What oh what would we Progressives do without Bernie Sanders? In today's Los Angeles Times, he wrote an op-ed laying out in very clear detail how to make wise choices about how to fix the economy.
Sanders, thankfully, is a member of a budget panel composed of Democratic, Republican and independent Senate and House members doing what they can, supposedly, to avoid another GOP government shutdown.
Senator Sanders explains how to move forward (as opposed to the same old backward, destructive GOP ideas), and how we managed to go from healthy surpluses to (unnecessary) deficits.
He reminds us that by the end of President Clinton's presidency, we had a a $236-billion surplus, and that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted a 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, meaning we could have erased the national debt by 2011.
Too bad Republicans screwed that up.
And of course, they're blaming President Obama for the horrible outcomes of their horrible policies and horrible obstruction. Here's how it really went down:
- GW Bush's Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not paid for.
- Those wars cost us up to $6 trillion.
- Those wars were put on our national credit card.
- Bush signed Congress's costly prescription drug bill.
- That costly prescription drug program was not paid for either.
- Bush and Congress gave big fat tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations.
- As a result, revenue went down.
- The 2008 recession, caused by the deregulation of Wall Street, also caused revenue to drop.
- Big fat surpluses turned into big fat deficits.
Interestingly, today's "deficit hawks" in Congress — Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and other conservative Republicans — voted for those measures that drove up deficits. Now that they're worried about deficits again, they want to dismantle virtually every social program designed to protect working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor.
In other words, it's OK to spend trillions on a war we should never have waged in Iraq and to provide huge tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations.
Sanders goes on to say that austerity doesn't work, because it clearly hurts those who are already suffering.
At a time when we now spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we can make judicious cuts in our armed forces without compromising our military capability.
He also thinks it would be a swell idea if Congress members started, you know, listening to the American people, especially because so many polls show that we don't want cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, according to a recent National Journal poll, 81% do not want to cut Medicare at all, 76% do not want to cut Social Security at all, and 60% do not want to cut Medicaid at all. Other polls make it clear that Americans believe that the wealthiest among us and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.
So, Republicans (and even some Dems), how about paying more attention to us, the voters, instead of trying to grab it all for yourselves? It's not about you. It's about all of us. It's about We the People.