Reprinted from Bernie Sanders Website
WASHINGTON, March 18 -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, today criticized a Republican budget proposal that he said will make devastating cuts to American families, children and seniors. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing and we look forward to the mark-up tomorrow. Also, thank you for releasing the budget a little bit earlier than it is often released. We've had a few hours to examine it.
"As we all know, the federal budget that we are working on is not an appropriations bill. It does not provide explicit funding for this or that agency or program. What it does do is lay the foundation for that process, and tells the Appropriations Committee, through the 302(A) allocations, the total amount of money they have to spend. In other words, this budget is more than just a very long list of numbers. The federal budget is about our national priorities and our values. It is about who we are as a nation and what we stand for. It's about how we assess the problems facing our country and how we resolve them.
"That is what our committee is undertaking, and it is a very, very serious responsibility.
"Let's be clear: no family, no business, no local or state government can responsibly write a budget without first understanding the problems and challenges that it faces. And that is even more true when we deal with a federal budget of some $4 trillion dollars.
"As I examine the budget brought forth by the Republicans in the House and here in the Senate, this is how I see their analysis of the problems facing our country.
"At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, the Republicans apparently believe that the richest people in America need to be made even richer. It is apparently not good enough that 99 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent. That's apparently not enough. It is not good enough that the top one-tenth of one percent today own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Clearly, in Republican eyes, the wealthy and the powerful need more help. Not only should they not be asked to pay more in taxes, the Republicans believe that we should cut tax rates for millionaires and billionaires.
"It is not good enough that corporate America is enjoying record breaking profits, and that the CEOs of large corporations earn some 290 times more than what their average employees make.
"It is apparently not good enough that since 1985 the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen a more then $8 trillion increase in its wealth than what they would have had if wealth inequality had stayed at the same level that it was in 1985. An $8 trillion increase in the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1 percent! Apparently, that is not enough.
"Meanwhile, as I understand the Republican view of our country, as manifested in the House and Senate budgets, it appears that millions of middle class and working families, people who are working longer hours for lower wages, people who have seen significant declines in their standard of living over the last 40 years, these people apparently do not need our help, rather they need to see a major reduction in federal programs that help make their lives, and the lives of their kids, a little bit better.
"At a time when we have over 45 million Americans living in poverty -- more than almost any time in the modern history of this country, my Republican colleagues think we should increase that number by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, affordable housing, and Medicaid. At a time when almost 20 percent of our children live in poverty, by far the highest childhood poverty rate of any major country on earth, my Republican colleagues think that maybe we should raise the childhood poverty rate a bit higher by cutting childcare, Head Start, the Child Tax Credit and nutrition assistance for hungry kids.
"To summarize: the rich get much richer, and the Republicans think they need more help. The middle class and working families of this country become poorer, and the Republicans think we need to cut programs they desperately need. Frankly, those may be the priorities of some of my Republican colleagues in this room, but I do not believe that these are the priorities of the American people.
"Mr. Chairman, today, the United States remains the only industrialized nation on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its people. We have about 40 million Americans who lack health insurance, and millions more who are under-insured. Well, apparently that is not good enough for my Republican colleagues in their budget. They want to abolish the Affordable Care Act and take away the health insurance that 16 million Americans have gained through that program. In other words, instead of having 40 million people uninsured, we would have 56 million people uninsured.
"And, if you include the massive cuts in Medicaid that the Republican budget includes, even millions more Americans would lose their health coverage. Further, when you make massive cuts in Medicaid, you also cut the nursing home care for seniors, perhaps the most vulnerable and helpless people in our country.
"I've talked a little bit about the devastating impact that the House and Senate Republican budgets would have on the American people, but equally important is what these budgets do not do -- the serious problems that they do not address. Poll after poll tells us that the issue that the American people are most concerned about deals with jobs, wages and the economy -- and for good reasons.