Bernie Sanders on Budget & Economy
Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)
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%.
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.
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.
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