Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) tore apart the new Republican budgets after they were unveiled at a Senate Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday, dismissing them as boosts to income inequality.
House Republicans and the Senate Budget Committee both proposed budgets this week, with the House budget focusing more on military spending and deeper cuts to the safety net. While the two budgets had their differences, Sanders said that both weren’t very beneficial to working-class Americans, students and elderly people.
“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, my Republican colleagues apparently believe that the richest people in this country need to be made even richer,” Sanders said. “It is apparently not good enough that 99 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent. It is not good enough that the top one-tenth of 1 percent today own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent."
While the Senate budget doesn’t propose more tax cuts for the rich, it does, according to the Huffington Post, “assume that existing breaks won't expire as currently scheduled.”
“Clearly, in the eyes of many Republicans, the wealthy and the powerful need more help,” Sanders said. “Not only should they not be asked to pay more in taxes, my Republican colleagues believe we should cut tax rates for millionaires and billionaires.
“It is not good enough that corporate America is enjoying record-breaking profits, and that the CEOs of large corporations earn some 290 times more than what their average employees earn,” he added. “It is apparently not good enough that since 1985 the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen a more than $8 trillion increase in its wealth than what they would have had if wealth inequality had stayed at the same level that it was in 1985. An $8 trillion increase in the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1 percent! But for many of my Republican colleagues, [it's] just not good enough.”
Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) defended the proposed budget, saying that the spending cuts within in it – which include $4.2 trillion from welfare and healthcare programs – are important because the country can’t sustain its $18.1 trillion debt.
“Why the urgency to act now? Right now we pay $230 billion in interest each year,” Enzi said. “The president's own numbers raise that to $780 billion a year [in 10 years]. Every dollar spent on interest and our debt is another dollar we won't be able to use for government services, for individuals in need, or another dollar that won't be available for taxpayers for their own need. We have to act now, while we still have some choices.”
Sanders and fellow Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) criticized the budget for doing nothing except cut spending.
“Growing the economy is the answer, but a one-sided response to say we're only going to grow the economy by cutting taxes -- number one, I don't think there's evidence to validate that, and number two, it ignores the power of appropriate investments in infrastructure, education... those things that actually do grow the economy,” King said.