Posted: Jun 28, 2011 11:49 am
tates and destroying decent paying manufacturing jobs in the process. If we imposed a currency manipulation fee on China and other low wage countries, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that we could raise $500 billion over 10 years and create 1 million jobs in the process.
Finally, Mr. President, I think just about everyone agrees that there is waste, fraud, and abuse in every agency of the federal government. Rooting out this waste, fraud, and abuse could save about $200 billion over the next 10 years.
Mr. President, if we did all of these things we could easily reduce the deficit by well over $4 trillion over the next decade, if not much more. It would be done in a fair way, and it would not unnecessarily and needlessly ruin the lives of millions of Americans who are struggling desperately just to make ends meet.
Mr. President, the radical right wing agenda of more tax breaks for the wealthy paid for by the dismantling of Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition, and the environment may be popular in the country clubs and cocktail parties of the rich and powerful, but it is way out of touch with what the overwhelming majority of Americans want.
Mr. President, as you know, late last week, Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican Majority Leader in the House and Senator Jon Kyl, the Republican Minority Whip in the House walked out of the budget negotiations being led by Vice President Joe Biden.
And, the reason they walked out was clear. They were not willing to close one single loophole in the tax code that allows the wealthy and large corporations to avoid paying taxes by stashing their money in the Cayman Islands. They were unwilling to stop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, or close tax loopholes that give billionaires like Warren Buffet the ability to pay lower effective tax rates than their secretaries.
There is apparently no end as to how far the Republican leadership will go in Washington to protect their wealthy campaign contributors, even if it means allowing the federal debt limit to expire and causing another depression.
My sincere hope is that the President will use this Republican walkout as an opportunity to rally the American people and make it clear that he will never support Republican demands to move toward a balanced budget solely on the backs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor.
But, I don't think that the President will do this unless the American people send him a message that enough is enough! The American people have got to write to the President and tell him not to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country. Do not decimate Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, education, and the environment to pay for more tax breaks for the rich and powerful. Stand up for the millions, who have seen their homes, jobs, and savings vanish, instead of the millionaires, who have never had it so good.
For those of you who are listening to this speech, if you believe that enough is enough, if you believe in shared sacrifice, if you believe that it is time for the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations to contribute to deficit reduction, go to my website: sanders.senate.gov. At this website, you will find a letter to the White House that you can sign—let me read what it says:
"Dear Mr. President,
This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today—which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.
Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit—a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.
Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.
Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good."
If you're listening out there, and agree with what I am saying, but are wondering what you can do to make a difference, I would urge you to consider signing this letter. Staying silent and doing nothing is not an option. Your voice needs to be heard and you can make a difference.
Mr. President, we have seen this movie before. The Republicans, led by their extreme right wing, have been successful in getting their way because of their refusal to compromise and their willingness to hold the good credit and economic security of the American people hostage.
In December, the Republican leadership was prepared to hold the middle class tax cuts and unemployment benefits hostage in order to extend the Bush tax breaks for the top two percent. The Republicans won and as a result over $200 billion was added to the deficit over the next two years.
Specifically, the December tax cut agreement extended the Bush income tax rates for those earning more than $250,000; maintained lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends; and lowered the estate tax which only benefits the top 0.3 percent.
Let me remind, my colleagues who the biggest winners were from last December's tax cut agreement.
According to Citizens for Tax Justice, extending the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 percent has provided Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, with an estimated $1.3 million tax break.
Tom Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has urged American corporations to ship jobs overseas, will receive an estimated $215,000 tax break from this deal.
Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan Chase, whose bank received a bailout of over $160 billion from the Federal Reserve, will receive an estimated $1.1 million tax break from this deal.
Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup, a bank that got more than $2.5 trillion in near zero interest loans from the Fed, will receive an estimated $785,000 tax break by extending the Bush tax cuts.
Ken Lewis, the former CEO of Bank of America, a bank that got nearly a trillion dollars in low interest loans from the Fed, will receive an estimated $713,000 tax break.
The CEO of Wells Fargo (John Stumpf), whose bank got a $25 billion bailout, will receive an $813,000 tax break from this deal.
The CEO of Morgan Stanley (John Mack), whose bank got more than $2 trillion in low interest loans from the Fed, will receive a $926,000 tax break from this agreement.
The CEO of Aetna (Ronald Williams) will receive a tax break worth $875,000.
The CEO of Cigna (David Cordani) will receive a $350,000 tax break. And, on and on it goes.
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears. That is what is going on in this country today.
Then, Mr. President, In April, the Republicans in Congress were prepared to shut down the government, disrupt the economy, and deny paychecks to 800,000 federal workers if they couldn't get their way in slashing programs for low and moderate income Americans. As a result, the President and this Congress agreed to virtually everything the Republicans wanted by enacting a budget thatslashed $78 billion from the President's request.
Let me give you just a few examples of what kinds of cuts were included in this year's spending agreement:
At a time when college education has become unaffordable for many, Pell grants are now being reduced by an estimated $35 billion over 10 years.
At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance, at a time when we have a crisis in access to primary care, and at a time when 45,000 Americans die each and every year because they delay seeking care they cannot afford, the 2011 spending agreement cut $600 million from community health centers and $3.5 billion from the Children's Health Insurance Program.
At a time when we should be putting Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, federal funding for new high-speed rail projects was eliminated. In other words, the rich get richer, while the needs of ordinary Americans are attacked.
And, today, the Republican Leadership has made it clear that, unless they get their way on implementing a significant part of the Ryan budget in 2012, they are prepared to vote against raising the debt ceiling. If the debt ceiling is not extended, the United States will, for the first time in history, default on its debt and likely plunge the world's financial markets into a major crisis. Yet that is just what the Republican leadership and its members are threatening to do. Shame on them.
Mr. President, in many ways, the Republicans in Washington have been acting like school yard bullies. And, as we know, bullying is a serious problem in our schools. Every educator worth his or her