U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, held a news conference today to discuss the impact of federal budget cuts on Vermont.
Sanders was joined by Steve Geller, executive director of Southeastern Vermont Community Action, and Marianne Miller, Head Start director at Central Vermont Community Action Council. They spoke about the impact of across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in on March 1 and will total more than $1 trillion over the next decade, including $85 billion by this Sept. 30.
"We're very concerned about the impact of these cuts on the people we serve," Geller said. As many as 4,400 families could be affected by cuts in rental assistance, crisis fuel aid and other emergency assistance programs that help keep families in their homes, he said. As many as 170 children out of the 1,500 enrolled in Head Start in Vermont may be affected by budget cuts, Miller added.
Known as sequestration, the cuts could continue for a decade unless Congress agrees on a new budget. "At a time when middle-class families in Vermont and across the country are disappearing, unemployment is sky-high and millions of families are struggling economically, we cannot simply cut, cut and cut," Sanders said.
The Senate Budget Committee this week is considering a budget blueprint that Sanders said should create jobs, lower the deficit and protect working families. The committee bill is expected to be debated next week by the full Senate.
To bring down deficits, Sanders called for closing tax loopholes that let profitable corporations and wealthy individuals shelter income in offshore tax havens. "We have got to eliminate loopholes in the tax code that allow large corporations and the wealthy to avoid more than $100 billion in taxes every year by setting up offshore tax shelters in places like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas," Sanders said.
The Wall Street Journal today said its own analysis of 60 big U.S. companies found that they parked $166 billion offshore last year. A separate Bloomberg analysis published Friday said the largest U.S.-based companies expanded their untaxed offshore stockpiles by $183 billion, a 14.4 percent jump in the past year.
Sanders noted that corporate profits today are at an all-time high while corporate income tax revenue as a share of the overall economy is near a record low. "At a time when we have a $16.6 trillion national debt; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high, it is past time for corporate America to contribute significantly to deficit reduction," Sanders said.