Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, took to the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal on Friday to offer an explanation of Americans’ anger as Congress dithers on a plan to raise the debt ceiling and to denounce the two major plans under consideration.
“The rich are getting richer. Their effective tax rate, in recent years, has been reduced to the lowest in modern history. Nurses, teachers and firemen actually pay a higher tax rate than some billionaires,” writes Sanders, who serves on the Senate Budget Committee as an independent, repeating sentiments he often voices in floor speeches and in television appearances. “It’s no wonder the American people are angry.”
The problem, he says, is that “Republicans in Congress have been fanatically determined to protect the interests of the wealthy and large multinational corporations so that they do not contribute a single penny toward deficit reduction.”
While Republicans have led the charge, Sanders argues that President Barack Obama and some Democrats haven’t been far behind, agreeing to extend George W. Bush’s tax cuts and making a budget deal with $38.5 billion in cuts through the end of fiscal 2011. And, as the deadline to raise the debt ceiling approaches on Tuesday, the plans offered by both sides will do more of the same, he says.
The plan from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would include $2.4 trillion in cuts over a decade, including $900 billion in “areas such as education, health care, nutrition, affordable housing, child care and many other programs desperately needed by working families and the most vulnerable.” At the same time, though, “it does not ask the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations to make any sacrifice.”
But while “the Reid plan is bad,” the bill put forward by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “is much worse.” It doesn’t include cuts to defense spending, and while it starts with $1.2 trillion in cuts now, another $1.8 trillion would have to be made in the next six months. “Those cuts would mean drastic reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Sanders says. “What’s more, Mr. Boehner’s plan would reopen the debate over the debt ceiling, which is now paralyzing Congress, just six months from now.”
At the same time, most Americans want to see the rich pay more in taxes, Sanders says, citing a Washington Post/ABC News poll from earlier this month that found 72 percent of Americans saying that people earning more than $250,000 a year should pay more in taxes.
“In other words, Congress is now on a path to do exactly what the American people don’t want,” he says. “Americans want shared sacrifice in deficit reduction. Congress is on track to give them the exact opposite: major cuts in the most important programs that the middle class needs and wants, and no sacrifice from the wealthy and the powerful.”
“Is it any wonder, therefore, that the American people are so angry with what’s going on in Washington,” he adds. “I am too.”
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