WASHINGTON -- Clearly displeased with the initial deficit-reduction recommendations offered by the fiscal commission chairmen, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced on Friday that he will craft and introduce his own proposals as an alternative.
The Vermont Independent said that he will work with members of Congress, labor unions, seniors' organizations and others to develop alternative suggestions. And while he didn't get into the weeds, he did offer a few general areas that he hopes to target, including ending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, chopping off Cold War-era Pentagon programs and eliminating of tax credits for big oil companies.
Of the ideas pushed by the commission co-chairmen -- former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff -- Sanders offered the following:
"It is no surprise that these two favor draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the needs of our veterans, and education while proposing tax reductions for the wealthy and large profitable corporations... Simpson is a darling of the Republican right wing and Bowles is a former investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street. Their plan was floated amid reports that the two were struggling to cobble together enough support on their own commission to go forward by a Dec. 1 deadline."
The likelihood that a progressive alternative for deficit reduction would get a vote in the Senate, let alone a hearing, is slimmer than the chances of Simpson and Bowles' recommendations making it to the floor unscathed. But Sander's effort isn't necessarily about getting a vote. Rather, there is, currently, one blueprint being offered for the task of deficit reduction and it's largely anathema to the progressive community. Having a second proposal out there serves the purpose of giving the negotiations a bit of bearing.
"We all know that there are a number of fair and progressive ways to address the deficit crisis that would not harm the middle class and those who have already lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college," Sanders writes, in a letter to those he's inviting for discussions. "The time has come to put these proposals into a package so that the progressive view becomes a part of the national discussion."