Budget Blog

Jen Kimmich, co-owner of the Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont


My husband and I run a small, successful brewery in the state of Vermont where we employ 24 hard working individuals.  Last year, our company grossed nearly $10M in sales.  These sales, and our impressive net profits, have been great for our company, but also for our local and state economies.  Between manufacturing tax, state retail tax and our corporate income taxes, we are proud to say that we have had a positive impact on our local and state economies.  


As a corporation, it is our responsibility to pay our fair share of taxes so that we can continue to improve our infrastructure and work towards improving the lives of our citizens.  We have always played by the rules, and have always paid all local, state and federal taxes without any offshore investments. Why do we, as responsible business owners, pay our fair share of 35% corporate income tax while the largest, and most profitable companies in this country pay an average of 12.6% tax?  It is unbelievable and absolutely unacceptable that an individual in this country, earning $50,000 per year, pays a higher income tax rate than companies earning billions of dollars per year.



Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Vermont


My name is Matt Birong and I own 3 Squares Café in Vergennes.  I’ve been in business since 2007.  I employ an average of about 12 people/year, give or take a few depending on the season.  In a small town like Vergennes, I know that my café makes a difference to people’s quality of life and to the connectivity of our community. 


As a small business owner, I pay what feels like a lot of taxes: rooms and meals, corporate taxes, unemployment, social security, and withholding taxes  - the list goes on.  It can be hard to absorb the costs, but it’s worth it to me because I know that it’s my contribution to the greater good.  What’s unfortunate is that hugely profitable corporations and private interests pay for DC lobbyists to craft a tax code to reduce or eliminate their tax responsibilities, instead of congress creating a uniform policy that creates an even playing field for small, medium, and large business.  The game is rigged for the upper echelon corporations to navigate their way through complicated tax codes to pay minimal taxes to the gov’t where the rest of us – smaller business owners pay our fair share, but it feels we’re shouldering the burden for those who don’t and meanwhile we just want to make sure we can pay our employees fair wages, help them get health insurance, and provide for retirement. 


Joint Statement:

As drafted by Jen Kimmich and seconded by Matt Birong.


The Business Roundtable is not a voice for American corporations. This ‘roundtable’ is made up of only 201 businesses.  This is a very small group of socially irresponsible corporations that it seems will do anything to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.  They do not play by the same rules that hard working Americans and responsible corporations across this country do year in and year out.  They avoid paying the taxes that fund education, infrastructure and health care.  


The Business Roundtable will tell you that by cutting taxes for these multi-billion dollar corporations, they will create new jobs.  However, we know from history that this is not true.  For instance, between 2008-2012, Verizon had an effective tax rate of -2%. (-2%)!  Meanwhile, they laid off 62,338 employees in the same time period.  During that time period, Tenet Health care had an effective tax rate of -6% and laid off 3,264 employees.  These are just 2 of the many ‘roundtable’ corporations who are avoiding all taxes and seeing huge profits, yet continue to lay off employees.  There is no reinvestment in America- nothing matters to these companies other than profit.  There is no concern for our country’s infrastructure, our children’s education, or the healthcare of our citizens.  There is no concern for the future of social security or medicaid.  There is no concern for the shrinking middle class, the working class or those living in poverty.  These companies are contributing nothing to ensure the success of future generations to come.  And, sickeningly, many of these ‘roundtable’ corporations receive money back, from honest taxpayers, at the end of each year.


Americans are angry.  We don’t understand how these big corporations continue to get away with stealing from hard working Americans.  One glaring example is Goldman Sachs.  Even after receiving an $824 Billion taxpayer bailout, they officially held $22.5 Billion in profits offshore in 2014.  I want to know why this is okay when our small companies pay 35% in corporate tax.  Why does my child’s teacher pay a higher tax rate than Goldman Sachs? 


This is NOT a partisan issue.  Democrats and Republicans alike are outraged.  Many of our friends and neighboring business owners are Republican and we all agree that this thievery has got to stop.  Legislation that further reduces corporate taxes or continues to allow for offshore tax havens is irresponsible and repulsive.   Legislators who put the interests of these 201 corporations before the interests of our citizens and the future of our country, must to be held to task.  What would the state of our country look like if we all, individuals and corporations alike, paid 0-12% income tax each year?  Conversely, what would it look like if the huge corporations who are avoiding paying taxes now actually paid their fair share?  Hard working Americans do not appreciate having their tax money sent to companies like Verizon at the end of the year who are swimming in profits while they work hard and struggle to get by. 


It is the responsibility of our Senators and Congressmen to represent Americans and stand up for our collective financial interests and the future of our country.  Our legislators have a moral responsibility to stand up for the large majority of Americans who work hard, play by the rules and pay taxes.  It is morally wrong to support further legislation that allows these powerful corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.  This is why we are mad- Democrats and Republicans alike.  We need to stop the greed and put the interests of our country first.


Sen. Sanders Continues to Fight for Middle Class in Budget Battle

Sen. Sanders: Thank you very much. As the ranking member of the budget committee, I want to take a few minutes to discuss the budget situation. My understanding is that Senator Enzi, the Chairman of the committee, intends to have a Budget Committee markup on Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19, and my understanding is that the resolution will come to the floor the following week during the week of March 23, and unless I am very mistaken, we will engage in what is called within the beltway a vote-a-rama. There will be a very significant number of amendments that will be allowed to be offered.

Mr. President, I think before we discuss a budget, whether it is at the federal level, state level or one's family, it is imperative to understand the conditions that exist as one prepares a budget.  A budget reflects what our country is about. It reflects our national priorities. It reflects how we attempt to address the problems we face. It attempts to address how we go forward as a people into the future.

So the first issue at hand when we discuss a budget is to, in fact, determine what's going on in America today. What are our problems? What should we be doing and what should we not be doing?

And I start off with the premise that I think is shared by the vast majority of the American people, is that the middle class of this country, over the last 40 years, has been disappearing. That people today by the millions in Vermont and throughout this nation are working longer hours for low wages despite a huge increase in productivity. That is the reality that face most people in this country, but there is another reality, and that is that the people on top in the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well.

Mr. President, today real median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999 in inflation accounted for dollars. Why is that? How does that happen? The typical male worker, that man right in the middle of the American economy, made $783 less last year than he did 42 years ago after adjusting for inflation. How does that happen? You have got an explosion of technology, huge increase in productivity. You have this so-called great global economy, free trade all over the world, and the typical male worker, the guy in the middle of the economy, makes $783 less last year than he did 42 years ago. The typical female worker is making $1,337 less than she did in be 2007.

Today, despite the modest gains of the affordable care act, legislation I supported, 40 Million Americans continue to have no health insurance, and we remain the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right. And then we have today, because many people were driven from the middle class into poverty, we have more people today living in poverty than almost any time in the modern history of America. How does that happen?

Despite a very significant improvement in the economy since President Bush left office, real unemployment is not 5.5%. It is 11%. Youth unemployment, which we never talk about, is 17%. And African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that. Throughout this country, a significant number of young people have given up on the dream of college. Here we are in a competitive global economy, and you have bright young people from working class families, and they are looking at the cost of college and they are saying sorry, ain't for me. I'm not going to come out of school $50,000, $60,000 in debt. What sense is that when we are engaged in enormous economic competition with countries all over the world?

 And then you have another group of young people graduating college or graduate school in debt to the tune of $50,000, $100,000. I talked to a young doctor in Burlington, Vermont some months ago. She graduated medical school $300,000 in debt for the crime of wanting to be a primary care physician. Does that make any sense?

Mr. President, while the middle class continues to disappear, the people on top in the largest corporations have never had it so good. That's the other reality of America today. Middle class shrinks, a whole lot of people living in poverty, people have no health insurance, kids can't afford to go to college. People on top doing phenomenally well.

Today, the top 1% earns more income than the bottom 50%. And since the Wall Street crash of 2008, over 99% of all new income goes to the top 1%. Over 99% of all new income goes to the top 1%. Corporate profits are soaring. Stock market is up. C.E.O.s’ now earn 270 times what their average employee makes. Mr. President, today the top 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Top 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, and the wealthiest family in this country alone, one family, owns more wealth than the bottom 42% of the American family.

Does that sound like the America that we want to see, that we believe in? Where so few have so much and so many have so little? Mr. President, it's an extraordinary fact, between 1985 and 2013, the bottom 90% of our people lost $10.7 trillion in wealth that it otherwise would have had if the distribution of wealth had remained the same level as it was in 1985.

We had the same distribution of wealth, the bottom 90% would have had close to $11 trillion more wealth. Meanwhile, the top .1% experienced an $8 trillion increase in wealth as the distribution of wealth became increasingly unequal. What a phenomenon. Huge transfer of wealth from working people to the millionaires and billionaires.

And now let me get to the budget, because when you deal with a budget, you can't ignore that reality. If the rich get much richer and the middle class declines, it makes no sense at all to say we're going to give more tax breaks to the rich and we're going to cut programs for the middle class and working families. This is the Robin Hood Principle in reverse. It is taking from the middle class and working families and giving to the very rich.

But I worry very much, Mr. President, that this is exactly, exactly what will be in the Republican Budget that we debate next week in committee. And I expect – and I may be mistaken. I hope I am, but I don't think I am. I expect that the Republican Budget in the senate this year will be very, very close to what the so-called Ryan budget did last year, which was passed by the Republican House. There may be nuances of differences, I don't know, but I think it will be very close. Let me tell you what the Republican Budget will be about.

The Republican Budget will oppose ending tax loopholes for the wealthy and large corporations, loopholes rate than electricians and schoolteachers. I expect that the Republican Budget will continue to allow major profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, many others to go through be a given year paying absolutely nothing in Federal Income Tax. I expect that the Republican Budget will attempt to voucherrize Medicare, end it as we know it to be, and I expect that will there will be mass -- that there will be massive cuts in Medicaid, nutrition, education programs, Pell Grants and the kinds of programs that working families absolutely depend upon.

Mr. President, we need a very, very different budget than what I believe the Republicans are going to propose. We need a budget that stands for the working families of this country and not just the millionaires and billionaires, and let me tell you what that budget should include, although I don't think the Republican Budget will do this.

When real unemployment is 11%, we need a budget that creates millions of decent paying jobs, and in my view and in the view of many economists, the fastest way to create those jobs and address a real national crisis is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, dams, levees, expand broadband to rural America. According to the American society of civil engineers, we need to address over $3 Trillion to rebuild our infrastructure. We're not going to do that, but we need to make a major investment, and when we do that, we make America more productive and safer and we also create millions of jobs.

A serious budget needs to make our tax code fairer and to bring substantial new revenue into federal coffers. We need a budget that ends unfair tax loopholes and asks the wealthiest people in the largest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Today at the hearing we had in the Budget Committee a republican witness testified that he thought that corporate taxes should be zero, zero. Well, that does not make a lot of sense to me.

Mr. President, we need a budget that understands that the federal minimum wage is a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour. We need to substantially raise the minimum wage. We need to deal with the overtime scandal. We need to raise wages for low and moderate income families.

At a time when large numbers of our young people have given up on the dream of higher education and college is increasingly unaffordable, we need a budget that says to every kid in America that if you have the ability and you have the desire, you are going to get a higher education, regardless of the income of your family.

At a time when corporations have shipped millions of decent-paying jobs to China and low-wage countries, we need a budget that rewards companies for investing in America and for creating jobs here, not abroad. At a time when millions of people still lack health insurance, we need a budget that ensures quality, Affordable Health Care for all Americans by supporting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, strengthening Medicare and Medicaid and extending funding for the children's health insurance program community health centers and the National Health Service corps.

Mr. President, let me conclude by making the simple and obvious point. A budget is about priorities. A budget is about choices. And what we have got to determine is whether our budget coming out of the senate is a budget that represents the needs of the rich and large corporations and their wealthy campaign donors or whether we produce a budget which represents the needs of working families and the middle class and the millions and millions of families that are struggling economically to keep their heads above water.

Mr. President, I hope we make the right choice, and I hope we stand with the working families of this country. And with that, Mr. President, I would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


Feb 11 2015

Republican Attacks on Social Security go Back Many Years

Here are some facts and figures

Facts and Figures on SSDI

• 151,092,000 American workers were insured for SSDI in 2014, according to SSA estimates. (SSA, 2014)

• 9 million disabled workers and 1.8 million children of disabled workers received SSDI payments in 2014 (SSA, 2014)

• For December 2014, the average monthly benefit for a disabled worker was $1,165.39/mo. and $349.01/mo. for the child of a disabled worker. (SSA, 1/15)

• SSDI insurance payments are the main source of income for 80 percent of beneficiaries and the only source of income for a third (CAP, 7/8/14)

• Veterans made up 12% of the SSDI population, at over 1 million beneficiaries, in 2010. (SSA, 2/14)

• SSDI insurance payments constituted at least 75% of personal income for nearly half of the veterans receiving them (SSA, undated)

• “More than 1-in-4 20-year-olds insured for disability benefits become disabled before reaching retirement age.” (SSA, undated)

• “Fifty-six million Americans, or 1-in-5, live with disabilities. Thirty-eight million disabled Americans, or 1-in-10, live with severe disabilities.” (SSA, undated)

• A worker at age 50 is twice as likely to become disabled as they are at age 40, and twice as likely at age 60 than at 50 (CAP, 7/8/14)

• The death rates of beneficiaries are three to six times the average for their age group. (CBPP, 8/4/14)