The following remarks, as prepared for delivery, were delivered by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, as the Senate began consideration of the resolution of the 2022 budget and reconciliation instructions:
Let me begin by thanking President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer for their leadership in the arduous process that has brought us to where we are today.
Mr. Speaker: I understand that many of my Republican colleagues are a little in shock now. They find it hard to believe that the president and the Democratic caucus are ready to move forward on meeting the long-neglected needs of working families, and not just the 1% and wealthy campaign contributors. This is not how things usually happen here. Usually, big money interests and lobbyists set the tone. But not today. Today we are moving the country forward in a different direction.
Mr.President: The American people are fed up with the growing inequality of income and wealth in our country where two people have more wealth than the poorest 40%, where the 1% have more wealth than the 92 % poorest and where 45% of all new income has risen to the first percent since 2009. Meanwhile, as the very rich have gotten much richer, the blatant injustice of our current tax system has allowed the in any given year, some of the world’s richest and biggest and most profitable companies not pay for not paying a dime in federal income tax.
Well, that’s about to change. The American people want a government that represents all of us, not just a few. This bill will ask the rich and powerful to start paying their fair share of taxes so that we can meet the needs of working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor. And, despite what Republicans may say, no one in America who earns less than $ 400,000 a year will get a dime more in federal taxes. In fact, we are looking at a historic tax cut for working families and the middle class.
Plus, at a time when California and Oregon are on fire, Greece is on fire, and countries around the world are experiencing unprecedented drought, this legislation kicks off the process of tackling climate change so that our children and our grandchildren can live in a healthy and habitable country and planet. It would be immoral and an absolute breach of our responsibilities as senators to do less. We can no longer ignore climate change. Now is the time for our great country to pull the world out of this existential crisis.
And, by the way, as we meet the needs of working families and fight climate change, we will create millions of well-paying jobs, many of which are union jobs.
Let me describe very briefly some elements of this budget proposal.
First, we will finally address the shame of the United States which has the highest child poverty rate of almost any major country on the planet. We will deliver the long-awaited help that working parents across the country desperately need, and when we do, we will dramatically reduce child poverty in this country. We will do this by extending the child tax credit so that families continue to receive monthly direct payments of up to $ 300 per child. We started this process in the American bailout. It has been a huge success and has already helped reduce child poverty in our country by 61%.
In addition, we will tackle the child care crisis by ensuring that no working family pays more than 7% of their income for this basic need. Making child care more accessible and affordable will also strengthen our economy by enabling more than one million women to join the workforce.
And we will develop public education by offering a universal preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds.
We will end the international disgrace that the United States is the only major country in the world that does not guarantee the right to paid family and medical leave.
We will begin to address the crisis in higher education by making community colleges in the United States free.
We will fight pharmaceutical industry greed and save taxpayers hundreds of billions by requiring Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry.
And we’ll use those savings to expand Medicare by covering the dental care, hearing aids and glasses that the elderly desperately need. We will also significantly increase the number of doctors, nurses and dentists practicing in underserved areas and expand the community health center program to new areas.
We will tackle homelessness in the United States and address the reality that nearly 18 million households pay more than 50% of their income for housing through an unprecedented investment in affordable housing.
We will ensure that people in an aging society can receive the health care they need at home rather than in expensive and inadequate nursing homes and that the workers providing that care do not have to live with it. poverty wages.
We will bring undocumented migrants out of the shadows and provide them with a path to citizenship, including those who have courageously kept our economy running amid a deadly pandemic.
We will confront the existential threat of climate change by transforming our energy systems towards renewable energies and energy efficiency. Among many other arrangements, a Civilian Climate Corps will provide hundreds of thousands of young people with well-paying jobs and educational benefits as they get down to work to save our planet.
We will make it easier, not harder, for workers to join unions in America.
My Republican colleagues are unhappy that we are using the reconciliation process, and only 50 votes, to pass this budget. But let’s be clear: this is not a new idea. When Republicans controlled the Senate, they used reconciliation to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest 1% and big business.
When Republicans controlled the Senate, they used reconciliation to worsen climate change by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
When Republicans controlled the Senate, they tried to use reconciliation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and deprive 32 million Americans of the health care they had.
Today we will use reconciliation as well, but we will use it much differently from Republicans.
We will use it for the benefit of the working class, not the billionaire class.
Mr. Speaker: It is no secret that millions of Americans are abandoning democracy and losing faith in their government. Many of these people work longer hours for lower wages and see their children living a lower standard of living than they had.
This legislation will not only give tremendous support to the children of this country, the parents of this country, the elderly in this country, but it will also, I hope, restore the belief that in America we can have a government that works for everyone, not just a few.