In a blog post for The Nation online, journalist John Nichols details the positions of Democrats who object to the compromise reached by the political establishment in Washington, DC, just prior to the August 2 debt ceiling default deadline.
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving Independent in Congress, and also the author of the Nation Books title The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class, is one of those outraged by the deal. He says that it is "not only grossly unfair, it is bad economic policy."
[It] is very clear that there will be devastating cuts to education, infrastructure, Head Start and child care, LIHEAP, community health centers, environmental protection, affordable housing and many, many other programs," explained the senator. "I am also concerned that when we hear that 'everything is on the table' in terms of what this super committee deals with it will certainly include devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' needs, while protecting the interests of the wealthy and large corporations."
Sanders is particularly concerned by the lack of clarity with regard to how more than $2.4 trillion in cuts will be made and how the deal will be implemented. "This two-part deficit-reduction legislation is complicated, and it is impossible to predict exactly which programs will be cut and by how much because the process requires action by appropriation committees and a new super committee in months to come," says Sanders.
The Speech tackles similar criticisms of President Obama's shocking backroom deal with Congressional Republicans to preserve Bush-era tax cuts. On December 10, 2010, Sanders walked on to the floor of the United States Senate and spoke for more than eight and a half hours. His speech hit a nerve. Millions watched it online until the traffic crashed the Senate server. A huge, positive grassroots response tied up the phones in the senator's offices in Vermont and Washington. In the speech, Sanders blasted the agreement that President Obama struck with Republicans, which extended the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, lowered estate tax rates for the very, very rich, and set a terrible precedent by establishing a "payroll tax holiday" diverting revenue away from the Social Security Trust Fund, and threatening the fund's very future.
But the speech was more than a critique of a particular piece of legislation. It was a dissection of the collapse of the American middle class and a well-researched attack on corporate greed and on public policy which, over the last several decades, has led to a huge growth in millionaires even as the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. It was a plea for a fundamental change in national priorities, for government policy that reflects the needs of working families, and not just the wealthy and their lobbyists. It is published in the book in its entirety with a new introduction by the senator.
Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi has said, "Bernie Sanders is such a rarity, and people should appreciate what he’s doing not just for his home state of Vermont, but for the reputation of all politicians in general."