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Sanders urges Obama to seek revenue from wealthy

July 7, 2011

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has submitted a letter to the White House co-signed by more than 100,000 Americans urging the president to include additional tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans and corporations in a deficit reduction deal, despite forceful Republican objections.

The White House is negotiating with Republicans in Congress on a long-term, deficit-reduction deal that Republicans have demanded before agreeing to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Sanders, an independent, said he is trying to pressure President Barack Obama into standing firm against Republican demands that trimming the deficit be done solely through budget cuts, without any additional tax revenue. He said a more balanced approach is required, including additional taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

‘I’m trying to rally public opin­ion and put pressure on the White House to say that the American people want shared sacrifice,” he said. “The White House has been yielding and in more of a compromise mode. What we are saying is that the White House has to be more tough.”

Sanders said CEO compensation has been on the rise while working people’s wages have gone down or been stagnant. And Americans in the top tax bracket are paying the lowest effective tax rate in 50 years, he said.

“It is totally immoral and bad economics to do what the Republicans want, and that is to go forward with deficit reduction on the backs of the elderly, the sick and children,” Sanders said. “What they are saying is, that’s the only way that we can go forward on deficit reduction. We do not want to ask the wealthiest people or corporations for one single penny.”

The White House says the debt ceiling must be raised by Aug. 2 or the country could default on its obligations and cause upheaval in financial markets.

Sanders’ letter asks the president to ensure that at least half of any deficit-reduction plan come from additional revenues on the wealthy and large corporations. Half is unlikely, however. So far, the White House has sought the elimination of certain tax breaks and deductions for those in the top tax bracket, not increases in the tax rate.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, maintains that the Republican-led House will not vote in favor of any additional tax revenue.

Sanders said Wednesday that he does not believe Republicans will hold firm to their insistence of no additional tax revenue because a failure to raise the debt ceiling could have severe consequences on Wall Street.

“Their friends on Wall Street are not so serious about this. They would be hit very, very hard,” Sanders said. “Wall Street has a lot of influence on the Republican Party. They make a lot of campaign contributions.”

A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, said he is “playing an active role” and working with Democratic committee members to include his ideas in a budget plan.

The letter to the president has received more than 115,000 signatures from across the country, including more than 4,000 in Vermont, according to Sanders.

“This is not just Bernie Sanders’ idea, and it’s not just a whole lot of people signing the letter to the president,” he said. “Poll after poll after poll says the majority of the American people want shared sacrifice.”

There are various ways a lone senator can stall legislation. Sanders declined to say Wednesday whether he is willing to hold up a deficit reduction plan that doesn’t meet his goals.

“We take it one day at a time,” Sanders said.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at

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