(Senate - July 20, 2011)

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[Pages S4693-S4695]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           GANG OF 6 PROPOSAL

  Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, if there was ever a time in the modern 
history of America for the American people to become engaged in what is 
going on here in Washington, now is that time. Decisions are being made 
as we speak which will impact not only our generation but the lives of 
our children and our grandchildren for decades to come. I fear very 
much that the decisions being contemplated are not good decisions, are 
not fair decisions.
  Right now, there is a lot of discussion about two things: No. 1, the 
importance of the United States not defaulting for the first time in 
our history on our debts--I think there is increased

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understanding that would be a disaster for the American economy, that 
would be a disaster for the world's economy, and we should not do 
that--but, secondly, there is increased discussion now on long-term 
deficit reduction, how we address the crisis we face today of a record-
breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and a $14 trillion-plus national 
debt--a debt, by the way, that was caused by two unpaid-for wars, huge 
tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country, a Medicare Part D 
prescription drug program written by the insurance companies, and the 
lack of revenues coming in because of a recession caused by the greed 
and recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street.
  Be that as it may, regardless of how we got to where we are right 
now, there are efforts to develop long-term deficit reduction plans. 
One of them has to do with a so-called Gang of 6. While we do not know 
all of the details of that proposal--in fact, we never will because a 
lot of that proposal boots the issue to committees, such as the Finance 
Committee, that have to work out the details, and no one can know what 
those details will be at this time--I think it is fair to say that 
Senator Coburn, Senator Crapo, and Senator Chambliss deserve a word of 
congratulations. Clearly, they have won this debate in a very 
significant way. My guess is they will probably get 80 or 90 percent of 
what they wanted, and in this town that is quite an achievement. They 
have stood firm in their desire to represent the wealthy and the 
powerful and multinational corporations. They have threatened. They 
have been very smart in a number of ways. They have been determined. 
And at the end of the day, they will get 80 or 90 percent of what they 
  That is their victory, and I congratulate them on their victory. 
Unfortunately, their victory will be a disaster for working families in 
this country, for the elderly, for the sick, for the children, and for 
low-income people.
  I did want to mention, based on the limited information we have--and 
as I get more information, I will be on the floor more often, but I 
think it is important to at least highlight some of what is in this so-
called Gang of 6 that the corporate media, among others, is enthralled 
  Some may remember that for a number of years leading Democrats said: 
We will do everything we can to protect Social Security, that Social 
Security has been an extraordinary success in our country, that for 75 
years, with such volatility in the economy, Social Security has paid 
out every nickel owed to every eligible American.
  I have heard Democrats say Social Security has nothing to do with the 
deficit. And that is right because Social Security is funded by the 
payroll tax, not by the U.S. Treasury. Social Security has a $2.6 
trillion surplus today and can pay out every benefit owed to every 
eligible American for the next 25 years. An enormously popular program, 
poll after poll from the American people says: Do not cut Social 
  Two-and-a-half years ago, when Barack Obama--then Senator from 
Illinois--ran for President of the United States, he made it very 
clear, if you voted for him, no cuts in Social Security. Yet what 
Senators Coburn, Crapo, and Chambliss have managed to do in the Gang of 
6 is reach an agreement where there will be major cuts in Social 
  Do not let anybody kid you about this being some minor thing. It is 
not. What we are talking about is that under this so-called Gang of 6 
proposal, Social Security cuts would go into effect by the year 2012--
virtually immediately. What that means is that 10 years from now, the 
typical 75-year-old person will see their Social Security benefits cut 
by $560 a year, and the average 85-year-old will see a cut of $1,000 a 
  For some people here in Washington--maybe the big lobbyists who make 
hundreds of thousands of dollars a year--$560 a year or $1,000 a year 
may not seem like a lot of money. But if you are a senior trying to get 
by on $14,000, $15,000, $18,000 a year, and you are 85 years old--the 
end of your life, you are totally vulnerable, you are sick--a $1,000-a-
year cut in what you otherwise would have received is a major blow.
  So I congratulate Senator Coburn, Senator Crapo, and Senator 
Chambliss for doing what President Obama said would not happen under 
his watch, what the Democrats have said would not happen under their 
watch: major cuts in Social Security.
  But it is not just Social Security. We have 50 million Americans 
today who have no health insurance at all. Under the Gang of 6 
proposal, there will be cuts in Medicare over a 10-year period of 
almost $300 billion. There will be massive cuts in Medicaid and other 
health care programs.
  There will be caps on spending, which means there will be major cuts 
in education. If you are a working-class family, hoping you are going 
to be able to send your kid to college, and that you will be eligible 
for a Pell grant, think twice about that because that Pell grant may 
not be there.
  If you are a senior who relies on a nutrition program, that nutrition 
program may not be there. If you think it is a good idea that we 
enforce clean air and clean water provisions so our kids can be 
healthy, those provisions may not be there because there will be major 
cuts in environmental protection.
  I have heard some people say: Well, all that is not so good, but at 
least finally our Republican friends are saying we need revenue and we 
are going to raise $1 trillion in revenue.
  Well, Mr. President, let me ask you this. If you read the outline of 
the Gang of 6 proposal, which is admittedly vague--I think they would 
acknowledge that; they do not have all of the details--there are very 
clear provisions making sure we are going to make massive cuts in 
programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. Those 
cuts are written in black and white.
  What about the revenue? Well, it is kind of vague--kind of vague. The 
projection is that maybe we will raise over a 10-year period $1 
trillion in revenue. Where is that coming from? Is it necessarily going 
to come from the wealthiest people in this country? Is it going to come 
from large corporations that are enjoying huge tax breaks? That is not 
clear at all.
  What happens if we do not reach that revenue of $1 trillion? What 
mechanism is in place to say it happens? That mechanism, in fact, does 
not exist. What we do know--and, in fairness, I think the authors of 
this proposal would acknowledge not all the details are out there, but 
certainly I want middle-class families to understand when we talk about 
increased revenues, do you know where that may come from? It may come 
from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is 
so very important to millions and millions of families. It may mean if 
you have a health care program today, that health care program may be 
taxed. That is a way to raise revenue. It may be that there will be 
increased taxes on your retirement programs, your IRAs, your 401(k)s. 
But we do not have the details for that. All we have is some kind of 
vague promise that we are going to raise $1 trillion over the next 10 
years. There is no enforcement mechanism and no clarity as to where 
that revenue will come from.
  So I think it is terribly important that the American people become 
engaged in this debate, which will have a huge impact not only on them, 
but on their parents and on their children. I believe very strongly 
what the American people must fight for is not a big deal or a small 
deal but a fair deal.
  At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing 
phenomenally well--their effective tax rate is the lowest on record--at 
a time when the top 400 individuals in this country own more wealth 
than 150 million Americans, at a time when corporate profits are 
soaring, and in many instances these same corporations pay nothing in 
taxes, at a time when we have tripled military spending since 1997, 
there are fair ways to move toward deficit reduction which do not slash 
programs that working families and children and the elderly desperately 
depend upon.
  I believe the issue we are dealing with is of enormous consequence. 
It is clear our Republican friends have succeeded, and I congratulate 
them on getting 80, 90 percent of what they wanted.
  I want people to think back 3 years ago--just 3 years ago--to think 
that there would be a serious proposal on the floor of the Senate with 
all of these

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devastating cuts. I think very few people would have thought that 
possible. So I congratulate my Republican colleagues for their apparent 
victory. But this Senator is going to fight back. I was not elected to 
the Senate to make devastating cuts in Social Security, in Medicare, in 
Medicaid, in children's programs, while I lower tax rates for the 
wealthiest people in this country. That is not what I was elected to 
do, and I do not intend to do that.
  So I hope the American people get engaged in this issue, stand, and 
demand that the Congress pass a fair and responsible deficit reduction 
program, not what we are talking about today.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.