MANCHESTER, N.H., Sept. 7 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today confronted critics of Social Security as they launched a nationwide misinformation campaign. Sanders took on the self-styled "Comeback America Initiative" as the group - bankrolled by Wall Street millionaires and billionaires - began a series of town meetings on federal budget deficits at St. Anselm's College.
Representatives of several seniors' organizations planned to join Sanders at a separate forum later this afternoon on the same college campus.
"The American people should not be fooled by the misinformation that will be spread at these ‘grassroots' gatherings backed by some of the most powerful Wall Street, insurance, and corporate CEOs in the country," Sanders said. "The goal of these ‘town meetings' is to convince the people of New Hampshire and the rest of America that the only effective way to address the deficit crisis is to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. Don't believe it!"
A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders has said there is a deficit crisis because a $236 billion surplus when President Bill Clinton left office was squandered during the administration of President George W. Bush. He blamed the deficits on unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax breaks for the wealthy and the recession. He also has suggested specific ways to cut spending by reducing the bloated Pentagon budget and to raise revenue by eliminating tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and closing loopholes for profitable corporations.
But Social Security, Sanders stressed, has not contributed one nickel to the deficit or to the national debt. In fact, the program that benefits more than 50 million retirees, widows, orphans and disabled Americans has a $2.7 trillion surplus and, according to actuaries, will be able to pay every benefit owed to every eligible recipient for the next 21 years.
Despite the tremendous success of Social Security, it has become a favored target of Peter G. Peterson, the hedge fund billionaire who has pledged $1 billion of his own money on a campaign to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It was Peterson who provided most of the funding for the operation of the "Comeback America Initiative," according to its website. David Walker, who headed Peterson's foundation, now runs the initiative.
Said Sanders: "Instead of listening to millionaire and billionaire campaign contributors who want to reduce the deficit by slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, it is time for our leaders in Washington to start listening to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want the wealthiest people in this country and the most profitable corporations in this country to contribute to deficit reduction. It is time for shared sacrifice."