With a blessing from President Obama and support even from some deficit-hawk Republicans, momentum is building for the ten-year deficit reduction plan announced Tuesday by the “Gang of Six” Democratic and Republican senators. “Can’t We All Just Get Along” commentators like the proposal, while headlines declare: “Bipartisan Support Builds for Gang of Six $3.7 Trillion Deficit-Reduction Plan.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is typically grumbly, and Senate Democrats are complaining that they may not have enough time to pull everything together before the August 2 debt ceiling deadline. But the cheerleading for the “Gang of Six” plan is considerable and enthusiastic.
“This is a serious, bipartisan proposal that will help stop Washington from spending money that we don’t have, and I support it,” Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander says of the proposal to reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next ten years with deep spending cuts while increasing revenues by closing tax loopholes.
“Count me in!” chirps Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, who says: “There’s a lot of support for turning the gang into a mob.”
But the one senator who has stood most steadily in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and for fiscally sound budgeting—is not joining the mob.
He is objecting. And he says the American people should join him in challenging a a plan that he says would result in devastating cuts to needed programs.
“While all of the details from the so-called Gang of Six proposals are not yet clear, what is apparent is that the plan would result in devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and many other programs that are of vital importance to working families in this country. Meanwhile, tax rates would be lowered for the wealthiest people and the largest, most profitable corporations,” says Sanders.
“This is an approach that should be rejected by the American people. At a time when the rich are becoming richer and corporate profits are soaring, at least half of any deficit-reduction package must come from upper income people and profitable corporations. We must also take a hard look at military spending, which has tripled since 1997.”
Those are the right objections and the right concerns.
Americans who are weary of the ginned up debt ceiling fight might want the easy out of a “bipartisan” fix. But Sanders is wise to warn that a failure to read the fine print on the “Gang of Six” proposal could cost working families their retirement security and access to quality care—while expanding an already wide chasm between the wealthiest few and the great mass of Americans.