What Real Shared Sacrifice Looks Like

Bernie Sanders

On Mon­day, June 27, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) gave the fol­low­ing speech in the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, this is a piv­otal moment in the his­to­ry of our coun­try. In the com­ing days and weeks, deci­sions will be made about our nation­al bud­get that will impact the lives of vir­tu­al­ly every Amer­i­can in this coun­try for decades to come.

At a time when the rich­est peo­ple and the largest cor­po­ra­tions in our coun­try are doing phe­nom­e­nal­ly well, and, in many cas­es, have nev­er had it so good, while the mid­dle class is dis­ap­pear­ing and pover­ty is increas­ing, it is absolute­ly imper­a­tive that a deficit reduc­tion pack­age not include the dis­as­trous cuts in pro­grams for work­ing fam­i­lies, the elder­ly, the sick, the chil­dren and the poor that the Repub­li­cans in Con­gress, dom­i­nat­ed by the extreme right wing, are demanding.

In my view, the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca needs to stand with the Amer­i­can peo­ple and say to the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship that enough is enough. No, we will not bal­ance the bud­get on the backs of work­ing fam­i­lies, the elder­ly, the sick, the chil­dren, and the poor, who have already sac­ri­ficed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost homes, and lost pen­sions. Yes, we will demand that mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires and the largest cor­po­ra­tions in Amer­i­ca con­tribute to deficit reduc­tion as a mat­ter of shared sac­ri­fice. Yes, we will reduce unnec­es­sary and waste­ful spend­ing at the Pen­ta­gon. And, no we will not be black­mailed once again by the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in Wash­ing­ton, who are threat­en­ing to destroy the full faith and cred­it of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment for the first time in our nation’s his­to­ry unless they get every­thing they want.

Instead of yield­ing to the inces­sant, extreme Repub­li­can demands, as the Pres­i­dent did dur­ing last December’s tax cut agree­ment and this year’s spend­ing nego­ti­a­tions, the Pres­i­dent has got to get out of the belt­way and ral­ly the Amer­i­can peo­ple who already believe that deficit reduc­tion must be about shared sac­ri­fice. It is time for the Pres­i­dent to stand with the mil­lions who have lost their jobs, homes, and life sav­ings, instead of the mil­lion­aires, who in many cas­es, have nev­er had it so good.

Unless the Amer­i­can peo­ple by the mil­lions tell the Pres­i­dent not to yield one inch to Repub­li­can demands to destroy Medicare and Med­ic­aid, while con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide tax breaks to the wealthy and the pow­er­ful, I am afraid that is exact­ly what will hap­pen. So, I am ask­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple who may be lis­ten­ing today that if you believe that deficit reduc­tion should be about shared sac­ri­fice, if you believe that it is time for the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions to pay their fair share, if you believe that we need to reduce unnec­es­sary defense spend­ing, and if you believe that the mid­dle class has already sac­ri­ficed enough due to the greed, reck­less­ness and ille­gal behav­ior on Wall Street, the Pres­i­dent needs to hear your voice, and he needs to hear it now.

Go to my web­site: sanders​.sen​ate​.gov and send a let­ter to the Pres­i­dent let­ting him know that enough is enough! Shared sac­ri­fice means that it’s time for the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans and most prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions in Amer­i­ca to pay their fair share and con­tribute to deficit reduction.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, as you know, this coun­try faces enor­mous challenges.

The real­i­ty is that the mid­dle class in Amer­i­ca today is col­laps­ing and pover­ty is increasing.

When we talk about the econ­o­my, we have got to be aware that the offi­cial gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics are often mis­lead­ing. For exam­ple, while the offi­cial unem­ploy­ment rate is now 9.1%, that num­ber does not include the large num­bers of peo­ple who have giv­en up look­ing for work and peo­ple who want to work full-time but are work­ing part-time. And, when you take all of those fac­tors into account, the real unem­ploy­ment rate is near­ly 16%. Fur­ther Mr. Pres­i­dent, what we also must under­stand is that tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are work­ing longer hours for low­er wages. The real­i­ty is that over the last 10 years, medi­an fam­i­ly income has declined by over $2,500.

As a result of the greed, reck­less­ness and ille­gal behav­ior on Wall Street, which caused this ter­ri­ble reces­sion, mil­lions more have lost their homes, their pen­sions, and their retire­ment sav­ings. Unless we reverse our cur­rent eco­nom­ic course our chil­dren will have, for the first time in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­to­ry, a low­er stan­dard of liv­ing than their parents.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, we throw out a lot of num­bers around here. But, I think it is impor­tant to under­stand that behind every grim eco­nom­ic sta­tis­tic are real Amer­i­cans who can­not find a decent pay­ing job, and are strug­gling to feed their fam­i­lies, put a roof over their heads or to just stay afloat.

Last year, I asked my con­stituents in Ver­mont to share their per­son­al sto­ries with me – explain­ing how the reces­sion, which start­ed more than three years ago, has impact­ed their lives. In a mat­ter of weeks, more than 400 Ver­mon­ters respond­ed and I also heard from peo­ple through­out the coun­try who are strug­gling through this ter­ri­ble reces­sion. Their mes­sages are clear. Peo­ple are find­ing it hard to get jobs or are now work­ing for low­er wages than they used to earn. Old­er work­ers have deplet­ed their life sav­ings and are wor­ried about what will hap­pen to them when they retire. Young adults in their 20s and 30s are not earn­ing enough to pay down col­lege debt. Peo­ple of all ages, all walks of life, from each cor­ner of Ver­mont – have shared their sto­ries with my office. Let me just read a few of these letters:

The first is from a 51-year-old woman from West Berlin, Ver­mont who wrote, Dear Mr. Sanders, Don’t real­ly know what to say, I could cry. My sig­nif­i­cant oth­er was out of work for a year, now he works in anoth­er state. I’ve been out of work since April. Our mort­gage com­pa­ny wants the house because we can’t make the pay­ments. I can’t find a job to save my soul that will pay enough to make a dif­fer­ence. How bad does it have to get! My moth­er went through the Great Depres­sion and here we go again. I fig­ure that I’m going to lose every­thing soon! I’m a well edu­cat­ed per­son who can’t see through the fog.”

A gen­tle­men in his mid-50s from Orange Coun­ty, Ver­mont wrote, After being unem­ployed three times since 1999 due to glob­al trade agree­ments, I now find myself man­ag­ing a haz­ardous waste trans­fer facil­i­ty that pays about 25 per­cent less than what I was mak­ing in 1999. My wife’s chil­dren have moved back in, unem­ployed. And we are sav­ing very lit­tle for retire­ment. If things don’t improve soon we will like­ly have to work until we die. We con­sid­er our­selves lucky that we are employed. Our children’s friends tend to show up around meal time. They are skin­ny. We feed them. This is no reces­sion, it’s a mod­ern day depression.”

A woman in her late 40s from West­min­ster, Ver­mont wrote, I am a sin­gle mom in Ver­mont, near­ly 50. I patch togeth­er a full time job mak­ing $12 an hour and var­i­ous paint­ing jobs and still can’t afford to get myself out of debt, or make nec­es­sary repairs on my home. No oth­er jobs in sight, I apply all the time to no avail. Food and gas bills go up and up, but not my income. I have no retire­ment at all, can’t afford to move, feel­ing stuck, tired, and hopeless.”

And a 26-year-old young man from Barre, Ver­mont wrote, In 2002, I received a schol­ar­ship to Saint Bonaven­ture Uni­ver­si­ty, the first in my fam­i­ly to attend col­lege. Upon grad­u­a­tion in 2006, I was admit­ted to the Dick­in­son School of Law at Penn State Uni­ver­si­ty, and grad­u­at­ed in 2009 with $150,000 of stu­dent debt. In West­ern New York I could find noth­ing bet­ter than a $10 an hour posi­tion stuff­ing envelopes … I live in a small stu­dio apart­ment in Barre with­out cable or inter­net … I have told my fam­i­ly I don’t want them to vis­it because I am ashamed of my sur­round­ings … My fam­i­ly always told me that an edu­ca­tion was the tick­et to suc­cess, but all my edu­ca­tion seems to have done in this land­scape is make it impos­si­ble to pull myself out of debt and begin a suc­cess­ful career.”

Mr. Pres­i­dent, just over the last two weeks, near­ly 500 peo­ple from Ver­mont and through­out the U.S. have writ­ten me about their expe­ri­ences with try­ing – often in vain – to find afford­able den­tal care. One wrote, I can’t afford health insur­ance so den­tal work is def­i­nite­ly out. I agree [that] … we are so back­ward in this coun­try, even though stud­ies have linked bad den­tal care to heart prob­lems and cancer.”

Mr. Pres­i­dent, when the Repub­li­cans are talk­ing about tril­lions of dol­lars in sav­age cuts this is what they are talk­ing about. They’re talk­ing about throw­ing mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple off of Med­ic­aid. Let me tell you what that means. Ear­li­er this year Ari­zona passed bud­get cuts that took patients off its trans­plant list. As a result peo­ple who were kicked off the list have died. Not because they couldn’t find a donor but because the state decid­ed it could no longer afford to pay for their trans­plants. To make mat­ters worse Arizona’s Gov­er­nor has gone fur­ther, ask­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for a waiv­er to kick off anoth­er 250,000 from its Med­ic­aid program.

They’re talk­ing about mak­ing it impos­si­ble for work­ing class fam­i­lies to send their kids to col­lege. They’re talk­ing about cuts in nutri­tion pro­grams which will increase the amount of hunger in Amer­i­ca, which is already at an all time high. Accord­ing to a 2009 study, there are over 5 mil­lion seniors who face the threat of hunger, almost 3 mil­lion seniors who are at risk of going hun­gry, and almost 1 mil­lion seniors who do go hun­gry because they can­not afford to buy food. The Repub­li­cans in Con­gress would make this sit­u­a­tion much, much worse. Mr. Pres­i­dent, this is a lot of pain that the Repub­li­cans are toss­ing out while they want to pro­tect their rich and pow­er­ful friends. In my view, the pres­i­dent has got to stand tall, take the case to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and hold the Repub­li­cans respon­si­ble if the debt ceil­ing is not raised and the reper­cus­sions of that.

That, Mr. Pres­i­dent, is what’s going on in the real world. Peo­ple fight­ing to keep their homes from falling into fore­clo­sure; strug­gling with cred­it card debt; mar­riages have been post­poned; lives have been derailed; and retire­ment sav­ings have been raid­ed to pay for col­lege tuition, to keep their busi­ness­es afloat, or sim­ply to keep gas in their car and pay their bills. That is what is going on in the real world. And, Mr. Pres­i­dent, while the mid­dle class dis­ap­pears and pover­ty is increas­ing, there is anoth­er real­i­ty and that is that the gap between the very rich and every­one else is grow­ing wider and wider. The Unit­ed States now has, by far, the most unequal dis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and income of any major coun­try on earth.

Today, the top one per­cent earns over 20 per­cent of all income in this coun­try, which is more than the bot­tom 50 per­cent earns. Over a recent 25-year peri­od, 80 per­cent of all new income went to the top 1 per­cent. In terms of the dis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth, as hard as it may be to believe, the rich­est 400 Amer­i­cans own more wealth than the bot­tom 150 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. The rich get rich­er, the poor get poor­er, and the mid­dle class con­tin­ues to dis­ap­pear. That is what is going on in this coun­try in the year 2011, and we have all got to under­stand that.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, every­body knows this coun­try faces a major deficit cri­sis and we have a nation­al debt of over $14 tril­lion. What has not been wide­ly dis­cussed, how­ev­er, is how we got into this sit­u­a­tion in the first place. A huge deficit and huge nation­al debt did not hap­pen by acci­dent. It did not hap­pen overnight. It hap­pened, in fact, as a result of a num­ber of pol­i­cy deci­sions made over the last decade and votes that were cast right here on the floor of the Sen­ate and in the House. Let’s nev­er for­get, as we talk about the deficit sit­u­a­tion, that in Jan­u­ary of 2001, when Pres­i­dent Clin­ton left office, this coun­try had an annu­al fed­er­al bud­get sur­plus of $236 bil­lion with pro­ject­ed bud­get sur­plus­es as far as the eye could see. That was when Clin­ton left office. What has hap­pened in the ensu­ing years? How did we go from huge pro­ject­ed sur­plus­es into hor­ren­dous debt? The answer, frankly, is not com­pli­cat­ed. The CBO has doc­u­ment­ed it. There was an inter­est­ing arti­cle on the front page of the Wash­ing­ton Post on April 30, talk­ing about it as well. Here is what happened.

When we spend over $1 tril­lion on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and choose not to pay for those wars, we run up a deficit. When we pro­vide over $700 bil­lion in tax breaks to the wealth­i­est peo­ple in this coun­try and choose not to pay for those tax breaks, we run up a deficit. When we pass a Medicare Part D pre­scrip­tion drug pro­gram writ­ten by the drug com­pa­nies and the insur­ance com­pa­nies that does not allow Medicare to nego­ti­ate pre­scrip­tion drug prices and ends up cost­ing us far more than it should – $400 bil­lion over a 10-year peri­od – and we don’t pay for that, we run up the deficit. When we dou­ble mil­i­tary spend­ing since 1997, not includ­ing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we don’t pay for that, we dri­ve up the deficit. Fur­ther, Mr. Pres­i­dent, the deficit was also dri­ven up by the greed, reck­less­ness and ille­gal behav­ior on Wall Street, which caused the worst eco­nom­ic cri­sis since the Great Depres­sion. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans lost their jobs and rev­enue was sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced as a result. Mr. Pres­i­dent, the end result of all of these unpaid-for poli­cies and actions – year after year of the deficits I just described – is a stag­ger­ing amount of debt. When Pres­i­dent Bush left office, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma inher­it­ed an annu­al deficit of $1.3 tril­lion with deficits as far as the eye could see, and the nation­al debt more than dou­bled from when Pres­i­dent Bush took office.

The real­i­ty is Mr. Pres­i­dent, if we did not go to war in Iraq, if we did not pass huge tax breaks for mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires, who didn’t need them, if we did not pass a pre­scrip­tion drug pro­gram with no cost con­trol writ­ten by the drug and insur­ance com­pa­nies, and if we did not dereg­u­late Wall Street, we would not be in the fis­cal mess that we find our­selves in today. It real­ly is that sim­ple. In oth­er words, the only rea­son we have to increase our nation’s debt ceil­ing today is that we are forced to pay the bills that the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in Con­gress and Pres­i­dent Bush racked up. Now, Mr. Pres­i­dent, giv­en the decline in the mid­dle class, giv­en the increase in pover­ty, and giv­en the fact that the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions have nev­er had it so good, Amer­i­cans may find it strange that the Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton would use this oppor­tu­ni­ty to make sav­age cuts to Medicare, Med­ic­aid, edu­ca­tion, nutri­tion assis­tance, and oth­er life­sav­ing pro­grams, while push­ing for even more tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is not strange. It is part of their ide­ol­o­gy. Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton have nev­er believed in Medicare, Med­ic­aid, fed­er­al assis­tance in edu­ca­tion, or pro­vid­ing any direct gov­ern­ment assis­tance to those in need. They have always believed that tax breaks for the wealthy and the pow­er­ful would some­how mirac­u­lous­ly trick­le down to every Amer­i­can, despite all his­to­ry and evi­dence to the con­trary. So, in that sense, it is not strange at all that they would use the deficit cri­sis we are now in as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to bal­ance the bud­get on the backs of work­ing fam­i­lies, the elder­ly, the sick, the chil­dren and the poor, and work to dis­man­tle every sin­gle suc­cess­ful gov­ern­ment pro­gram that was ever cre­at­ed. And, that’s exact­ly what the Ryan Repub­li­can bud­get that was passed in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives ear­li­er this year — and sup­port­ed by the vast major­i­ty Repub­li­cans here in the Sen­ate just last month — would do. Here are just a few examples:

The Repub­li­can bud­get passed by the House this year would end Medicare as we know it with­in 10 years. The non-par­ti­san CBO esti­mates that under the Ryan pro­pos­al, in 2022, a pri­vate health care plan for a 65-year-old equiv­a­lent to Medicare cov­er­age would cost about $20,500, yet the Repub­li­can bud­get would pro­vide a vouch­er for only $8,000 of those pre­mi­ums. Seniors would be on their own to pay the remain­ing $12,500 – a full 61 per­cent of the total. How many of the 20 mil­lion near-elder­ly Amer­i­cans who are now ages 50 – 54 will be able to afford that? This approach would trans­fer con­trol of Medicare to insur­ers and there would be no guar­an­teed ben­e­fits, essen­tial­ly end­ing Medicare as we know it. The Repub­li­can bud­get would force 4 mil­lion seniors in this coun­try to pay $3,500 more, on aver­age, for their pre­scrip­tion drugs by re-open­ing the Medicare Part D donut hole. Under the Repub­li­can bud­get, near­ly 2 mil­lion chil­dren would lose their health insur­ance over the next five years by cuts to the Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram, accord­ing to the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office. At a time when 50 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have no health insur­ance, the Repub­li­can bud­get would cut Med­ic­aid by over $770 bil­lion, caus­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to lose their health insur­ance and cut­ting nurs­ing home assis­tance in half — threat­en­ing the long-term care of some 10 mil­lion senior citizens.

The Repub­li­can bud­get would com­plete­ly repeal the Afford­able Health Care Act pre­vent­ing an esti­mat­ed 34 mil­lion unin­sured Amer­i­cans from get­ting the health insur­ance they need. At a time when the cost of a col­lege edu­ca­tion is becom­ing out of reach for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, the Repub­li­can bud­get would slash col­lege Pell grants by about 60 per­cent next year alone – reduc­ing the max­i­mum award from $5,550 to about $2,100. At a time when over 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans don’t have enough mon­ey to feed them­selves or their fam­i­lies, the Repub­li­can bud­get would kick up to 10 mil­lion Amer­i­cans off Food Stamps, by slash­ing this pro­gram by more than $125 bil­lion over the next decade.

At a time when our nation’s infra­struc­ture is crum­bling, the Repub­li­can bud­get passed in the House and sup­port­ed by all but a hand­ful of Repub­li­cans here in the Sen­ate would slash fund­ing for our roads, bridges, rail lines, tran­sit sys­tems, and air­ports by near­ly 40 per­cent next year alone. Yet despite the fact that mil­i­tary spend­ing has near­ly tripled since 1997, the House Repub­li­can bud­get does noth­ing to reduce unnec­es­sary defense spend­ing. In fact, defense spend­ing would go up by $26 bil­lion next year alone under the Repub­li­can plan.

Inter­est­ing­ly enough, at a time when the rich are becom­ing rich­er, when the effec­tive tax rates for the wealth­i­est peo­ple, at 18 per­cent, are about the low­est on record, at a time when the wealth­i­est peo­ple have received hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in tax breaks, at a time when cor­po­rate prof­its are at an all-time high and major cor­po­ra­tions mak­ing bil­lions of dol­lars pay noth­ing in tax­es, my Repub­li­can col­leagues, in their approach toward deficit reduc­tion, do not ask the wealth­i­est peo­ple or the largest cor­po­ra­tions to con­tribute one pen­ny more for deficit reduction.

In fact, the Repub­li­can bud­get would keep the good times rolling for those who are already doing phe­nom­e­nal­ly well – it pro­vides over $1 tril­lion in tax cuts to mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires by per­ma­nent­ly extend­ing all of the Bush income tax cuts; reduc­ing the estate tax for mul­ti-mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires; and low­er­ing the top indi­vid­ual and cor­po­rate income tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, the Repub­li­can idea of mov­ing toward a bal­anced bud­get is to go after the mid­dle-class, work­ing fam­i­lies, and low-income peo­ple, and to make sure the mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires and largest cor­po­ra­tions in this coun­try that are doing phe­nom­e­nal­ly well do not have to share in the sac­ri­fices being made by every­body else. They will be pro­tect­ed. The Repub­li­can approach to deficit reduc­tion in Wash­ing­ton is the Robin Hood phi­los­o­phy in reverse: tak­ing from the poor and giv­ing to the rich. 

And it’s not as if it’s good for our econ­o­my. Mark Zan­di, the for­mer eco­nom­ic advi­sor to John McCain when he was run­ning for pres­i­dent, has esti­mat­ed that the Repub­li­can bud­get plan will cost 1.7 mil­lion jobs by the year 2014, with 900,000 jobs lost next year alone. The House Repub­li­can bud­get is breath­tak­ing in its degree of cru­el­ty. But, don’t take my word for it.

In a let­ter to Con­gres­sion­al lead­ers after the House GOP plan was intro­duced, near­ly 200 econ­o­mists and health care experts wrote, turn­ing Medicare into a vouch­er pro­gram would under­mine essen­tial pro­tec­tions for mil­lions of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. It would extin­guish the most promis­ing approach­es to curb costs and to improve the Amer­i­can med­ical care sys­tem.” Jef­frey Sachs, an eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, who was a key eco­nom­ic advis­er to the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion, told MSNBC last April that the House Repub­li­can plan, goes right out to destroy Med­ic­aid with­in the next few years, slash­ing it dras­ti­cal­ly. And then on Medicare, it delays [cuts] for 10 years, and then [the House Repub­li­can plan] goes out to destroy it, to make sure that elder­ly peo­ple will not have a guar­an­teed access to health care. They will be get­ting some pre­mi­um [sup­port] but they‘re going to have to put a lot of mon­ey out of pocket.” 

Robert Green­stein, the Pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­i­cy Pri­or­i­ties, said last April that the House Repub­li­can bud­get pro­pos­es a dra­mat­ic reverse-Robin-Hood approach that gets the lion’s share of its bud­get cuts from pro­grams for low-income Amer­i­cans – the polit­i­cal­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly weak­est group in Amer­i­ca and the polit­i­cal­ly safest group for Ryan to tar­get – even as it bestows extreme­ly large tax cuts on the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans. Tak­en togeth­er, its pro­pos­als would pro­duce the largest redis­tri­b­u­tion of income from the bot­tom to the top in mod­ern U.S. his­to­ry, while increas­ing pover­ty and inequal­i­ty more than any mea­sure in recent times and pos­si­bly in the nation’s history.”

Ezra Klein, a colum­nist at the Wash­ing­ton Post wrote last April that the bud­get Ryan released is not coura­geous or seri­ous or sig­nif­i­cant. It’s a joke, and a bad one. For one thing, Ryan’s sav­ings all come from cuts, and at least two-thirds of them come from pro­grams serv­ing the poor. The wealthy, mean­while, would see their tax­es low­ered, and the Defense Depart­ment would escape unscathed. It is not coura­geous to attack the weak while sup­port­ing your party’s most inane and dam­ag­ing fis­cal ortho­dox­ies. But the prob­lem isn’t just that Ryan’s bud­get is moral­ly ques­tion­able. It also wouldn’t work.”

Harold Mey­er­son, a colum­nist for the Wash­ing­ton Post wrote on April 5 that, If it does noth­ing else, the bud­get that the House Repub­li­cans unveiled pro­vides the first real Repub­li­can pro­gram for the 21st cen­tu­ry, and it is this: Repeal the 20th cen­tu­ry … Ryan achieves the bulk of his sav­ings through sharp reduc­tions in pro­ject­ed spend­ing on Medicare and Med­ic­aid … Ryan’s bud­get would also reduce pro­ject­ed spend­ing on dis­cre­tionary domes­tic pro­grams – edu­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, food safe­ty and the like – to well below lev­els of infla­tion … The cov­er under which Ryan and oth­er Repub­li­cans oper­ate is their con­cern for the deficit and nation­al debt. But Ryan blows that cov­er by propos­ing to reduce the top income tax rate to just 25 per­cent. He impos­es the bur­den for reduc­ing our debt not on the bankers who forced our gov­ern­ment to spend tril­lions avert­ing a col­lapse but on seniors and the poor.” Mr. Mey­er­son, con­cludes by say­ing this: There’s talk that we have a pres­i­dent who’s a Demo­c­rat – the par­ty that cre­at­ed the Amer­i­can social con­tract of the 20th cen­tu­ry. Ini­tial­ly, he focused on reshap­ing and extend­ing that con­tract into the 21st. Now that the Repub­li­cans want to repeal it all, he’s nowhere to be found. Has any­body seen him? Does he still exist?”

Mr. Pres­i­dent, the deficit has been caused by unpaid-for wars, tax breaks for the rich, the Medicare Part D pre­scrip­tion drug pro­gram, the bailout of Wall Street, a declin­ing econ­o­my, and less rev­enue com­ing in. The Repub­li­can solu­tion” in Wash­ing­ton is to bal­ance the bud­get on the backs of the sick, the elder­ly, the chil­dren and the poor, to cut back on envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, to cut back on trans­porta­tion, while pro­vid­ing even more tax breaks to the wealthy and well con­nect­ed. That is unac­cept­able and that is what we have got to stop.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, it’s not just rich indi­vid­u­als who are mak­ing out like ban­dits. As hard as it may be to believe, some of the largest, most prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions in this coun­try are not only avoid­ing pay­ing any fed­er­al income tax­es what­so­ev­er, but they are actu­al­ly receiv­ing tax rebates from the IRS. And, the Repub­li­can response to this real­i­ty is to pro­vide even more tax breaks to these cor­po­rate free­load­ers. That may make sense to some­one. It does not make sense to me. Ear­li­er this year, my office pub­lished a top 10 list of the worst cor­po­rate tax avoiders in this coun­try. I would like to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to read this list. These are just a few of the cor­po­ra­tions that the Repub­li­cans want to pro­tect, while they are try­ing to deny mil­lions of Amer­i­cans health insur­ance, a col­lege edu­ca­tion, and nutri­tion assis­tance. Here are the top 10 cor­po­rate free­load­ers in Amer­i­ca today:

1) Exxon Mobil. In 2009, Exxon Mobil made $19 bil­lion in prof­its. Not only did Exxon avoid pay­ing any fed­er­al income tax­es that year, it actu­al­ly received a $156 mil­lion rebate from the IRS, accord­ing to its SEC filings.

2) Bank of Amer­i­ca. Last year, Bank of Amer­i­ca received a $1.9 bil­lion tax refund from the IRS, even though it made $4.4 bil­lion in prof­its and just a cou­ple of years ago received a bailout from the Fed­er­al Reserve and the Trea­sury Depart­ment of near­ly $1 trillion.

3) Gen­er­al Elec­tric. Over the past five years, while Gen­er­al Elec­tric made $26 bil­lion in prof­its in the Unit­ed States, it received a $4.1 bil­lion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron. In 2009, Chevron received a $19 mil­lion refund from the IRS after it made $10 bil­lion in profits.

5) Boe­ing. Last year, Boe­ing, which received a $30 bil­lion con­tract from the Pen­ta­gon to build 179 air­borne tankers, got a $124 mil­lion refund from the IRS.

6) Valero Ener­gy. Last year, Valero Ener­gy, the 25th largest com­pa­ny in Amer­i­ca with $68 bil­lion in sales last year received a $157 mil­lion tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 mil­lion tax break from the oil and gas man­u­fac­tur­ing tax deduction.

7) Gold­man Sachs. In 2008, Gold­man Sachs paid only 1.1 per­cent of its income in tax­es even though it earned a prof­it of $2.3 bil­lion and received an almost $800 bil­lion bailout from the Fed­er­al Reserve and U.S. Trea­sury Department.

8) Cit­i­group. Last year, Cit­i­group made more than $4 bil­lion in prof­its but paid no fed­er­al income tax­es, even though it received a $2.5 tril­lion bailout from the Fed­er­al Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) Cono­coPhillips. Cono­coPhillips, the fifth largest oil com­pa­ny in the Unit­ed States, made $16 bil­lion in prof­its from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 mil­lion in tax breaks through the oil and gas man­u­fac­tur­ing deduc­tion dur­ing those years.

10) Car­ni­val Cruise Lines. Over the past five years, Car­ni­val Cruise Lines made more than $11 bil­lion in prof­its, but its fed­er­al income tax rate dur­ing those years was just 1.1 percent.

In oth­er words, Mr. Pres­i­dent, at a time when major cor­po­ra­tions such as Gen­er­al Elec­tric and Exxon­Mo­bil make bil­lions of dol­lars in prof­it, and pay noth­ing in fed­er­al income tax­es, the Repub­li­can plan is to pro­vide them with even more tax breaks. Mr. Pres­i­dent, large cor­po­ra­tions are sit­ting on a record-break­ing $2 tril­lion in cash. The prob­lem is not that cor­po­ra­tions are taxed too much. The prob­lem is that con­sumers don’t have enough mon­ey to buy their prod­ucts and the Repub­li­can agen­da would make that far worse. Cor­po­rate tax rev­enue last year was down by 27 per­cent com­pared to 2000, even though cor­po­rate prof­its are up 60 per­cent over the last decade. Large cor­po­ra­tions and the wealthy are avoid­ing $100 bil­lion in tax­es every year by set­ting up off­shore tax shel­ters in places like the Cay­man Islands, Bermu­da and the Bahamas. End­ing that anti-Amer­i­can shell game could raise $1 tril­lion over 10 years toward deficit reduc­tion. In 2005, 1 out of 4 large cor­po­ra­tions paid no income tax­es at all even though they col­lect­ed $1.1 tril­lion in rev­enue. The sim­ple truth is that if we are going to reduce the deficit in a respon­si­ble way, we have got to make sure that prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions pay their fair share.

Now, I under­stand that my Repub­li­can friends, and quite frankly some of my Demo­c­ra­t­ic friends, will do every­thing they can to pro­tect the wealthy and the pow­er­ful, even if it means destroy­ing the lives of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in the process. But, what we need to under­stand, what the Pres­i­dent needs to under­stand, is that poll after poll after poll shows that the Repub­li­can plan to make sav­age cuts to Medicare, Med­ic­aid and edu­ca­tion, while pro­vid­ing even more tax breaks to the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions, is way out of touch with what the Amer­i­can peo­ple want.

Let me just read to you a few of these polls.

Unless the American people tell the President not to yield one inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, I am afraid that is exactly what will happen.

Accord­ing to a recent Boston Globe poll of like­ly vot­ers in New Hamp­shire, per­haps the most anti-tax state in this coun­try, 73 per­cent sup­port rais­ing tax­es on peo­ple mak­ing over $250,000 a year; 78 per­cent oppose cut­ting Medicare; 71 per­cent oppose cut­ting Med­ic­aid; and 76 per­cent oppose cut­ting Social Secu­ri­ty. Now, Mr. Pres­i­dent, you may be say­ing to your­self well, that was just one poll, and it was only polling one state. Clear­ly, that must have been an aber­ra­tion. Wrong. Nation­al poll after nation­al poll have almost mir­rored what New Hamp­shire vot­ers are say­ing. A recent NBC News/​Wall Street Jour­nal poll found the following:

81 per­cent of the Amer­i­can peo­ple believe it is total­ly accept­able or most­ly accept­able to impose a sur­tax on mil­lion­aires to reduce the deficit.

74 per­cent of the Amer­i­can peo­ple believe it is total­ly accept­able or most­ly accept­able to elim­i­nate tax cred­its for the oil and gas industry.

68 per­cent of the Amer­i­can peo­ple believe it is total­ly accept­able or most­ly accept­able to phase out the Bush tax cuts for fam­i­lies earn­ing over $250,000 a year.

76 per­cent of the Amer­i­can peo­ple believe it is total­ly accept­able or most­ly accept­able to elim­i­nate fund­ing for weapons sys­tems the Defense Depart­ment says are not necessary.

76 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut Medicare to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the bud­get deficit.

77 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut Social Secu­ri­ty to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the deficit.

67 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut Med­ic­aid to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the deficit.

77 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut fund­ing for K‑12 edu­ca­tion to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the deficit.

56 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut Head Start.

59 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut col­lege stu­dent loans.

• And, 65 per­cent believe it is total­ly unac­cept­able or most­ly unac­cept­able to cut heat­ing assis­tance to low-income families.

And, while the lead­ers of the Tea Par­ty move­ment in Wash­ing­ton are fight­ing to dis­man­tle Medicare and Med­ic­aid and get­ting the vast major­i­ty of Repub­li­cans in Con­gress to fol­low their march­ing orders, 70 per­cent of those who iden­ti­fy them­selves with the Tea Par­ty out­side of the belt­way oppose cut­ting Medicare and Med­ic­aid to reduce the deficit, accord­ing to a recent McClatchy Poll. Mr. Pres­i­dent, here is the last poll I would like to high­light. It was done by the Wash­ing­ton Post and ABC News, and here is what it says:

72 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port rais­ing tax­es on incomes over $250,000 to reduce the nation­al debt – includ­ing 91 per­cent of Democ­rats; 68 per­cent of Inde­pen­dents; and 54 per­cent of Republicans.

Yet, Mr. Pres­i­dent, there does not seem to be one Repub­li­can in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., who would sup­port rais­ing tax­es on the wealth­i­est 2 per­cent of Amer­i­cans – those earn­ing over $250,000 a year to reduce the deficit. Only in Wash­ing­ton is it con­sid­ered a con­tro­ver­sial idea to make the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions pay their fair share. Instead of lis­ten­ing to mil­lion­aire and bil­lion­aire cam­paign con­trib­u­tors, it is time for our lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton to start lis­ten­ing to the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans who want the wealth­i­est peo­ple in this coun­try and the most prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions in this coun­try to con­tribute to deficit reduc­tion. It is time for shared sac­ri­fice. The mid­dle class, the elder­ly, the sick, the chil­dren, and the poor have already sac­ri­ficed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost pen­sions, and lost homes. When are the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans and most prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions going to be asked to pay their fair share? If not now, when?

And, the fact of the mat­ter is, Mr. Pres­i­dent, that mov­ing towards deficit reduc­tion in a way that’s fair is not quite as com­pli­cat­ed as the Amer­i­can peo­ple have been led to believe by the cor­po­rate media and right wing think tanks. In fact, if you are not behold­en to Wall Street, large cor­po­ra­tions and wealthy cam­paign con­trib­u­tors, and you are not scared to death of the unlim­it­ed num­ber of 30-sec­ond ads they may run against you, it is actu­al­ly quite easy. I know many peo­ple have dif­fer­ent ideas about how we might move towards a bal­anced bud­get. I am not say­ing that I have all of the answers. But, let me just give a few exam­ples of how we can reduce the deficit by more than $4 tril­lion dol­lars over the next decade that asks the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions to pay their fair share and does not unfair­ly harm ordi­nary Americans. 

First, if we sim­ply repealed the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 per­cent, we could raise at least $700 bil­lion over the next decade. The Repub­li­cans claim that repeal­ing these tax breaks would increase unem­ploy­ment. They are wrong. These tax breaks have been in place for over a decade and they have not led to a sin­gle net pri­vate sec­tor job. In fact, under the eight years of Pres­i­dent Bush, the pri­vate sec­tor lost over 600,000 jobs and the deficit explod­ed. When Pres­i­dent Clin­ton increased tax­es on the top 2 per­cent, over 22 mil­lion jobs were cre­at­ed, and the rev­enue gen­er­at­ed from this pol­i­cy led to a $236 bil­lion bud­get surplus.

Sec­ond­ly, a 5.4 per­cent sur­tax on mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires would raise more than $383 bil­lion over 10 years, accord­ing to the Joint Tax Com­mit­tee. As I said ear­li­er, a millionaire’s sur­tax has the sup­port of 81 per­cent of the Amer­i­can peo­ple accord­ing to NBC News and the Wall Street Jour­nal.

Third, Mr. Pres­i­dent, the U.S. gov­ern­ment is actu­al­ly reward­ing com­pa­nies that move U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs over­seas through loop­holes in the tax code known as defer­ral and for­eign source income. This is unac­cept­able. Dur­ing the last decade, the U.S. lost about 30 per­cent of its man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs and over 50,000 fac­to­ries have been shut down.

If we end­ed the absur­di­ty of pro­vid­ing tax breaks to com­pa­nies that ship jobs over­seas, the Joint Tax Com­mit­tee has esti­mat­ed that we could raise more than $582 bil­lion in rev­enue over the next 10 years. Right now we have a tax pol­i­cy that says that if you shut down a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Amer­i­ca, and move to Chi­na, the IRS will give you a tax break. That may make sense to cor­po­rate CEOs. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Fourth, Mr. Pres­i­dent, if we end­ed tax breaks and sub­si­dies for big oil and gas com­pa­nies, we could reduce the deficit by more than $40 bil­lion over the next 10 years. The five largest oil com­pa­nies in the Unit­ed States have earned about $1 tril­lion in prof­its over the past decade. Mean­while, in recent years, some of the very largest oil com­pa­nies in Amer­i­ca like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, as I point­ed out ear­li­er, have paid absolute­ly noth­ing in Fed­er­al income tax­es. In fact, some of them have actu­al­ly got­ten a rebate from the IRS. That has got to stop.

Fifth, Mr. Pres­i­dent, if we pro­hib­it­ed abu­sive and ille­gal off­shore tax shel­ters, we could reduce the deficit by up to $1 tril­lion over the next decade. Each and every year, the Unit­ed States los­es an esti­mat­ed $100 bil­lion in tax rev­enues due to off­shore tax abus­es by the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions. The sit­u­a­tion has become so absurd that one five-sto­ry office build­ing in the Cay­man Islands is now the home” to more than 18,000 cor­po­ra­tions. That is wrong. The wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions should not be allowed to avoid pay­ing tax­es by set­ting up tax shel­ters in the Cay­man Islands, Bermu­da, the Bahamas or oth­er tax haven countries.

Sixth, Mr. Pres­i­dent, if we estab­lished a Wall Street spec­u­la­tion fee of less than 1 per­cent on the sale and pur­chase of cred­it default swaps, deriv­a­tives, stock options and futures, we could reduce the deficit by more than $100 bil­lion over the next decade. Both the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and the deficit cri­sis are a direct result of the greed and reck­less­ness on Wall Street. Estab­lish­ing a spec­u­la­tion fee would reduce gam­bling on Wall Street, encour­age the finan­cial sec­tor to invest in the pro­duc­tive econ­o­my, and sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the deficit with­out harm­ing aver­age Americans.

There are a num­ber of prece­dents for this. The U.S had a sim­i­lar Wall Street spec­u­la­tion fee from 1914 to 1966. The Rev­enue Act of 1914 levied a 0.2 per­cent tax on all sales or trans­fers of stock. In 1932, Con­gress more than dou­bled that tax to help finance the gov­ern­ment dur­ing the Great Depres­sion. And today, Eng­land has a finan­cial trans­ac­tion tax of 0.25 per­cent, a pen­ny on every $4 invested.

Num­ber sev­en, Mr. Pres­i­dent, if we taxed cap­i­tal gains and div­i­dends, the same way that we tax work, we could raise more than $730 bil­lion over the next decade. War­ren Buf­fet has often said that he pays a low­er effec­tive tax rate than his sec­re­tary. And, today the effec­tive tax rate of the rich­est 400 Amer­i­cans, who earn an aver­age of more than $280 mil­lion each year, is just 18 per­cent, low­er than most nurs­es, teach­ers, fire­fight­ers, and police offi­cers pay. The rea­son for this is that the wealthy obtain most of their income from cap­i­tal gains and div­i­dends, which is taxed at a much low­er rate than work. Right now, the top mar­gin­al income tax for work­ing is 35 per­cent, but the tax rate on cor­po­rate div­i­dends and cap­i­tal gains is only 15 per­cent. Tax­ing wealth and work at the same rate could raise more than $730 bil­lion over a 10-year peri­od – and it’s the right thing to do.

Num­ber eight, if we estab­lished a pro­gres­sive estate tax on inher­it­ed wealth of more than $3.5 mil­lion, we could raise more than $70 bil­lion over 10 years. Last year, I intro­duced the Respon­si­ble Estate Tax Act that would reduce the deficit in a fair way while ensur­ing that 99.7 per­cent of Amer­i­cans who lose a loved one would nev­er have to pay a dime in fed­er­al estate taxes.

Num­ber nine, we have got to reduce unnec­es­sary and waste­ful spend­ing at the Pen­ta­gon, which now con­sumes over half of our dis­cre­tionary bud­get. Since 1997, our defense bud­get has vir­tu­al­ly tripled going from $254 bil­lion to $700 bil­lion. Defense experts such as Lawrence Korb, an Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense under Ronald Rea­gan, has esti­mat­ed that we could achieve sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings of around $100 bil­lion a year at the Pen­ta­gon while still ensur­ing that the Unit­ed States has the strongest and most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary in the world. For exam­ple, as a result of four sep­a­rate inves­ti­ga­tions that I request­ed, the GAO has found that the Pen­ta­gon has $36.9 bil­lion in spare parts that it does not need and which are col­lect­ing dust in gov­ern­ment ware­hous­es. We have got to do a much bet­ter job than that. And, much of the huge spend­ing at the Pen­ta­gon is devot­ed to spend­ing mon­ey on Cold War weapons pro­grams to fight a Sovi­et Union that no longer exists. That has got to stop. Fur­ther, we also must end the unnec­es­sary War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan as soon as pos­si­ble. These wars have gone on long enough. Reduc­ing Pen­ta­gon spend­ing by at least $900 bil­lion over 10 years is some­thing that we can and must do.

Num­ber 10, if we required Medicare to nego­ti­ate for low­er pre­scrip­tion drug prices with the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try, we could save over $157 bil­lion over 10 years. As a result of the Medicare Part D pre­scrip­tion drug leg­is­la­tion signed into law under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, Medicare is pro­hib­it­ed from nego­ti­at­ing with the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try to low­er drug prices for seniors. This is wrong. Requir­ing Medicare to nego­ti­ate for low­er drug prices could save the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and seniors over $15 bil­lion a year.

Num­ber 11, if we enact­ed a robust pub­lic option or a Medicare-for-all health insur­ance pro­gram, we would be able to save more than $68 bil­lion over the next decade and pro­vide afford­able health insur­ance cov­er­age for mil­lions of Americans.

Num­ber 12, Mr. Pres­i­dent, as almost every­one knows, Chi­na is manip­u­lat­ing its cur­ren­cy, giv­ing it an unfair trade advan­tage over the Unit­ed States 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​.sen​ate​.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 2 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 that slashed $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 salt will tell you that when you’re deal­ing with a bul­ly, you must not give into their tac­tics or tol­er­ate their tem­per tantrums – you have to deal with them stern­ly and con­sis­tent­ly. You can­not allow them to win by dic­tat­ing the rules of the game and tram­pling over every­one else if they don’t get their way.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, we have a seri­ous deficit prob­lem that must be solved, no one would deny it. 

But the prob­lem is not that we spend too much on the needs of the elder­ly and have to slash Social Secu­ri­ty; the prob­lem is that we have pro­vid­ed hun­dreds of bil­lions in tax breaks to mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires who don’t need them and in many cas­es don’t want them. 

The prob­lem is not that we spend too much mon­ey on finan­cial aid for col­lege and have to slash Pell Grants. The aver­age col­lege senior today is grad­u­at­ing with $24,000 in debt. The prob­lem is that each and every year, large cor­po­ra­tions and the wealth­i­est in our soci­ety are avoid­ing $100 bil­lion in fed­er­al tax­es through tax shel­ters in the Cay­man Islands, Bermu­da and oth­er places through­out the world.

The prob­lem is not that we are spend­ing too much on child­care. Child­care is increas­ing­ly becom­ing out of reach for too many Amer­i­can fam­i­lies. The prob­lem is that about one out of four large and prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions in this coun­try do not pay any fed­er­al income tax­es, and in many cas­es get a tax rebate from the IRS. 

The prob­lem is not that we spend too much mon­ey to reduce child­hood pover­ty in this coun­try. We have the high­est child­hood pover­ty rate in the indus­tri­al­ized world! The prob­lem is that when all is said and done we will have spent $3 tril­lion on the unnec­es­sary and mis­guid­ed Iraq War. 

Mr. Pres­i­dent, the prob­lem is that this deficit was caused by actions vot­ed for by near­ly all of my Repub­li­can friends: the wars, tax breaks for the rich, Medicare Part D, and the Wall Street Bailout. In the mid­dle of a reces­sion when the mid­dle class and work­ing fam­i­lies are already hurt­ing, when pover­ty is increas­ing it is not only immoral, it is bad eco­nom­ics to bal­ance the bud­get on work­ing fam­i­lies and the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in this coun­try. When peo­ple are hurt­ing, when they have lost their jobs, when their incomes are going down, you do not say to those peo­ple: We are throw­ing you off Med­ic­aid. We are going to end Medicare as we know it, we are going to cut back on Fed­er­al aid to edu­ca­tion so your kid can­not go to col­lege. That is not what you say in a humane and fair society.

On the oth­er hand, at the same time as the wealth­i­est peo­ple are becom­ing phe­nom­e­nal­ly wealth­i­er, and when large cor­po­ra­tions are mak­ing huge prof­its, and in many cas­es not pay­ing any tax­es at all, it is entire­ly appro­pri­ate – in fact, it is a moral imper­a­tive – to say to those peo­ple: Sor­ry, you are also Amer­i­can. You have got to par­tic­i­pate in shared sac­ri­fice. You have also got to help us reduce the deficit. That is where we are right now. We are at a piv­otal moment in the midst of a major debate, but it is not only on finan­cial issues. It is very much a philo­soph­i­cal debate. It is a debate about which side you are on. Do you con­tin­ue to give tax breaks to the very rich and make sav­age cuts for work­ing fam­i­lies, for chil­dren, the elder­ly, the poor, the most vulnerable?

Mr. Pres­i­dent, anoth­er thing that is rarely men­tioned on the floor of the Sen­ate is the $3 tril­lion Fed­er­al Reserve bailout, that was only ful­ly made pub­lic after I insert­ed an amend­ment into the Dodd-Frank Act last year to require that it be made pub­lic. As it turns out, while small busi­ness own­ers in the State of Ver­mont and through­out this coun­try were being turned down for loans, not only did large finan­cial insti­tu­tions receive sub­stan­tial help from the Fed, but also some of the largest cor­po­ra­tions in this coun­try also received help in terms of very low inter­est loans.

And, here is some­thing we also learned: this bailout was not just about Amer­i­can banks and cor­po­ra­tions but for­eign banks and for­eign cor­po­ra­tions also received hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars from the Fed as well. Then, on top of that, a num­ber of the wealth­i­est indi­vid­u­als in this coun­try also received a major bailout from the Fed. The emer­gency response,” which is what the Fed described their action as dur­ing the Wall Street col­lapse, appears to any objec­tive observ­er to have been the clear­est case that I can imag­ine of social­ism for the very rich and rugged free mar­ket indi­vid­u­al­ism for every­body else.

In oth­er words, if you are a huge finan­cial insti­tu­tion, like Gold­man Sachs, whose reck­less­ness and greed caused this great reces­sion, no prob­lem. You get almost $800 bil­ion in near zero inter­est rate loans from the Fed. If you are a major Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tion, such as Gen­er­al Elec­tric or McDonald’s or Cater­pil­lar or Harley-David­son or Ver­i­zon, no prob­lem. You received a major hand­out from the U.S. Gov­ern­ment. But if you are a senior cit­i­zen liv­ing in a nurs­ing home paid for by Med­ic­aid, well, guess what, you are on your own. If you are an elder­ly per­son who can­not afford to heat their homes in the win­ter when the tem­per­a­ture is 20 below zero, tough luck. We don’t have any mon­ey for you. But, if you hap­pen to be the state-owned Bank of Bavaria – not Penn­syl­va­nia, not Cal­i­for­nia, but Bavaria – the Fed­er­al Reserve has enough mon­ey to loan you over $2.2 bil­lion by pur­chas­ing your com­mer­cial paper.

The Fed said this bailout was nec­es­sary in order to pre­vent the world econ­o­my from going over a cliff. But over three years after the start of the reces­sion, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans remain unem­ployed and have lost their homes, their life sav­ings, and their abil­i­ty to send their kids to col­lege. Mean­while, huge banks and large cor­po­ra­tions have returned to mak­ing incred­i­ble prof­its and pay­ing their exec­u­tives record-break­ing com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages, as if the finan­cial cri­sis they start­ed nev­er occurred.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, every­one under­stands that over the long-term we have got to reduce our record-break­ing $14.2 tril­lion nation­al debt. But, we must reduce the deficit in a fair way and not bal­ance the bud­get sole­ly on the backs of the mid­dle class, the sick, the elder­ly, the chil­dren and the poor. That means we absolute­ly must tell the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions that it is high time that they to pay their fair share in tax­es. And, that means that the Pres­i­dent has got to stand tall and stand firm and let the Amer­i­can peo­ple know that if we do default on our debt oblig­a­tions, if Amer­i­ca and the world econ­o­my is plunged into a depres­sion, it was because the Repub­li­cans refused to raise the tax­es of the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans and most prof­itable cor­po­ra­tions in this coun­try by one red cent.

Shared sac­ri­fice isn’t just good pub­lic pol­i­cy, it is also what the Amer­i­can peo­ple want. Over­whelm­ing majori­ties of the Amer­i­can peo­ple believe that the best way to reduce the deficit is to end tax breaks for the wealthy, big oil, Wall Street, and that we must bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s about time that Wash­ing­ton lis­tened to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Let’s reduce the deficit. But, let’s do it in a fair and respon­si­ble way that requires shared sac­ri­fice from the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans and most prof­itable corporations.

I thank the Pres­i­dent and I yield the floor.

Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) was elect­ed to the U.S. Sen­ate in 2006 after serv­ing 16 years in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He is the longest serv­ing inde­pen­dent mem­ber of Con­gress in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Elect­ed May­or of Burling­ton, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 elec­tion as Ver­mon­t’s at-large mem­ber in Con­gress, Sanders lec­tured at the John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment at Har­vard and at Hamil­ton Col­lege in upstate New York. Read more at his web­site.
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