With Second Filibernie, Sen. Sanders Sets Up the Left Pole in the Deficit Debate
Sen. Bernie Sanders is about a half-hour into another “filibernie” stemwinder on the floor of the Senate today; the prepared text, which Bernie is likely to embellish, clocked in at over 10,000 words. Sanders has combined this speech, which concerns shared sacrifice, with an action item, a petition to the President that lays out the situation facing America today, and what must be done to rectify it. Here’s the entire letter:
This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today – which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.
Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit – a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.
Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.
Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good.
I’m sure our Modern Monetary Theorists will dispute Senator Sanders on the efficacy of reducing the deficit over the long-term, but I doubt even they would argue with the rest of the letter. Sanders is staking out the position on the left pole of the debate about as far as he believes he can in Washington. He wants at least half of any solution to come from ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and ending corporate welfare. He also wants significant cuts to the Pentagon on top of that. And essentially, he wants the poor and vulnerable, who did not cause the crisis, to be held harmless.
There’s a case to be made that Sanders could have opted to do nothing – to return to Clinton-era tax rates and be done with deficit reduction for the next decade. That’s not exactly where Sanders came down, but his solution would theoretically capture the same amount of revenue and allow for tax cuts for the lower income scale (because of marginal tax rates, a lot of these help the rich, too) to stand. So Sanders’ option is arguably more progressive, albeit a bit less realizable a goal than simply doing nothing.
Sanders’ gambit, at least, is getting a lot of play on social media: check the #sharedsacrifice hashtag. The live comment feed at his page is streaming an array of positive comments in rapid fire. He’s trying to use new tools, as well as the bully pulpit of the Senate floor, to push his message. And he’s built off the prior filibernie from back in December. It’s important to have messengers, and that’s what Sanders clearly sees himself as at this point.