With Petition In Hand, Sanders Pushes For Tax On Wealthy

07/05/11 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders is leading an effort among Senate Democrats to raise taxes on the wealthy as part of a deficit-reduction plan.

Sanders argues that the final package should be a balance between budgets cuts and new revenue.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When President Obama meets with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus on Wednesday, he'll receive a petition signed by more than 100,000 people urging him to support an income tax surcharge on wealthy people. The petition signatures were gathered at the website of Senator Bernie Sanders and roughly 4,000 Vermonters signed the petition.

The President has called on Republican leaders to close tax loopholes for large oil and gas companies, as part of the deficit reduction plan, but he's resisted efforts to include higher income taxes on wealthy people in that package.

Sanders says a number of polls strongly indicate that there's little support for a Republican plan to reduce the deficit by relying solely on additional budget cuts:

(Sanders) "I think the overwhelming majority of people think that is just not fair that what we need to do is go forward with shared sacrifice people on top large corporations also have to contribute to deficit reduction."

(Kinzel) And Sanders says he'll be disappointed if the President agrees to a deal with the Republicans that doesn't include higher taxes for people who make more than a million dollars a year:

(Sanders) "My view is the President has got to stand with the overwhelming majority of our people and say to the Republicans ‘Sorry your program ain't going to work it's not going to fly we're not going to agree to it."

(Kinzel) Bill Grover is a political science professor at St, Michael's College.  He thinks Sanders is in a good position to push this issue:

(Grover) "People in Vermont know that this is an issue he cares about deeply so I think he can often take a lead. He's not going to be a Democratic Party leader, of course, but he can certainly take the lead in a way that some other Democrats probably cannot do."

(Kinzel) And Grover says Sanders is also trying to expand the scope of the budget deficit debate in Washington:

(Grover) "Now the fact that you can't even really mention tax increases without being vilified is a real testament to how debased if you will our political discourse has become and Bernie is trying to keep people's feet to the fire on that."

(Kinzel) If Congress doesn't vote to increase the nation's debt ceiling by August 2nd, the country might have to default on some of its financial obligations.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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bernie_sanders economy budget business politics
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