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Sanders takes Obama to task: ‘Stand with the American people’

By Lynn Herrmann     Jun 28, 2011 in Politics
Washington - In prepared remarks before the US Senate on Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), told President Barack Obama the time has come when he must “stand with the American people” and deny the Republican party its extreme demands.
Sanders noted America has reached a pivotal moment and decisions soon to be made on a spiraling deficit should not come at the expense of “disastrous cuts” in programs for the working class, the elderly, the children,the poor, and the sick, as many Republicans in Congress are proposing.
“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, “ Sanders said in his statement. He added the national budget should not be balanced on the backs of working families, part of the previously mentioned group, many who have lost their jobs, their pensions, their wages and their homes.
Continuing with his remarks, Sanders insisted we demand millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations contribute their part to deficit reduction “as a matter of shared sacrifice.” He pointed out the president’s failure for giving in to “incessant, extreme” demands by Republicans in last December’s tax cuts for the wealthy.
“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,” the Vermont senator continued.
Noting Wall Street’s “greed, recklessness and illegal behavior” which has put unwarranted stress on the middle class, Sanders is calling on Americans to tell the president the wealthiest citizens and most profitable corporations must play their part in the shared sacrifice. He urged everyone to visit his website and send a letter to Obama.
In his speech, Sanders noted a 2009 study which showed over 5 million US seniors face a hunger threat, almost 3 million seniors are at risk of going hungry, and almost 1 million seniors who are in a hunger situation simply because they have no money to buy food, yet Republican leaders are doing what they can “to protect their rich and powerful friends.”
On the subject of deficit, Sanders said when former president Bill Clinton left office, there was a $236 billion federal budget surplus, yet by the time his successor, George W. Bush, left office, there was a $1.3 trillion annual deficit. Tax breaks for the wealthy, two costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the deregulation of Wall Street, and a prescription drug program with huge advantages for drug and insurance companies have all combined to help put the country in its current financial disaster.
Sanders said the reason for having to raise the national debt ceiling now is because the bills rung up by President Bush and Republican leadership in Congress have come due. Since 1997, military spending has almost tripled, yet the Republican budget passed in the House “does nothing” in reducing defense spending. Instead, the Republican plan calls for an additional $26 billion in defense spending for next year.
The Republican budget will also slash infrastructure funding, including roads, bridges, transit systems, rail lines, and airports by almost 40 percent next year alone. “The House Republican budget is breathtaking in its degree of cruelty.” Sanders said.
Referring to a Washington Post column last April by Ezra Klein who called the Paul Ryan budget proposal “a joke, and a bad one,” Sanders noted the Republican proposal provides even more tax breaks for “corporate freeloaders,” a move which he states is unacceptable.
According to Sanders, the top ten list of the worst corporate tax avoiders in the US are Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron, Boeing, Valero Energy, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, ConocoPhillips, and Carnival Cruise Lines. Each of these company giants stands to gain from Republican-planned tax breaks.
While corporate profits rose 60 percent over the last decade, corporate tax revenue dropped by 27 percent during the same period. Offshore tax shelters allow the wealthy and large corporations to avoid $100 billion in taxes, annually, Sanders said.
At a time when Obama is realizing the nation’s pitiful economic performance will have a direct bearing on his chances for re-election, and while he continues grasping at straws in how find a solution, Sanders put forth in his Senate speech some logical ideas.
Among the changes suggested by Sanders to help battle the current budget deficit, a repeal of the Bush tax breaks heads the list. Such a move would generated at least $700 billion over the next 10 years.
A 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires and billionaires could raise more than $383 billion in the next decade. Another move suggested by Sanders was getting rid of a tax code loophole allowing US companies tax breaks for shipping manufacturing jobs overseas.
Sanders also called on an end to tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, a move which could reduce the deficit by more than $40 billion in the coming decade. The deficit could also be reduced by up to $1 trillion over the next 10 years by prohibiting illegal offshore tax shelters.
Establishment of a Wall Street speculation fee on the buying and selling of credit default swaps, derivatives, and stock options and futures could also reduce the deficit by at least $100 billion in the next 10 years.
On his long list of suggestions, Sanders noted waste, fraud and abuse running rampant throughout the federal government will cost the country about $200 billion over the next decade.
Citing last week’s budget negotiations, led by Vice President Joe Biden, in which Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Minority Whip Jon Kyle walked out, Sanders noted their exit was because “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.”
Unless the American people unite against such tactics, Republicans will once again get their way, at the expense of the working, the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the young. Sanders said Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, education and the environment should not be made to pay for the wealth of the rich and powerful. He noted it is time to stand up against the “schoolyard bullies.”
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