Setting Priorities

The budget President Bush submitted to Congress left lawmakers with little choice but to write a budget mostly from scratch if it is to reflect the needs of the overwhelming majority of Americans. Senator Bernie Sanders is a member of the Senate Budget Committee. The panel is scheduled to meet on March 5 and 6 to begin rewriting the budget. Repealing tax breaks for the rich and reducing waste at the Pentagon would free up resources for education, the environment, energy independence and econom

The budget President Bush submitted to Congress left lawmakers with little choice but to write a budget mostly from scratch if it is to reflect the needs of the overwhelming majority of Americans. Senator Bernie Sanders is a member of the Senate Budget Committee. The panel is scheduled to meet on March 5 and 6 to begin rewriting the budget. Repealing tax breaks for the rich and reducing waste at the Pentagon would free up resources for education, the environment, energy independence and economic development. "Putting our nation's children, veterans', and working families ahead of the wealthy few and a bloated defense budget is not only the right thing to do from a public policy perspective, it is what the American people would support," Sanders said.

Senator Sanders outlined his priorities in a letter to Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the Budget Committee chairman. Sanders advocated:

• Repealing Bush tax breaks that go to the wealthiest 1 percent of households. That step alone would raise an additional $72 billion in revenue in the coming year.

• Reducing wasteful defense spending that has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Military experts from the Reagan administration have identified $60 billion in unnecessary Cold War era savings ranging from responsibly reducing our nuclear weapons arsenal to reducing the "Star Wars" program. The Government Accountability Office also identified $18 billion in inventory that the Pentagon does not need, and even former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has said we could save $20 billion by overhauling the Pentagon's procurement and business practices.

• Devoting $20 billion of the Defense Department savings to a program of energy independence. In addition to the threat that continued reliance on oil poses to our nation's economic and environmental well-being, our national security is vulnerable to petroleum disruptions in such places as the Middle East. Spending on developing renewable and sustainable energy production should be seen as analogous, for both defense reasons and in terms of the nation's long-term economic health, to President Eisenhower's commitment to build the interstate highway system some 50 years ago.