Bush budget should reflect middle-class needs
January 30, 2007
In early February, the president has a historic opportunity to submit a federal budget to a Democratic-controlled Congress that will expand the middle class, reduce the enormous gap between the rich and the poor and lower the poverty rate. But don't hold your breath.
The president's misguided pledge to make all of his tax cuts permanent -- including hundreds of billions to the wealthiest people in our country -- while balancing the budget within five years is not an encouraging sign.
By ramming through massive tax giveaways to millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations, President Bush and the Republican Congress were responsible for racking-up the three largest deficits in U.S. history and accumulating a record-breaking $8.6 trillion national debt.
And now, with the Democrats in control of Congress, the president has suddenly gotten deficit-reduction religion while continuing his failed trickle-down economic policies.
If the President succeeds, his plan will inevitably lead to massive cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid, education, veterans' benefits and the environment.
This is not the vision of America that voters had in mind when they put Democrats in charge of Congress last November.
At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water, the last thing we need to do is to make the president's tax cuts for the wealthy permanent.
What is needed in Washington instead is the political courage to roll back the president's tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent and stand up for the middle class and working poor.
The president still mistakenly believes the economy is booming as a result of his tax breaks. What he fails to note is that since he has been in office, 5.4 million middle-class Americans have slipped into poverty, 6.8 million Americans have lost their health insurance, median income for working-age families has declined for five consecutive years and 3 million manufacturing workers have lost their jobs.
At the same time, the costs of education, prescription drugs, energy and housing have risen dramatically.
Meanwhile, the wealthy have never had it so good. The richest 13,000 households earn nearly as much income as the bottom 20 million, and the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
Which side are we on? The side of that top 1 percent or the side of middle-class and working families?
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, the choice is clear to me.
I will not be voting for more tax breaks for the outgoing CEO of Home Depot, who recently received a $210 million golden parachute. Rather, I will be voting to substantially increase financial aid for low-income and middle-class families so that every American, regardless of income, can receive a college education.
I will not support a tax cut for the former CEO of Pfizer, who received a $200 million compensation package. Instead, I will vote to substantially increase funding for childcare so that working families can find affordable and quality care for their children.
I don't think that the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, who managed to get a $400 million retirement package, needs more tax relief. In my view, it is far more important that we keep our promises to the veterans of this country who now find themselves on waiting lists to get the health care they need.
Congress must develop the courage to stand up to the big money interests and roll back the tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent, eliminate corporate welfare and address the long-neglected needs of the working people of this country.
We should do no less.
Bernie Sanders is a U.S. Senator from Vermont. He can be reached at email@example.com.