Bernie Sanders’ progressive deficit-reduction plan

Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on Friday, November 12 that he will work with members of Congress, labor unions, seniors’ organizations, economists and others to develop progressive alternatives to proposals first floated on Wednesday, November 10 by Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, leaders of President Obama’s deficit commission.

We all know that there are a number of fair ways to reduce deficits without harming the middle class and those who have already lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college.  The time has come to put these proposals into a package so that a fair and progressive deficit reduction plan will become part of the national discussion,” he said.

The Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan is extremely disappointing and something that should be vigorously opposed by the American people. The huge increase in the national debt in recent years was caused by two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry, and the Wall Street bailout.  Unlike Social Security, none of these proposals were paid for. Not only has Social Security not contributed a dime to the deficit, it has a $2.6 trillion surplus.

It is reprehensible to ask working people, including many who do physically-demanding labor, to work until they are 69 years of age. It also is totally impractical. As they compete for jobs with 25-year-olds, many older workers will go unemployed and have virtually no income. Frankly, there will not be too much demand within the construction industry for 69-year-old bricklayers.

Despite all of the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security can pay every nickel owed to every eligible American for the next 29 years and after that about 80 percent of benefits.

If we are serious about making Social Security strong and solvent for the next 75 years, President Obama has the right solution.  On October 14, 2010, he restated a long-held position that the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes, now at $106,800, should be raised.  As the president has long stated, it is absurd that billionaires pay the same amount into the system as someone who earns $106,800.

Senator Sanders made the following preliminary suggestions:


Military Spending One way to cut the $13.7 trillion national debt, Sanders said, would be for the Department of Defense to drop outdated and expensive Cold War-era programs and refocus on modern-day enemies. “Our military posture should be fighting international terrorism and al Qaeda,” he said.  Citing other ways to save, Sanders mentioned Government Accountability Office studies he commissioned that found billions of dollars are wasted every year on unneeded spare parts.

Taxes Another way to reduce red ink, according to Sanders, is to stop giving expensive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans whose incomes have soared while the buying power of middle-class workers has shrunk. Sanders favors renewing tax cuts for the middle class, but he said the White House should not bargain away $700 billion in tax breaks for the richest Americans for a decade.