What Caused Our National Debt? Bernie Sanders on Finance, Deficit Proposal (2011)


The Film Archives

Published on Feb 27, 2016

A cornerstone of Sanders’s campaign is to fight the increasing wealth inequality in the United States. In April 2015, the Associated Press wrote: What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels. This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.

In July 2015 Sanders introduced legislation that would incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2020.

Sanders supports repeal of some of the tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations, and would raise taxes on capital gains and the wealthiest one percent of Americans. He would use some of the added revenues to lower the taxes of the middle and lower classes. Sanders has suggested that he would be open to a 90% top marginal tax rate (a rate that last existed during the years after World War II) for the wealthiest earners, and has proposed a top marginal rate of 65% for the federal estate tax, up from the current 40% rate.

On May 6, 2015, Sanders introduced legislation to break up “too big to fail” financial institutions. With three of the four banks that were bailed out during the 2007–08 Global Financial Crisis now larger than they were then, Sanders believes that “no single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.” As a representative from Vermont, Sanders opposed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, signed into law in 1999 by then president Bill Clinton, which repealed the provision of the Glass–Steagall Act that prevents any financial institution from acting as both a securities firm and a commercial bank. Sanders supports legislation sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to re-instate Glass–Steagall.

Sanders is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which he has called “a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China.” He believes that free trade agreements have led to a loss of American jobs and have depressed American wages. Sanders has said that America needs to rebuild its own manufacturing base by using American factories and supporting well-paying jobs for American labor rather than outsourcing to China and other countries.

Saying “America once led the world in building and maintaining a nationwide network of safe and reliable bridges and roads. Today, nearly a quarter of the nation’s 600,000 bridges have been designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete…Almost one-third of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition…,” Sanders has introduced amendments to Senate bills (S.Amendt.323) that promote the creation of millions of middle-class jobs by investing in infrastructure, paid for by closing loopholes in the corporate and international tax system. He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a union. Sanders’ campaign website also has focused on the concerns of both the long-term unemployed and the underemployed, citing that “the real unemployment rate is much higher than the “official” figure typically reported in the newspapers. When you include workers who have given up looking for jobs, or those who are working part-time when they want to work full-time, the real number is much higher than official figures would suggest.”

Sanders has said that there is a very important role for free enterprise and economic growth, especially for small business and entrepreneurs, but that the competitive landscape in the United States has become unfair, favoring large corporations. He has also said that economic growth needs to serve people and that growth for the sake enriching the top 1% does not serve the country’s interests. He has said that he would accept a reduction in economic growth in order to increase fairness and reduce economic inequality.

Sanders supports the establishment of worker-owned cooperatives and introduced legislation in June 2014 that would aid workers who wanted to “form their own businesses or to set up worker-owned cooperatives.” As early as 1976, Sanders was a proponent of workplace democracy, saying, “I believe that, in the long run, major industries in this state and nation should be publicly owned and controlled by the workers themselves.”

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