Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Sanders calls debt plan 'huge victory' for GOP

August 1, 2011, Burlington Free Press, Nicole Gaudiano

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bernie Sanders said early Sunday evening that the emerging deal on raising the nation's debt ceiling is a "huge victory" for Republicans. The Vermont independent, one of the Senate's most liberal members, continued to press for higher taxes on the wealthy and an end to tax loopholes for corporations.

He made his comments as Democrats and Republicans moved closer to the compromise to avert the nation's first default in history. The debt deal was announced later Sunday night by President Barack Obama. It would cut spending by more than $2 trillion over a decade and would extend the debt limit, allowing the nation to pay its bills until after the 2012 elections.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations in this nation contribute to deficit reduction and that the budget is not just balanced on the backs of ordinary Americans," Sanders said.

Asked whether he would vote to block passage, he said it would be "unacceptable" for the nation to default on its debts.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said the nation would begin running out of money to pay its bills Tuesday.

Sanders was one of four members of the Democratic caucus who voted Sunday afternoon not to move ahead with a debt limit plan drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. He said the proposal would cut programs for working families while letting the wealthy avoid paying higher taxes.

Reid's plan, which didn't affect negotiations on the compromise that emerged later, required 60 votes to advance but got only 50.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., voted to advance the bill.

Sanders said that, because of "Republican obstinance," all of the plans Congress has considered so far would have lowered the debt on the backs of the middle class, the elderly, sick people and children.

"From a moral perspective, that is terribly wrong, and from an economic policy perspective, that's just bad economics," he said.

Talks focused on a two-step system for raising the debt limit and cutting spending.

Sanders said he worries that aid for dairy farmers, energy assistance for the poor, and money for community health care centers, education and child care programs will be cut significantly.

He also worries that the bipartisan debt committee might recommend cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"The most important point is that the Republicans have won a huge victory on this issue," he said.

Taxes and Budget Will Stress the Middle Class - Again

This year the middle class will struggle to pay the bills, while the wealthy pocket big savings. Thanks to the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the top 5% will save $190 million.

Knowing this, I voted no on this year’s tax and budget bills. They raise taxes on the middle class, increase health care costs and cut important programs, but again ask the wealthiest to make no sacrifices at all.

Most of the taxes are “provider” taxes on hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and health and dental insurance claims. These are broad based taxes that will hit most Vermonters regardless of their income or ability to pay and raise health care costs when we should be cutting them. Meanwhile, the budget cuts $34 million in human services, including “prevention” programs – so problems will get worse and the cost in dollars and human suffering go up.

I offered a different proposal; a small, temporary increase in the income tax of those in the highest tax brackets, the folks enjoying the huge savings from the so–called Bush (now Obama) tax cuts. Unlike the provider taxes which impact most Vermonters, this would affect about 4,000, all of whom can afford to pay. It would not raise taxes on people making less than $200,000.

A Vermonter making $1 million, enjoying a tax cut of $157,000 this year, would send a small amount of their windfall back to Vermont to help neighbors in need. Someone making $200,000 - $300,000, currently getting a $10,400 tax cut, would pay $580 more. And, still save close to $10,000 on their tax bill. Their effective tax rate would increase less than 1%. It’s no surprise that recent polls in Vermont show overwhelming support for closing our budget gap by increasing the income tax on those in the highest income brackets. Most of us applauded when Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy and Peter Welch fought to end the Bush tax cuts that are unfair and bad for the economy and job growth. But, despite their best efforts, Congress failed.

I expected Vermonters to do better. But now most of your policymakers say no, claiming the wealthy, especially entrepreneurs, will leave if asked to pay their fair share.

Our Vermont Blue Ribbon Tax Commission and at least two recent well documented studies say they are wrong.

Princeton University researchers find the wealthy did not leave New Jersey when their taxes were raised. In fact, New Jersey ended up with more millionaires than before the tax increase. And, those who started and owned businesses were least likely to pull up stakes. Researchers said the impact of the tax increase on wealthy people moving out of state was “close to zero.”

After tracking 18 years of migration from New England states, the University of Massachusetts also found, "Taxes have essentially no impact on causing people to leave a state." People mostly moved for job-related reasons, regardless of tax rates, they said, and the wealthy stay in high tax states because they appreciate the services and quality of life.

George Bush taught us that cutting taxes for the wealthy is bad for the economy and for the middle class who pay more when the wealthy pay less. In order for businesses to grow they need customers, so the middle class must have money to spend. But our economic policies do the opposite, favoring the rich while leaving less and less for the middle class.

They did it again, when the Governor and Legislature chose a tax policy that falls most heavily on middle class working families. I could not go along.

Recently a group of wealthy Vermonters wrote to the Governor urging an increase in their taxes. They echoed the studies, the polls and common sense economics saying; “People like us, with good jobs and careers in Vermont, would not leave our homes, friends, careers and the State we love if asked to pay a bit more to help our neighbors.”

They said asking everyone to pay their fair share is the “Vermont way.”

I hope Montpelier gets the message.

Part of my floor speech on this topic can be heard here.

Vermont’s Progressive Era Turns 30

March 9, 2011, Toward Freedom, Greg Guma

“It’s time for a change...real change.” That was Bernie Sanders’ slogan in his 1981 campaign for Burlington Mayor. The race had begun as a long shot, but Sanders had turned his shoestring operation into a real challenge. Nevertheless, even on Election Day, March 3, 1981, the incumbent and his Democratic old guard still predicted a decisive victory. After all, Ronald Reagan had been elected President only four months before. Sanders was no threat, they assumed, nothing more than an upstart leftist with a gift for attracting media attention.

Sanders wanted open government, he said, and new development priorities. He opposed an upscale Waterfront project and an Interstate access road to downtown.

He supported Rent Control. “Burlington is not for sale,” he proclaimed. “I am extremely concerned about the current trend of urban development. If present trends continue, the City of Burlington will be converted into an area in which only the wealthy and upper-middle class will be able to afford to live.”

Filibernie's Greatest Hits

December 10, 2010, Mother Jones, Josh Harkinson

At 10:24 on Friday morning, Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont and self-described socialist, took to the podium in the Senate to denounce the Obama/GOP tax accord. He did not leave for another eight and a half hours. His old-school filibuster, which technically wasn't a filibuster at all, was ignored or downplayed by much of the media. But that didn't stop it from going viral. By early evening, Sanders' name had become the second-most-popular term on Google and tops on Twitter, where untold thousands rallied to his cause under the hash tag #filibernie.

An impassioned tirade of the sort that many liberals had once hoped to hear from the president, the speech was even more interesting in chunks larger than 140 characters. In the (likely) event that you didn't have time to listen to the whole thing, here are some of best excerpts:

How the Vermont governor's race was won

November 7, 2010, Burlington Free Press, Nancy Remsen

    "This year, Progressives gave Shumlin the gift of a one-on-one race with Dubie when the party leadership decided in the spring they wouldn’t field a candidate in the governor’s race.

    Progressive Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott explained that Dubie was a “pale copy of Jim Douglas, likely to continue 95 percent of the Douglas policies with 95 percent of the Douglas administration and advisers.” The Progressive Party wanted change.

    A Liberty Union Party candidate for governor and an independent also signaled in the final days before the election that they wanted their supporters to back Shumlin.

    While the Progressive Party never endorsed Shumlin, staying out of the race was probably worth as many as 10,000 votes, Davis speculated."

Read the full story here.

Bernie Sanders and the Damn Hole

The BP oil disaster has been in the news for some time now. We've seen efforts at the local levels in the news and heard folks pleading for help. But many feel that the Obama Administration has been slow in reacting and favoring the plans for intervention by the big oil company. Big oil and big CEOs will always favor the company rather than the livelihood of the local fishermen, or the environmental impact that the nasty oil spill has created.

Our Bernie has said "enough is enough".

Senator Sanders writes, "If we take bold action in energy efficiency, public transportation, advanced vehicle technologies, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, we can transform our energy system, clean up our environment, and create millions of new jobs in the process."

On June 8th, Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing in "The Nation," pointed out something we have all known for some time now: "Sanders gets it".

So once again, Vermont's Senator Sanders shines and shows us why we need more like him in Washington: because he gets it! Now, lets hope our President and others follow his lead!

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