With little more than a week to go before the federal government risks defaulting on its debts, congressional leaders worked this weekend on a deficit-reduction agreement. Sen. Bernie Sanders says the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling must be raised, but voiced concern about details of the deal. "I don't think it's going to be balanced at all. I think it will likely come down very heavily on the backs of the middle-class working families, the elderly, children, sick, and the poor," he told the PBS News Hour. In a separate interview, he told CNN that there is a "massive amount of disappointment" over President Obama's willingness to cut benefits for Social Security. "Why in God's name in the middle of a recession would you cut back on Social Security?" he asked. "This is what the right-wing Republicans have wanted for decades. It saddens me very much that the president is going back on his promise to the American people."
‘I Agree with Mitch McConnell' As an Aug. 2 deadline neared, Sanders stressed the importance of raising the debt ceiling so the United States can continue to pay its bills and avoid default for the first time in history. In a phrase he probably never uttered before, Sanders embraced a proposal by the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to raise the debt ceiling now and debate what to do about deficits during the 2012 campaign. "Let's take the case to the American people," Sanders told radio host Ed Schultz. Listen to Thursday's interview.
Save Social Security In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Sanders focused on Social Security cuts that congressional Republicans and the White House put on the chopping block. Sanders pleaded with the president to keep a 2008 campaign promise to protect the program that helps more than 50 million retirees and disable people. It would be "absolutely wrong" to make Social Security cuts part of a deficit-reduction package when it hasn't contributed a dime to deficits, he said. The program is funded by payroll taxes, not the U.S. Treasury. It currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus. It can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next quarter century. Watch the speech.
Gang of Six One of worst proposals on how to reduce red ink came out Wednesday from a group of senators calling themselves the Gang of Six. They want massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and virtually every program important to working families, the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor. "While I am sure that they did not get everything that they wanted, I think it's fair to say they won about 80 percent to 90 percent of what they fought for," Sanders said. With only a touch of sarcasm, Sanders congratulated Sens. Coburn, Crapo and Chambliss. John Nichols, writing for The Nation, called Sanders "the one senator who has stood most steadily in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-and for fiscally sound budgeting." Read the blog. Watch the speech.
Senate Budget Committee For months, Sanders worked as a member of the Senate Budget Committee on an approach to deficit reduction that matches increased revenue with spending reductions. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are becoming wealthier and are paying the lowest effective tax rates in modern history, when corporations are making billions of dollars and making nothing in taxes at all, Sanders said at least half of a deficit reduction package should come from ending tax breaks and tax loopholes for the wealthy and large corporations. The committee chairman quietly put forward a proposal that met those guidelines, but it has languished.
The Fed The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about $16 trillion in secret loans the central bank doled out during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. Sanders highlighted two key findings: 1) the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest despite serious potential for abuse and 2) the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations. Read more about it in The Washington Post.
Vermont Yankee A federal judge on Monday denied Entergy Corp.'s bid for a temporary injunction in a legal fight over the state's plant. "The ruling is good news for the people of Vermont. The law is very clear that Vermont has the right to close the plant based on economic and other considerations," Sanders said. Read more.