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In Cedar Rapids, Bernie Sanders calls $3.5 trillion budget an investment in restoring faith in democracy
Commitment to working families most since New Deal, he says
CEDAR RAPIDS — Concerned that everyday Americans don’t understand “the most consequential piece of legislation for working families that we have seen in this country since the New Deal of the 1930s,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spent Sunday afternoon in a Cedar Rapids park explaining it.
“I'm doing my best to get around, to do the best I can to explain what's in this legislation,” Sanders said just before taking the NewBo City Market Bankers Trust Stage to address a few hundred people as well as a national audience watching a livestream.
It was his third stop in U.S. House districts where former President Donald Trump increased his support in 2020. Although the live audience appeared to be on his side — its loudest cheers were when he called for “Medicare for All” — Sanders said his message was for Democrats, independents and working-class Republicans who recognize the urgency “to finally invest in the long-neglected needs of working families.”
Now chair of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, Sanders’ $3.5 trillion budget proposal, if approved by Congress, would enact many of the proposals he championed as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020. It would provide funding for health care, including in-home care and expanding Medicare to cover dental care, hearing aids and eye glasses; offer two years of tuition-free community college education, fund pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and offer up to three weeks of paid family leave.
Sanders insisted the new spending would be paid for by tax increases on billionaires “who don't pay a nickel in federal income taxes … (and) large corporations that make billions in profit, and in some years do not pay a penny in federal income taxes”
Across the street, members of Americans for Prosperity, which champions free market policies, argued that those tax increases will be felt by the very people Sanders said he’s trying to help.
“Sanders says it's only the billionaires who are going to see their taxes go up, but a lot of folks, just like you and me, are going to see our taxes increased as well,” said Rob Peters, grassroots director for the group. The so-called Green New Deal parts of Sanders’ plan also would drive up consumer energy costs “by hundreds of dollars a year.”
Proposed tax changes will impact farmers passing on land to younger generations and retirement savings will be “demolished“ by increased capital gains taxes, he said.
That made it ironic that Sanders was campaigning for his plan in her district, said 1st District U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson.
“He's coming here to rural Iowa when that budget clearly does not prioritize rural America or the biofuels industry, it doesn't stand up for the farmers who are feeding and fueling the world,” she had said at her reelection campaign kickoff Saturday.
Sanders said the lack of Republican support pains him because the investment in meeting the needs of working families is needed “to restore the faith of the American people in a democratic society.”
“We're facing massive levels of income and wealth inequality. We're facing working families and low-income families struggling in a way that they have not struggled for a very long time,” Sanders said. “What this legislation is about, to me personally, is not just improving life for millions and millions of working people. It is making people understand that government can, in fact, in a democratic society, work for working families, and not just the wealthy and the powerful.”
Millions of Americans have given up on democracy because they are working longer and harder without any real gain in their paychecks in 40 years, he said.
“They can't afford child care. They can't afford health care. They can't afford to send their kids to college. They can't afford housing,” he said. “And they look around and ask, ‘Does anybody care about me?’”
He’s hopeful that congressional opposition to his plan can be overcome. There haven’t been any Republican votes for his plan so far, and Sanders said he isn’t counting on any.
“It is just hard for me, literally, to understand how Republican colleagues, who are dads and moms and grandfathers and grandmothers, are not worried about what climate change is doing to the future of this planet, for their own kids and grandchildren,” Sander said. “I just don't get that.”
Republicans, Sanders asserted, understands they are more interested in “representing the wealthy and the powerful rather than the working families in their districts.”
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