Yesterday, as a member of the Financial Services Committee, Congressman Bernie
Sanders heard testimony from Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and from
HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. The hearing primarily focused on the Bush Administration's
proposal to slash federal investments in our nation's towns, cities, and states
-which is not surprising from an Administration that is attempting to dismantle
almost every federal program for low and moderate income Americans.
What Congressman Sanders did find surprising was the Orwellian nature of the
testimony from Secretary Gutierrez and the shameless degree to which the Bush
Administration is prepared to turn truth on its head. In his prepared opening
remarks, Secretary Gutierrez stated that America is experiencing "tremendous
economic prosperity." Really? What America is Secretary Gutierrez living
Has the Secretary visited with any of the 21.9% of children in America who
are living in poverty? Or did he mix us up with Denmark where virtually 100%
of children live poverty-free lives.
Has the Secretary visited with any of the 4 million Americans that have entered
the poverty ranks since President Bush was first elected, or is he only attending
cocktail parties at country clubs with the rich and famous?
Has the Secretary visited with any of the 5 million Americans who have lost
their health insurance since President Bush was first elected?
Has the Secretary ever met any of the 3.5 million Americans who will experience
homelessness this year including 1.35 million children and 500,000 veterans?
If Secretary Gutierrez spent his time with these struggling Americans, he might
change his tune. In their America, they are certainly not experiencing tremendous
Given the brazen lies and distortions offered by the Bush Administration, Bernie
believes that it is important to take on their basic assertions and not let
them use language to help shape the debate in their favor. One can argue for
or against the privatization of Social Security, but Social Security is not
in crisis and is not going bankrupt. One can argue the plusses and minuses of
free trade, but free trade has not been a net creator of new jobs in this country--quite
the contrary. One can have a serious debate about the strengths and weaknesses
of the American economy, but someone has got to be completely detached from
reality to believe that the average American is enjoying "tremendous economic
Sanders' response to Secretary Gutierrez was the following:
"Mr. Chairman, let's look at the facts. Over the past 4 years, poverty
has gone up. Today, over 4 million more Americans, 36 million overall, are living
in poverty than was the case 4 years ago. Sadly, 21.9 percent of U.S. children
live in poverty, only slightly better than Mexico where the childhood poverty
rate is 27.9 percent. Mr. Chairman, compare that to Denmark, where only 2.4
percent of children live in poverty.
Today, over five million more Americans do not have health insurance, 45 million
in all, than was the case four years ago, and the United States is the only
industrialized nation on earth that does not have universal health care.
Over 14 million American families today are paying more than 50 percent of
their income on rent. There are now over 20 million Americans with incomes so
low that they had to enter the food stamp program in order to feed their families.
Last year, more than 1.6 million American families went bankrupt, up from up
from 289,000 in 1980. 90 percent of these bankruptcy filings were the result
of a lost job, a medical emergency or a divorce.
Real (inflationary-adjusted) wages have gone down over the past 2 years. The
new jobs being created today pay 21 percent less than the jobs that are being
lost. In my State of Vermont, those numbers are higher. The new jobs being created
pay 29 percent less than the jobs we are losing.
The gap between the rich and poor in the United States more than doubled from
1979 to 2000. Today, the richest 1 percent have more money to spend after taxes
than the bottom 40 percent. Meanwhile, millions of workers have not seen any
increase in the minimum wage in years.
Secretary Gutierrez, as you well know, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts
that over the next decade seven out of the top 10 occupations with the most
employment growth will be low-paying and only require short-term on-the-job
training: nursing aides, orderlies and attendants; waiters and waitresses; janitors
and cleaners; cashiers; food preparers and fast food servers; customer service
representatives; and retail salespersons.
According to Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, the U.S. will lose the bulk
of its information technology jobs to India and China within the next decade.
Due to our disastrous trade policy we have lost more than 2.7 million manufacturing
jobs, more than half a million information technology jobs over the past 4 years,
and 14 million American jobs are in danger of being outsourced overseas during
the next decade with CEOs in this country bragging about closing down factories
and moving abroad.
In the midst of all of this, Secretaries Gutierrez and Jackson, why would the
President propose cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires even more,
while destroying the safety net for low and middle income Americans across the
country? Why would the President eliminate the highly successful Community Services
and Community Development Block Grant programs, and other investments important
to our cities, towns, and states, shifting these services to Commerce, and cutting
overall spending by 30%?"
Erin Campbell is the communications director for the office of Congressman
Sanders, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org