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2011-11-22

America’s Not Broke: Solving the Debt Crisis by Making Nation More Equitable, Green & Secure

Guests

Sarah Anderson, co-author of the new report, "America Isn’t Broke: How to Pay for the Crisis While Making the Country More Equitable, Green, and Secure." She is director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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The bipartisan so-called "supercommittee" has failed to reach an agreement on reducing the federal deficit after three months of negotiations over taxes and spending. The full Congress will now have a little over a year to come up with an alternative. A trigger of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years to military and domestic programs takes effect in 2013. "What people need to remember is that we are a rich country and that this crisis is actually an opportunity to harness our abundant resources in ways that will position us better for the future," says Sarah Anderson, co-author of a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, "America Isn’t Broke: How to Pay for the Crisis While Making the Country More Equitable, Green, and Secure." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Washington, where the bipartisan so-called "supercommittee" has failed to reach an agreement on reducing the federal deficit. On Monday, Democrats and Republicans abandoned their effort for a sweeping deal, after three months of talks that failed to bridge deep divides over taxes and spending. The full Congress will now have a little over a year to come up with an alternative. A trigger of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years to military and domestic programs takes effect in 2013.

At the White House last night, President Obama faulted Republicans for the impasse. He vowed to veto any Republican effort to exempt military spending from the mandated spending cuts in 2013.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, at any cost, even if it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and medical research, even if it means deep cuts in Medicare. So, at this point at least, they simply will not budge from that negotiating position. And so far, that refusal continues to be the main stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to further reduce our deficit.

AMY GOODMAN: Although the news of the supercommittee’s failure made for a somber mood on Capitol Hill Monday, some say the bipartisan deadlock could leave more room for taxpayers in shaping the nation’s fiscal policy. Instead of a select group of lawmakers, the full Congress will now be tasked with reaching a spending deal during a year when many of its members are up for re-election. They’ll be doing so amidst a political landscape that’s different than it was when the supercommittee began three months ago with the Occupy Wall Street movement now in full swing.

Well, on the heels of the supercommittee’s failure, we look at a new report that suggests a series of fiscal proposals that try to address the concerns expressed in the Occupy protests nationwide. The report is released by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. It’s called "America Isn’t Broke: How to Pay for the Crisis While Making the Country More Equitable, Green, and Secure." We turn now to Sarah Anderson. She is with the Institute for Policy Studies.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the significance of this debt lock in Washington, the failure of the supercommittee, and why you think the country isn’t broke, Sarah.

SARAH ANDERSON: Yes. Well, my guess is that over this Thanksgiving holiday, one thing families will not be giving thanks for is their effective representation in Congress. I think this has done even more to really lower opinions about Congress right now. But I’m hoping that as they regroup, that Democrats might decide to take advantage of this window between now and January 2013, when these automated cuts are supposed to go into effect, to really do what they should have been doing all along, which is working with their base to develop a much bolder vision for where they want the country to go and to build a popular force around that. I think that’s what’s going to change the dynamic here.

And our report is really focused on this. As you said, it’s called "America Isn’t Broke." It reminds people that we’re a rich country. We’ve just been spending too much money on war and handing out tax breaks to rich people and corporations. And we identify a number of fiscal reforms that could, as you said, save—create $824 billion in savings, while making the country stronger by making us more equitable, by having a cleaner environment, and making us safer. And so, first of all, we tackle the problem of Wall Street and the wealthy not paying their fair share. For example, one of the proposals we recommend that’s gaining a lot of traction, I think, among the general public is to put a very small tax on trades of stock and derivatives and bonds, a Wall Street tax, that could raise a lot of money while also discouraging the kind of short-term, high-frequency trading that doesn’t have any real social value and can make our markets less stable.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarah, talk about how the media has framed what’s happening in this country, the debt, and what you think is the most effective way to talk about it.

SARAH ANDERSON: Right. Well, there—what’s overwhelmed this debate is the idea that we’re broke, that we have no choice except to make these painful cuts that will affect the poor, affect the elderly, affect all of us. And what people need to remember is that we are a rich country and that this crisis is actually an opportunity to harness our abundant resources in ways that will position us better for the future. So things like slashing all of the subsidies that we now hand out to the big fossil fuel industries, these are subsidies that are keeping us dependent on foreign oil. If we remove those, companies will have more of an incentive to adopt new green technologies that can make us more competitive.

And then, on the war issue, the public opinion polls are showing the majority of Americans support cutting—ending the war in Afghanistan. We can save money by doing that and also eliminating all kinds of obsolete weapons systems, military bases that were developed during the Cold War era and really serve no real purpose anymore. So we have plenty of money in this country to not only deal with our deficit over the long term, but free up funds to put into real job creation now.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of the environment, as we move into this U.N. global summit that’s taking place in Durban, South Africa, why this actually—the crisis of climate change costs this country money, as opposed to what is constantly being put forward, that green solutions would cost the country at a time that we cannot afford this?

SARAH ANDERSON: Exactly. This is an issue I think the supercommittee completely ignored: all of the money that is now going into these perverse incentives to support the fossil fuel industry, making oil and gas artificially cheap. If these industries had to pay the full cost of the environmental harm caused by their products and services, they would have a much greater incentive to move into greener technologies. We’re seeing other countries develop their own domestic industries, to develop alternative energies, technologies. We’re falling behind in that area. And again, to have a vision of our economy that is looking 20, 30 years down the road, if you do that, you see we need to invest now in ways that can not only create a lot of jobs and put people back to work, but also position America to be much more competitive and healthy down the road.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in the end, are you—do you think that it’s a good thing that this committee has gone down in super flames?

SARAH ANDERSON: Yeah. I mean, no deal is better than a bad deal that would have resulted in a lot of immediate cuts that would have caused real suffering in our communities. We do have this window between now and January 2013, when the automatic cuts are supposed to go into effect. People should really redouble their efforts to push for a bold vision for this economy that would make us stronger, that would have a more equitable society, a healthier democracy. This is an opportunity to push that vision. And we’re already seeing in the polls that the majority of Americans are for increasing taxes on the wealthy. That means a lot of Republicans out there disagree with the position of the people who are representing them in Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarah Anderson, we have to leave it there.

SARAH ANDERSON: So this is a real opportunity to turn things around.

AMY GOODMAN: I thank you so much for being with us.

SARAH ANDERSON: Thank you. Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: Of the Institute for Policy Studies. Back in 20 seconds.

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