Bernie Sanders on Budget & Economy
Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)
Yup, there's a summary on CommonDreams.org entitled "Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined."
The summary comes from an Institute for Policy analysis, "Billionaire Bonanza 2017," based on data recently made public by the Forbes 400 list and the Federal Reserve's annual "Survey of Consumer Finances."
The analysis asserts: "The three wealthiest people in the United States--Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett--now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 160 million people or 63 million households." So Senator Sanders is correct that the three wealthiest individual people are wealthier than the sum of half of all of America.
Well, that may be true for the members of his Mar-a-Lago country club where the price of admission has doubled to $200,000. For those folks and for the wealthiest people in our nation, Trump is right. The economy is really booming. In fact, for many of Mr. Trump's billionaire friends, they have never, ever had it so good.
But for the middle class and working families of this country, the truth is that the economy is not so great.
Despite what President Trump says, it is not "a hot economy" when 43 percent of households can't afford to pay for housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone without going into debt. That is not a hot economy.
When people are suffering and hurting [in the aftermath of 2017's Hurricane Maria], you don't continue to squeeze them. We cannot allow Puerto Rico's budget to be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable people--working families, veterans, the elderly, children and the poor. It is not only morally wrong, it is also economically unsustainable."
SANDERS: What you are seeing all over America--in my state and all over this country--is people trying to survive for 9 or 10 dollars an hour. They can't afford housing, they can't afford prescription drugs. They have no health care or they can't afford health care. They can't afford to send their kids to college. They're sick and tired of seeing the growth in income and wealth inequality. You must talk about those issues as well.
Today, just 11 percent of all public-sector workers belong to unions, and in the private sector it is now less than 7 percent. Historically, unions have enabled workers to earn good wages and work in decent conditions because of .collective bargaining. Today, millions of workers are in a "take it or leave it" situation, with no power to influence their wages or benefits.
There is no question that one of the most significant reasons for the forty-year decline of the size of the middle class is that the rights of workers to join together and bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions have been severely undermined.
The American dream of homeownership turned into a nightmare of foreclosure for millions of households, as more and more people could not afford to pay their mortgages. This was bound to happen. For years, financial predators received fat commissions form lenders for steering Americans into the riskiest subprime mortgages imaginable--no documentation, no job, no income... no problem. And then, the banks bundled those mortgages, over and over again, into almost worthless and unregulated derivatives, until the house of cards collapsed.
This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we currently experience, the worst it has been since 1928. It is not moral, not acceptable, and not sustainable that the top one-tenth of one percent now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, or that the top 1 percent in recent years has earned 85 percent of all new income. That is unacceptable. That must change.
SANDERS: Well, to put that in a context, in the last 30 years in this country there has been a massive transfer of wealth going from the hands of working families into the top 1/10 of 1% whose percentage of wealth has doubled.
Q: But, my question is how big would government be? Would there be any limit on the size of the role of government?
SANDERS: Of course there will be a limit, but when today you have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, when the middle class is disappearing, yes, in my view, the government of a democratic society has a moral responsibility to play a vital role in making sure all of our people have a decent standard of living.
Hillary CLINTON: The best analysis that I've seen based on Senator Sanders plans is that it would probably increase the size of the federal government by about 40%.
Nonetheless, two years later, he voted for a major tax and budget bill known as the fiscal cliff package, which made 98% of the Bush tax cuts permanent--a package that only eight senators opposed. It was a major compromise for Democrats, especially for Sanders, who now wants to hike tax rates to levels not seen in the last 30 years. One Democratic colleague said, "It was it a lousy deal but the only deal available."
Sanders' record of compromising doesn't make him a flip-flopper. It shows him as a pragmatist who, like most of his colleagues, compromises to pass legislation even when it may not achieve all the things he would have liked.
CLINTON: You're the one who voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives in 2000, which contributed to the over-leveraging of Lehman Brothers, which was one of the culprits that brought down the economy. I'm not saying you did it for any kind of financial advantage. What we've got to do as Democrats is to be united to solve these problems.
SANDERS: I was on the House Financial Committee at that time. I heard the arguments coming from Democrats and Republicans -- Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan -- about how great an idea it would be if we did away with Glass-Steagall and if we allowed investor banks and commercial banks and big insurance companies to merge. Go to YouTube today -- look up Greenspan -- it was the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.
SANDERS: I would say that we do need a 21st century Glass-Steagall legislation. I would tell you also that when you have three out of the four largest banks in America today, significantly bigger than when we bailed them out because they were too big to fail, I think if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, a good Republican by the way, what he would say is: Break them up; they are too powerful economically; they are too powerful politically. And that is what I believe and many economists believe. Time to break them up.
I don't have a super PAC. I don't want campaign contributions from corporate America.
And let me be clear: While there are some great corporations creating jobs and trying to do the right thing, in my view--and I say this very seriously--the greed of the billionaire class, the greed of Wall Street is destroying this economy and is destroying the lives of millions of Americans. We need an economy that works for the middle class, not just a handful of billionaires, and I will fight and lead to make that happen.
Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people. What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have.
It is immoral and wrong that the top 1/10 of 1% in this country own almost 90 percent--almost--own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57% of all new income is going to the top 1%.
But to be honest with you, given the disparity that we're seeing in income and wealth in this country, it applies even more to the African-American community and to the Hispanic community. And what we are going to do is make a major outreach effort to those communities.
SANDERS: Well, she's absolutely right. What we're seeing, is that for 40 years, the American middle class has been disappearing. Millions of people are working longer hours for lower wages despite a huge increase in technology and productivity. And what we have seen during that period is a massive transfer of trillions of dollars from the middle class to the top 1/10 of 1% of America--massive wealth and income inequality, where you have 99% of all new income today going to the top 1%.
Q: You said you had serious doubts about whether she was willing to take on the billionaire class?
SANDERS: That is the fight that we have to wage if we're to save the middle class: take on the big money interests who control so much of our economy and, as a result of Citizens United, our political process as well.
Farms, unlike businesses that can slow down or increase production, often face a stark choice: when prices drop, and loans are called in, they all too frequently must be sold. And then, suddenly, there is not enough milk, and the price of cheese and milk to consumers rises rapidly. These huge fluctuations help no one but speculators--not consumers, not dairy-based businesses, not tractor salesmen--and they particularly do not help or sustain farmers.
The best policy is to develop a system of supply management, so that dairy farmers never severely overproduce or underproduce, thereby stabilizing prices and ensuring a sufficient amount of high-quality dairy products for our country.
Q: Many believe those spending bills were a crucial part of stabilizing the economy back then. Would you support bailouts for industries that are being crushed by the Coronavirus outbreak now?
Sanders: I voted against the bailout because I believed that the illegal behavior being done by the people on Wall Street should not be rewarded by a bailout. And today, by the way, those banks are more prosperous and own more assets, by and large, than they did back then. They're bigger now than they were then. I thought at the time that in the midst of massive income and wealth inequality, the people on top [should pay for the] bail out. Joe [Biden] voted for that. I voted against it. But to answer your question where we are right now, we need to stabilize the economy, but we can't repeat what we did in 2008. Our job right now is to tell every working person in this country, "you are not going to suffer."
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. LEWIS (D, GA-5): This bipartisan bill will provide the necessary funds to keep important transportation projects operating in States around the country. The Highway Trust Fund will run out of funding by September. We must act, and we must act now.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. CAMP (R, MI-4): [This interim spending is] needed because the Democrats' economic policy has resulted in record job loss, record deficits, and none of the job creation they promised. Democrats predicted unemployment would top out at 8% if the stimulus passed; instead, it's 9.5% and rising. In Michigan, it's above 15%. The Nation's public debt and unemployment, combined, has risen by a shocking 40% [because of] literally trillions of dollars in additional spending under the Democrats' stimulus, energy, and health plans.
We had a choice when it came to the stimulus last February. We could have chosen a better policy of stimulating private-sector growth creating twice the jobs at half the price. That was the Republican plan. Instead, Democrats insisted on their government focus plan, which has produced no jobs and a mountain of debt.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. PETER WELCH (D, VT-0): Citigroup supports this bill. Why? They're a huge lender. They understand that we have to stabilize home values in order to begin the recovery, and they need a tool to accomplish it. Mortgages that have been sliced and diced into 50 different sections make it impossible even for a mortgage company and a borrower to come together to resolve the problem that they share together.
Sen. DICK DURBIN (D, IL): 8.1 million homes face foreclosure in America today. Last year, I offered this amendment to change the bankruptcy law, and the banking community said: Totally unnecessary. In fact, the estimates were of only 2 million homes in foreclosure last year. America is facing a crisis.
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Sen. JON KYL (R, AZ): This amendment would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages by lowering the principal and interest rate on the loan or extending the term of the loan. The concept in the trade is known as cram-down. It would apply to all borrowers who are 60 days or more delinquent. Many experts believe the cram-down provision would result in higher interest rates for all home mortgages. We could end up exacerbating this situation for all the people who would want to refinance or to take out loans in the future.
Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R, MN-6): Of the foundational policies of American exceptionalism, the concepts that have inspired our great Nation are the sanctity of private contracts and upholding the rule of law. This cramdown bill crassly undercuts both of these pillars of American exceptionalism. Why would a lender make a 30-year loan if they fear the powers of the Federal Government will violate the very terms of that loan?
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): This country is facing what most economists consider to be the most serious and the most dangerous economic situation in our lifetimes. This package today is an $825 billion package that does a variety of things to try to reinflate the economy:
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-51): Most of us would agree that the recent $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is an illustration of how good intentions don't always deliver desired results. When Congress spends too much too quickly, it doesn't think through the details and oversight becomes more difficult. The lesson learned from TARP was this: we cannot manage what we do not measure. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
Sen. THAD COCHRAN (R, MS): We are giving the executive branch immense latitude in the disbursement of the spending this bill contains. We are doing so without any documentation of how this spending will stimulate the economy. Normally, this kind of information would be contained in an administration budget. For items that have a short-term stimulative effect, most of us will feel comfortable debating their merits as an emergency measure. But there is a great deal of spending that is not immediately stimulative.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): Congress has tried to do a number of things that would alleviate the squeeze on the middle class. Meanwhile, this economy is sagging. Jobs, income, sales, and industrial production have all gone down. We have lost 600,000 jobs. We are trying to provide a major increase in investments to modernize our infrastructure and to provide well-paying construction jobs at the same time.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-41): Just 2 days ago we were debating an $800 billion continuing resolution. Now in addition to being asked to pay for a bailout for Wall Street, taxpayers are being asked to swallow an additional $60 billion on a laundry list of items I saw for the first time just a few hours ago. The Democratic majority is describing this legislation as a "stimulus package" to help our national economy. But let's not fool ourselves. This is a political document pure and simple. If these priorities are so important, why hasn't this bill gone through the normal legislative process? We should have debated each of the items included in this package.
It doesn't take an economist to tell you that the economy needs our help. But what does this Congress do? It proposes to spend billions more without any offsets in spending. The failure to adhere to PAYGO means that this new spending will be financed through additional borrowing, which will prove a further drag on our struggling economy.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
My amendment says we are going to take about $18 billion as a strong signal from the Congress that we want to support effective programs and we want the taxpayer dollars spent in a responsible way. My amendment doesn't take all of the $88 billion for the programs found by PART, realizing there may be points in time when another program is not meeting its goals and needs more money. So that flexibility is allowed in this particular amendment. It doesn't target any specific program. Almost worse than being rated ineffective, we have programs out there that have made absolutely no effort at all to measure their results. I believe these are the worst offenders. In the following years, I hope Congress will look at those programs to create accountability.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
The effect of this amendment will simply be to cut domestic discretionary spending $18 billion. Understand the programs that have been identified in the PART program are results not proven. Here are programs affected: Border Patrol, Coast Guard search and rescue, high-intensity drug trafficking areas, LIHEAP, rural education, child abuse prevention, and treatment. If there is a problem in those programs, they ought to be fixed. We ought not to be cutting Border Patrol, Coast Guard search and rescue, high-intensity drug trafficking areas, LIHEAP, rural education, and the rest. I urge a "no" vote.
The Christian Coalition Voter Guide inferred whether candidates agree or disagree with the statement, 'Passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution' Christian Coalition's self-description: "Christian Voter Guide is a clearing-house for traditional, pro-family voter guides. We do not create voter guides, nor do we interview or endorse candidates."
NPR summary of HR133:
Argument in opposition: Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV-2) said after voting against H.R. 133: "Congress voted to spend another $2.3 trillion [$900 billion for COVID relief], which will grow our national debt to about $29 trillion. The federal government will again have to borrow money from nations like China. This massive debt is being passed on to our children and grandchildren. With multiple vaccines on the way thanks to President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, we do not need to pile on so much additional debt. Now is the time to safely reopen our schools and our economy. HR133 was another 5593-page bill put together behind closed doors and released moments prior to the vote."
Legislative outcome: Passed House 327-85-18, Roll #250, on Dec. 21. 2020; Passed Senate 92-6-2, Roll #289, on Dec. 21; signed by President Trump on Dec 27 [after asking for an increase from $600 to $2,000 per person, which was introduced as a separate vote].
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