WASHINGTON -- Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been driven to sarcasm as Congress and the White House continue to move forward with plans to cut Social Security, Medicare and other social programs in the name of deficit reduction. In a statement entitled "Congratulations Coburn, Crapo and Chambliss," Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, offered false praise to the Republican members of the so-called "Gang of Six" for winning in a "major victory" in debt negotiations with the White House.
Coming at a crucial time in debt reduction negotiations between President Obama and GOP congressional leadership, Sanders' comments reflect growing frustration among some members of Congress with what they view as too much willingness on the part of the White House to compromise with Republicans on key progressive issues.
Sanders congratulated the GOP members of the Gang of Six on their "very significant victory in negotiating a deficit-reduction plan which achieves their long-term goal of dismantling every major social program relevant to working families."
Sanders slammed a specific aspect of the Social Security reform proposal put forth by the Gang of Six which would alter the formula used to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for seniors. Sanders said that in 10 years the new plan would mean a $560 cut in annual benefits for the average 75-year-old. He went on the criticize aspects of the same plan for cutting Medicare "by $298 billion over 10 years" and making "massive cuts" to Medicaid.
Much of Sanders' and the Democrats' ire over the budget-cutting plan revolves around policies progressives see as potentially damaging to lower and middle-class Americans still struggling with unemployment and the effects of the Recession.
In his statement, Sanders warned specifically of the danger higher taxes on the middle class could pose, saying, "there is reason to expect that some of the areas that the House and Senate will be looking at include the home mortgage deduction for middle-class families, taxes on health care benefits, and increased taxes on retirement programs such as 401(k)s and IRAs."
Appearing Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," Sanders reiterated his criticism of the plan's revenue raising provisions saying, "in terms of revenue, it is very very vague as to where this revenue is going to come from."
A self-titled Democratic Socialist, Sanders has advocated for deficit reduction through spending cuts equivalent with revenue increases. Republicans and some Democrats have sought to negotiate roughly three times as much in cuts as in revenue increases.
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