Sen. Bernie Sanders expressed how a lot of us feel about how these debt ceiling negotiations look to be shaping up with balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, the sick and the elderly. We obviously don't know what we're going to end up with until these negotiations are over, but I share his frustration with the type of cuts that are being discussed rather than asking the wealthy and large corporations to pay their share.
As House and Senate leaders fine-tuned rival deficit reduction plans on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke on the Senate floor about the public's strong belief that additional revenue from the wealthy should be part of any package to reduce red ink. He cited a new Washington Post poll that found 72 percent favor raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 year. Despite those overwhelming numbers, he said, "We are marching down a path which will do exactly opposite of what the American people want." He called Republican opposition to more revenue "fanatical." He also faulted President Obama for a bargaining strategy that sugars down to this: "Retreat after retreat after retreat." Of the competing House and Senate proposals Sanders bluntly concluded that one is bad and the other is much worse.
The senator also summarized his analysis in this statement:
"The rich are getting richer, and their effective tax rate is the lowest in modern history. Many corporations are enjoying huge profits and, because of outrageous loopholes, pay nothing in taxes. Among many other absurdities, we lose about $100 billion every year from companies and individuals who stash their wealth in tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other locations.
"And yet, the Republicans have been fanatically determined to protect the interests of billionaires and large multi-national corporations so that they do not contribute one penny toward deficit reduction. The Republicans want the entire burden of deficit reduction sacrifice to be placed on the elderly, the sick, children, and working families. That is morally wrong and, in terms of getting us out of this recession, bad economic policy.
"Sadly, the Democrats have yielded far, far too much. In December, with the Democrats controlling the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate they extended Bush's tax breaks for the rich and lowered the tax rates on estates for the very rich. In April, they allowed tens of billions of dollars in cuts to vitally important programs for low- and moderate-income Americans.
"And now, we find ourselves debating two plans. The Reid plan, which calls for $2.2 trillion in cuts over a 10-year period, includes $900 billion in cuts (which will be determined later by committees) in education, health care, nutrition, affordable housing, child care and many other programs desperately needed by working families. Appropriately, it calls for meaningful cuts in military spending and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Reid plan does not require the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations to pay one nickel in deficit reduction.
"The Reid plan is bad. The Boehner plan is much worse. It calls for large cuts in discretionary spending now and demands that this debt-ceiling discussion be revisited next year - which is totally absurd and which will likely keep the Congress paralyzed.
"Lastly, both plans call for a congressional committee to determine future efforts toward deficit reduction. Based on recent committees - Bowles-Simpson, the Gang of Six, etc. - I have little doubt that that new committee will call for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and will ask very little of the wealthy and multi-national corporations.
"Meanwhile, while all of this is occurring in Washington the American people have consistently stated, in poll after poll, that they want the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and they want to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. For example, a recent Washington Post poll found that 72 percent of the American people believe that Americans earning over $250,000 a year should pay more in taxes.
"Given that reality, is there any reason to wonder why the American people are so angry and frustrated with what's going on in Washington?"