BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced today that he will work with members of Congress, labor unions, seniors’ organizations and others to develop progressive alternatives to proposals circulated by leaders of a White House deficit commission.
At a hastily-called press conference on Wednesday, the commission co-chairmen – former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff – laid out their proposals that included major cuts for seniors, college students, working families and vulnerable Americans.
“It is no surprise that these two favor draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the needs of our veterans, and education while proposing tax reductions for the wealthy and large profitable corporations,” Sanders said. Simpson is a darling of the Republican right wing and Bowles is a former investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street. Their plan was floated amid reports that the two were struggling to cobble together enough support on their own commission to go forward by a Dec. 1 deadline.
Sanders also raised concerns that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility employed staffers paid by outside interest groups, including the right-wing Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Peterson-funded Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Peterson is a billionaire who is bankrolling a major effort to undermine Social Security.
“Everyone agrees that over the long-term we have got to reduce the record-breaking $13.7 trillion national debt and unsustainable federal deficit,” Sanders said, but he stressed that deficits mushroomed in recent years because of two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry, and the Wall Street bailout. “The national debt is a very serious issue and we’ve got to tackle it but we can do it without balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class.”
Sanders, in a letter, invited progressive activists and economists to meet next week to develop a progressive plan to reduce the deficit. “We all know that there are a number of fair ways to reduce deficits without harming the middle class and those who have already lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college. The time has come to put these proposals into a package so that a fair and progressive deficit reduction plan will become part of the national discussion,” he said.
Sanders’ own deficit reduction proposals include ending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. He also favors ending expensive and outdated Cold War-era Pentagon programs and has proposed elimination of tax credits for big oil companies that have amassed the fattest profits in history.