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Sen. Sanders Rages: ‘Social Security Has Nothing to Do With Deficit Reduction’

Posted on Nov 17, 2012

At a mid-November meeting of the Defending Social Security Caucus, the Vermont independent issued a fiery warning against cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to President Obama, congressional Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats.

Here’s an edited version of the transcript. Italics have been added.

We are here today on a very serious piece of business, and that is we’re gonna send a loud message to the leadership in the House, the Senate and President Obama: Do not cut Social Security, do not cut Medicare, do not cut Medicaid, do not cut. … Deficit reduction is a serious issue but it must be done in a way that is fair. We must not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children or the poor.

Now in terms of Social Security … Social Security has nothing to do with deficit reduction, because Social Security has not contributed a nickel to the deficit because as we all know, and the American people know, it is independently funded by the payroll tax.

Furthermore, despite what you may see on TV, Social Security today has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay out 100 percent of benefits for the next 21 years. So our job is to make Social Security strong for 75 years without cutting benefits. There are ways to do that by, among other ways, lifting the cap on taxable incomes.


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And on the issue of Social Security and the deficit, I am very delighted to tell you that Majority Leader Harry Reid the other day made it very clear: Don’t mess with Social Security, says Reid. It has nothing to do with the deficit. Furthermore … I do not often quote Ronald Reagan. That’s true. But this is what Ronald Reagan said on October 7, 1984. Ronald Reagan: ‘Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the payroll tax, levied on employer and employee. If you reduce the outflow of Social Security, that money would not go into the general fund to reduce the deficit.’ End of quote by Ronald Reagan, which goes to show you that anybody could be right at least once in their lifetime.

Furthermore, and this is an important point to note, especially if you spend a lot of time here on Capitol Hill, where we’re surrounded by big money interests and lobbyists and all these other guys. The point of view that we have, that Social Security must be protected, that we do deficit reduction in a way that is fair, is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Give you one example: There was a poll, just came out yesterday, by Peter Hart Research Associates, and organized by the AFL-CIO. And it showed, this poll published yesterday, that by 64 to 17 percent, voters want to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits and address the deficit by increasing taxes on the wealthy rather than cutting entitlements. Sixty-four to 17.

And here’s the bottom line: The bottom line is, as all of you know, this deficit was caused by two wars that were unpaid for, caused by tax breaks to billionaires, caused by the Medicare part D program written by the insurance companies and by the lack of revenue coming into the federal government because of this Wall Street caused recession. And I will be damned, if at a time when we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, when you have the top 1 percent owning 42 percent of the wealth, bottom 60 percent owning 2.3 percent of the wealth, you do not balance the budget on the backs of the bottom 60 percent.

So we are gonna demand—and that’s what this election is about. You know what? Every now and then elections have consequences. We won. And we expect that Congress will follow what the American people made very clear and that we are not gonna continue huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. We’re gonna end corporate loopholes. One-fourth of profitable corporations don’t pay a nickel in taxes. We’re losing a hundred billion a year by the rich and large corporations stashing their money on the Cayman Islands. And we can take a look at defense spending and other programs.

So what the American people are saying is wait a minute, we are in the middle of a horrible recession. A lot of people out there are hurting. We’re not gonna throw children off of Medicaid. We’re not gonna tell disabled veterans that we’re cutting their benefits. We are gonna ask for justice, and justice is that those people who have done phenomenally well in recent years, top 2 percent, are gonna start paying their fair share of taxes.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Senator Sanders:

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