinking the obvious IS obvious and saying how smart Americans are. They need to start pointing out how dishonest the Republicans are instead of not doing anything. We need some IN-YOUR-FACE Democrats with a backbone.
 
 
+4 # jefffillmore 2011-03-14 16:59
I agree with you, Senator Sanders. I feel that Dictator bush and his cronies and the money gragging republicans in office today have committed TREASON by destroying America. I'm also disappointed by the voters that voted out the Dems, saying that they weren't doing enough to save the economy. It doesn't happen overnight, you idiots! bush took 8 years to destroy us. His book should be titled "My Decicion to commit treason!"
 
 
+4 # angelfish 2011-03-14 18:54
So....four hundred (400) Billionaires own as much wealth as HALF (1/2) of our Population. Hmmm... Let's see, there are about Three hundred million (300,000,000) of us poor souls, to their four hundred (400) Billionaires, and they own MORE of our wealth than one hundred fifty (150,000,000) million of us COMBINED, yet STILL our illustrious ReTHUGlican Politicians want to "ease the tax burden" for those who DON'T NEED it! I wonder where THEIR Patriotism is, I mean, you'd think, with all that WEALTH they might want to HELP the Country that allowed them to amass it, wouldn't you?, yes, a REASONABLE person WOULD. Silly reasonable people! You know better NOW...as for the ReTHUGS, SHAME on THEM. They are a sorrow and a pity to Humanity for pandering to them. They espouse "christianity" yet their REAL god is WEALTH!!!
 
 
+1 # BradFromSalem 2011-03-14 19:21
Thank you Senator Sanders.

These are the kind of solutions we need to get us through the crunch. In order to resolve our deficit problems we need to completely reevaluate how the government receives $$ and where it spends it. As recently shown by the GAO, there are serious processing and duplication of effort issues that must be addressed. Lastly, whatever solution we arrive at, it needs a self regulating mechanism. A serious effort to make government work at a reasonable cost is an expensive proposition that will pay off tremendously.

When we have so many unemployed, it seems there is a lot of brain power idling that could be put to use in fixing our economy. The long term solutions, long term arrived at by the people, for the people. Not by the corporations.
 
 
0 # rf 2011-03-15 06:44
I'm sorry to say it...but all we are missing is that "it is all the Jews fault"!
 
 
0 # countrygirl 2011-03-16 22:45
What?
 

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