Bernie Sanders on why we need to let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire

I just received the following letter from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont:

As you know, enormously crucial decisions are being made in Washington now which will impact the future of our country for decades. Please join me for an interactive discussion on issues ranging from how we protect Social Security for our kids and grandchildren, to how we create the millions of new jobs we desperately need to how we address the deficit crisis in a fair and progressive way.

Sign up to join me for DFA Live on Tuesday, December 7th, at 8:00 PM Eastern Time.

In terms of Social Security, let’s be very clear. Social Security has not added one dime to either the federal deficit or the national debt. In fact, Social Security is running a $2.6 trillion surplus that is projected to grow to over $4 trillion by the year 2023. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that even if no changes are made, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits to every eligible American until the year 2039. In other words, Social Security is not in crisis.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress, who claim to be so concerned about our large deficit want to extend Bush’s massive tax breaks to the wealthiest 2% of Americans — which will add, over a ten year period, $700 billion to our national debt. Given the fact that we already have the most unequal distribution of income of any major country, this is a totally absurd and irresponsible proposal.

That’s why I organized a working group in Congress to provide a real, progressive alternative to the Deficit Commission’s recommendations. We can move this country forward in reducing our national debt, but we don’t have to do it on the backs of the already suffering middle class and working families of this country.

All and all, there’s a lot to talk about and I look forward to a lively discussion with my friends at Democracy for America. Thank you very much for your grassroots activism. Together, we will move this country forward.

Please join me and my friends at Democracy for America next Tuesday, December 7th at 8:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time) for DFA Live — a conversation on some of the important issues facing our country including Social Security, reducing the deficit in a fair and progressive way and job creation.

If you’d like to participate, you can sign up to do so here.

And if you’re not familiar with Sanders, you have to check out this incredible speech which he delivered on the floor of the Senate a few days ago. You’ll love it. I promise.

If you’d like to check out a transcript, you can do so here.

Unfortunately, as good as the speech was, it didn’t help much. Yesterday, in a rare weekend session, Senate Republicans unanimously voted to block the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. (They’re actually for all classes, as they cover the first $250,000 of one’s income, but we refer to them as “middle class” tax cuts for some reason.) They did so in hopes of blackmailing the Democrats into extending the Bush tax breaks on the super-wealthy. “What this debate is about,” said Sanders, “is whether or not we continue to take money from the middle class and working families of this country who are struggling in a way that they have not struggled since the great depression in order to provide $700 billion over a 10-year period to the wealthiest people in this country.”

Here, on the same subject, is a message from Joe Biden: “So I just don’t agree with the folks who’ve said we can’t afford a lifeline for Americans who’ve lost their job… but we can afford to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.” Biden, of course, is referring to the fact that the Senate Republicans have also blocked legislation that would extend unemployment benefits to those currently without jobs.

If you haven’t yet, please consider sending Obama a letter today, urging him not to compromise when it come’s to tax breaks for the rich. When we initially approved them ten years ago, we were told that they would lead to job creation. They haven’t. All they’ve achieved is an even bigger gap between rich and poor in this country. And they should be allowed to expire.

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  1. Edward
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Bernie is great. I’ll definitely check out what he has to say tonight.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Well, it looks like the Democrats are going to give in. Huge surprise, right?

    White House officials and Congressional Republicans said Sunday they were closing in on a deal to temporarily continue the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels, while bitterly frustrated Democratic Congressional leaders began exploring whether they would have the votes for such a package.

    A day after the Senate rejected President Obama’s preferred tax plan, officials said the broad contours of a compromise were in focus.

    Rather than extending the tax rates only on income described by Democrats as middle class — up to $250,000 a year for couples and $200,000 for individuals — the deal would also keep the rates for higher earners, probably for two years. In return, Republicans said they would probably agree to extend jobless aid for the long-term unemployed.

  3. Meta
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure what Bernie is going to suggest in terms of deficit reduction, but here’s what the Center for American Progress is suggesting.

    The Progressive Plan For Deficit Reduction
    Last week, President Obama’s debt commission released its final report, but failed to find the required 14 votes to advance the proposal to Congress. Of the commission’s 18 members, 11 voted for the final report, and only four of those affirmative votes came from members of the incoming 112th Congress. Despite the commission’s failure to craft a plan that could receive enough votes to move forward, many of the commission members cited the proposal as a good starting point for discussions on reducing the country’s deficit and debt. “I believe we’ve crossed an important hurdle here and laid out a plan that will be resurrected because it must be,” said commission member Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). However, the deficit commission’s plan is not a feasible path toward reducing the long-term structural deficit, and it included some very misguided policy prescriptions like raising the retirement age for Social Security and cutting huge swaths of the non-defense discretionary budget. In fact, the commission’s plan relies far more heavily on spending cuts than revenue increases, putting vital and popular programs at risk. In a new report, “The First Step: A Progressive Plan for Meaningful Deficit Reduction by 2015,” the Center for American Progress has laid out an alternative vision for deficit reduction that preserves important programs, responsibly raises new revenue, and includes a path towards making important government investments that pave the way toward a 21st century economy.

    RESPONSIBLY RAISING REVENUE: Trying to balance the budget entirely through spending cuts, as some conservatives have suggested, would be folly and severely harm important programs. As the CAP report’s authors — Vice-President for Economic Policy Michael Ettlinger, Associate Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden, and Director of Government Reform Reece Rushing — write, “These are not the sorts of cuts that the country would be able to absorb without real pain and significant adjustments.” To that end, the CAP report lays out revenue-generating plans that hit four deficit-reduction targets: 33 percent of the way to primary balance in 2015 (which means revenue equals outlays, and the only deficit is interest payments on the debt), then 50 percent, 67 percent, and 100 percent. Ultimately, the authors decided that the 50 percent plan — in which one dollar of spending cuts is made for every dollar of increased revenue — is the most reasonable, because “it reduces the size of government below projections but would generally spare spending that supports economic growth and protects the most vulnerable, the tax increases are modest relative to the size of the economy, and the policies are within the realm of political possibility.” These tax increases include: removing the cap on the employer side of the payroll tax, which raises about $76 billion in 2015; imposing a new fee of $5 per barrel on foreign oil imports, to raise about $22 billion; and applying a new surtax of 2 percent to adjusted gross income above $1 million, and an additional 3 percent to adjusted gross income above $10 million, to raise about $29 billion. These increases would raise federal revenue to about 19.8 percent of GDP, which is higher than it was under the Bush administration, but lower than when President Clinton brought the budget into surplus.

    SMART SPENDING CUTS : The debt commission report’s plan relies on $280 billion in total spending cuts in 2015 (compared to the President’s budget), which, if adopted, would slice into popular and important programs in areas like veterans’ health care, education, science and health research, consumer product, food and drug safety, and law enforcement. The CAP report, instead, lays out about $128 billion in total spending cuts in 2015, including about $60 billion in defense spending cuts, $35 billion in tax expenditures (which are essentially spending programs that are administered through the tax code), and $12 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts. The plan would also cut $3.8 billion from in agricultural subsidies and index all relevant federal programs to the chained Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers, which would result in “slower increases to those aspects of the code that are indexed.” A separate CAP report, “Strong and Sustainable: How to Reduce Military Spending While Keeping Our Nation Safe,” identified almost $110 billion in potential defense cuts that would help make Pentagon spending more sustainable, but the $60 billion identified in the deficit report represents a compromise between support for the cuts in that report “and a desire to not count on so much being cut from a single area with a powerful constituency.”

    MAKING IMPORTANT INVESTMENTS: While much of the government’s attention has been focused upon the deficit and the debt — which in the long-term, of course, are unsustainable — the effects of the Great Recession are still being felt by citizens across the country. With unemployment at 9.8 percent and state and local government slashing spending to meet constitutionally mandated balanced budget requirements, there is no contradiction between short-term efforts to boost the economy and long-term deficit reduction. Last week, members of the Federal Reserve — which is undertaking its own efforts to boost the economy — pushed Congress to adopt a plan that pairs long-term deficit reduction with short-term spending to spur demand. “We need, and I believe there is scope for, an approach to fiscal policy that puts in place a well-timed and credible plan to bring deficits down to sustainable levels over the medium and long terms while also addressing the economy’s short-term needs,” said Fed Vice-Chairman Janet Yellen. At the same time, the country has many areas in critical need of investments, including its crumbling infrastructure and inequitable education system. To that end, the CAP deficit report also lays out ways to improve how the government performs routine tasks, in order to find savings that can further reduce the deficit and free up funding to meet the important needs of the country. These changes include government contracting reforms that could save $40 billion annually, and better use of information technology, which has the potential to save hundreds of billions of dollars.

  4. Democ For America
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Today is a make-or-break moment in the fight to let the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy expire as planned at the end of this year. Over the weekend, the White House continued to work on striking a tax cut deal with Republicans that would increase deficit spending by 700 billion dollars over the next ten years.

    So instead of playing hardball with Republicans by exposing them for this reckless spending, they’re ready to cave again. Instead of exposing Republicans for voting against tax cuts for the middle class, instead of daring them to be responsible for raising taxes on all Americans if the Bush-Cheney tax cuts expire before Republicans agree to the Democratic plan, instead of providing America with real leadership and a fiscally responsible backbone that sets Democrats apart from Republicans — this White House is ready to surrender.

    The U.S. Senate can stop them. Call your Senators right now and demand “no deals on tax cuts for the wealthy.”

    Sen. Levin – (202) 224-6221
    Sen. Stabenow – (202) 224-4822

    Thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s continued leadership, the House of Representatives has already told the White House “No deals on tax cuts for the wealthy” and passed a bill that fulfills President Obama’s campaign promise to not raise taxes on people who make less than $250,000 a year, while letting the the Bush Tax Cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year expire.

    Now, it’s up to the U.S. Senate to do that same thing. But they will only do it if they hear an overwhelming outcry from all of us telling them that we need them to go to the mat to stop Republicans — even if President Obama won’t.

    That’s why we’ve joined with progressive allies at the MoveOn, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, CREDO Action, True Majority and SEIU for today’s emergency call-in day.

    Pundits and scared Democrats in Washington will be advocating capitulation, but we need Senate Democrats to stand strong. They have the upper hand, with big majorities of Americans who want to see the wealthy pay their fair share. A new poll from CBS shows that only 26% of voters want the tax cuts for the wealthy extended.

    If the Republicans are so committed to stopping tax cuts for the middle class unless tax breaks for millionaires are extended too, then they should have to defend that position in the next election.

    Democrats in the Senate should make Republicans vote over and over and over again against relief for struggling families and prove to the American people that their millionaire donors are more important to them than their constituents.

    That’s what the American people want the Senate to do. Let’s make sure Senate Democrats get the message. Please make your call right now.

    Sen. Levin – (202) 224-6221
    Sen. Stabenow – (202) 224-4822

  5. Ted
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    With all due respect to the President, if he caves in on this, I’m done with him. I’m tired of forgiving him. I’m tired of watching him settle for less without a fight, like during the health care debate. He should have fought for a public option. Instead we got some incremental improvement, and the health care industry got a lot richer. That’s partly our fault. We should have held his feet to the fire, and we didn’t. And it looks like we’re going to do it again. We’re going to sit back and watch him give the American aristocracy another 2 years of tax cuts that we can’t afford. It makes me furious.

  6. Glen S.
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Now that Barack Obama has caved on yet ANOTHER core Democratic value, the only hope to scuttle this latest “compromise” is if enough Democrats in the House and Senate will vote against the President and his Republican allies.

    Please take a moment to call 0r e-mail Representative Dingell and Senators Levin and Stabenow, and ask them to vote “no” on this latest assault on the working class.

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