WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said widespread grassroots opposition to cuts in Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage kept congressional budget negotiators from cutting the programs in a two-year agreement outlined yesterday.
“This is good news for millions of Americans who have earned their Social Security benefits and their Medicare health care coverage,” said Sanders, a member of the special Senate and House committee. “As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, I am extremely pleased that we have once again been able to beat back ferocious efforts to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
A petition signed by more than 700,000 Americans opposing cuts in Social Security was delivered last month to the offices of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Sanders spearheaded the petition effort working with grassroots groups including CREDO, Daily Kos, Campaign for America's Future, Social Security Works, Democracy for America, Progressives United, MoveOn, Other98, USAction and the Alliance for Retired Americans. “There are fair ways to reduce the $680 billion federal deficit and $17.3 trillion national debt – but balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor is not among them,” Sanders said.
Sanders is a leading opponent in the Senate of a proposed change in how to measure consumer prices, a so-called chained CPI, in a way which would have resulted in significant cuts in benefits. The average 65-year-old retiree would lose $658 a year in Social Security benefits by their 75th birthday; $1,147 by their 85th birthday; and $1,622 by their 95th birthday. Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits from the VA at age 30 would see their benefits cut by more than $1,400 a year at age 45, $2,300 a year at age 55 and $3,200 a year at age 65.
Sanders expressed disappointment that the budget package does nothing to create jobs and would not extend emergency unemployment benefits that expire at the end of this year for 1.3 million Americans. The agreement also fails to close any tax loopholes for profitable corporations and does not ask the wealthiest Americans to contribute a penny to deficit reduction. “It is incomprehensible to me that the Republicans continue to protect huge corporate loopholes that benefit some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America,” he said. “This obviously is not the budget I would have written.”