The only self-described democratic socialist in the Senate has called for an end to corporate welfare and a budget that protects the most vulnerable Americans.
Writing in today’s Los Angeles Times, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that he is under no illusions about the scale of the task that America faces when it comes to dealing with its $17 trillion national debt and $700 billion budget deficit. However at a time when real unemployment is at 14%, when tens of millions of Americans are being paid barely-livable wages, when poverty among Americans is at an all time high, and when income inequality in the US is greater than any other developed country on earth, he rightly says that it is hideously immoral to attempt to balance the books on the backs of most vulnerable members of society.
Sanders goes on to analyze how the American economy found itself in this dire state of affairs. I am personally no fan of Bill Clinton (Google Ricky Ray Rector for just one example of his reptilian behavior) however one thing is indisputable: when he left office the United States had a $236 billion budget surplus. With this in mind the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected a ten year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, which would allow America to wipe out its debt by 2011. So, what happened?
Well, it is relatively straightforward: George W. Bush and his allies embarked on the most radical, and disastrous, experiment in neo-liberalism and free market economics since Ronald Reagan. Two wars were launched in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a cost of $6 trillion. I personally supported those wars, and still do, however, I think the judicious thing to do would be to make sure you could pony up the dough first before you committed. However as we have seen with the right, when it comes to defense there is no such thing as too much government spending. Combine this with an unfunded prescription drug program, massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, and the Great Crash of 2008, and suddenly the US found itself almost barely able to breathe under the weight of its debt and deficit.
Now as America is forced to confront this brave new world, we find that the same cabal of Republican congressmen who supported and voted for these measures are now leading the charge to see essential services and programs to protect the poor drastically cut, at a terrible and yet preventable cost. As Senator Sanders writes:
“In other words, it’s OK to spend trillions on a war we should never have waged in Iraq and to provide huge tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations. But in the midst of very difficult economic times, we just can’t afford to protect the most vulnerable people in our country. That’s their view. I disagree.”
What is the solution? Senator Sanders has a suggestion or two:
Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. A 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office found that was the case with 1 in 4 large U.S. corporations. At a time when multinational corporations and the wealthy are avoiding an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by stashing money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, we need to make them pay taxes just as middle-class Americans do.
While Congress in January finally ended Bush’s tax breaks for the richest 1%, lower rates were left in place for the top 2%, those households earning between $250,000 and $450,000 a year. That must end.”
Every poll shows that the American public do not want to see their public services cut. They think that the wealthiest should pay their share of taxes, and tax breaks for corporations should be ended. This has the combined benefit of making good economic sense, and also being the right thing to do.
Watch Bernie Sanders at his best in the video below: