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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/18/15

Sanders Statement on Republican Budget Plan

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"Despite a significant improvement in the economy over the last six years, since President Obama has been in office, real unemployment today is not 5.5 percent, it is 11 percent. Youth unemployment is over 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that. What the "American people want, and what the Republican budget ignores, is the need to create millions of decent paying jobs. And the fastest way to do that is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: our roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, dams, levees, and broadband. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to invest over $3 trillion by the year 2020 just to get our nation's infrastructure in good repair. And when we make a significant investment in infrastructure, we create millions of decent-paying jobs -- which is exactly what we should be doing, which the Republicans ignore.

"At a time when millions of Americans are working for starvation wages and when the federal minimum wage is an abysmal $7.25 an hour, we need a budget that substantially increases wages for low-income and middle-income workers. We also need pay equity in this country so that women do not make 78 cents on the dollar compared to what a man makes for doing the same work. Further, we need to address the overtime scandal in this country in which many of our people are working 50 or 60 hours a week but fail to get time and a half for their efforts. Unfortunately, once again, the Republican budget refuses to address this issue of enormous consequence.

"I can tell you that in Vermont, and I suspect every state in this country, young people and their families are enormously frustrated by the high cost of college education and the horrendously oppressive student debt that many of them leave school with. In fact, student debt today, at $1.2 trillion is the second largest category of debt in this country -- more than credit card and auto loan debt.

"Does the Republican budget do anything to lower interest rates on student debt? In fact, their budget would make a bad situation even worse.

"Does the Republican budget support President Obama's initiative to make two years of community college free or any other initiative to make college affordable? Sadly, it does not. But what it does do is cut $90 billion in Pell Grants over a 10-year period.

"Mr. Chairman, my Republican colleagues are concerned about the deficit, which by the way, has been reduced by more than two-thirds in the last six years. And, we're also concerned about the deficit. My Republican colleagues are concerned about an $18 trillion national debt which has skyrocketed in recent years largely because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were not paid for, an insurance written Medicare Part D prescription drug program, not paid for. And huge tax breaks for the rich and large corporations, not offset.

"The high national debt is an issue that we are also concerned about. But where we disagree is how you address the deficit and the debt. And, we feel strongly that from a moral perspective and an economic perspective, you do not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor -- the most vulnerable people in our society -- and ask nothing from the wealthy and large, profitable corporations.

"Today, major corporation after major corporation pays, in a given year, zero, pays nothing in federal income taxes. Profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, and Boeing, have not only paid nothing in federal income taxes, they actually got rebates from the IRS.

"According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, each and every year, profitable corporations are avoiding about $100 billion in taxes by stashing their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens.

"In 1952, corporations contributed about 32 percent of all federal revenue. Today, they contribute about 11 percent.

"In terms of individual tax rates, we have a situation where hedge fund managers on Wall Street, who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, pay an effective tax rate lower than a truck driver or a nurse. How can my Republican colleagues bring forth a budget and not ask for the end of this absurd tax unfairness, that does not ask for at least some sacrifice on behalf of the rich and multi-national corporations.

"The last point that I want to make is that I believe that the best thing we can do in a budget is to move to a full employment economy with jobs that are paying workers a living wage. When we do that, by investing in infrastructure, by investing in education, by investing in research and development, we not only improve the lives of our people, but we also lower our deficits and lower our national debt.

"When people are working at decent-wage jobs they are paying taxes. And, when people are paying taxes we reduce the deficit and the national debt."

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)

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