Deficit hawks just got a reality check from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The notoriously outspoken senator said Wednesday that lawmakers should be a little bit less obsessed with reducing the deficit given everything else that’s going on in the country.
“You cannot talk about how you proceed with deficit reduction, you cannot say that it is okay to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid or nutrition programs when the middle class of this country is disappearing, poverty is extremely high, while at the same time the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well,” Sanders said on the Senate floor, according to an unofficial transcript of the speech.
Republican lawmakers have insisted on making harsh spending cuts -- in many cases, cuts to safety net programs -- in order to reduce the budget deficit. President Obama’s budget proposal, which he released earlier this month, aims to trim the deficit by $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years through a combination of tax increases and and spending cuts.
Meanwhile, America is plagued with high levels of income inequality. The top 7 percent of American households were the only ones to see their mean net worth grow between 2009 and 2011, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. During that same period, the bottom 93 percent of households saw their mean net worth decline.
And budget slashing may only make the problem worse, according to the chief economist for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.
Sanders’ comments come as many are feeling the real-world effects of the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, which began taking effect earlier this year. As a result, many government agencies have had to furlough some employees. Most infamously, the Federal Aviation Administration furloughed some of its staff causing major travel delays.