- October 9 - At a press conference in Washington D.C. this morning, Congressman Bernie Sanders joined other members of Congress in opposition to President Bush's request for an additional $87 Billion blank check for Iraq.
Sanders' statement from today's Capitol Hill news conference is below:
"The $87 billion supplementary appropriations bill requested by the Bush Administration for Iraq will probably come before the House next week. Unless there are fundamental changes in it, it is my intention to vote "no" on that legislation. Let me give at least 4 reasons why this $87 billion dollar bill is not a good idea.
1- The United States has enormous needs in health care, education, veterans' benefits, housing, infrastructure and many other areas. I am not comfortable in spending tens of billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq when so many people in our own country are being left behind. How do we explain to a veteran who cannot get VA health care today that we have $87 billion for Iraq, but we don't have $1.8 for to improve VA health care so that our veterans get the health care they need? How do we explain to a middle class family trying to send their kid to college that we have $87 billion for Iraq but, because of lack of funds, the Bush Administration cut many thousands of young people off of federal aid for higher education, making college unaffordable for many of them? How do we explain to taxpayers in almost every state in the country that we have $87 billion for Iraq but because of inadequate federal aid to states, property taxes and other kinds of state taxes and fees are going up?
Further, we should be clear that this $87 billion comes on top of the $60 billion already spent on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Given the fact that the Bush Administration has not yet given us a clear exit strategy, there is no reason to doubt that there may be a lot more money following after this $87 billion - if it is appropriated.
2- It is not acceptable to me for the President to be passing on the cost of rebuilding Iraq to our children and our grandchildren by paying for this expenditure through deficit spending. We currently have a projected record breaking deficit of some $500 billion and a national debt of $6 trillion. There are estimates that within a decade our national debt will be $10 trillion. If the President wants to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq he can do it very simply by rescinding the hundreds of billions in tax breaks that he has given to millionaires and billionaires, not by passing the costs on to our children and grandchildren. If he does that there would be no need for deficit spending to pay for this, and no cuts in programs for the middle class. With over 300 families grieving for the ultimate sacrifice that their sons and daughters made in Iraq, with 1200 young Americans wounded in action, I frankly don't think that it's too much to ask for the wealthiest people in this country to make the tiny sacrifice of foregoing a little bit of the tax breaks recently given to them.
3 - I have a hard time accepting that the United States alone should be responsible for the rebuilding of Iraq. A safe and stable Iraq will benefit the entire world, not just the United States. Therefore, other wealthy nations should be helping to provide the funds and military manpower to stabilize that country, not just us. Obviously, President Bush's arrogance in ignoring the United Nations and most of the rest of the world when he went to war remains the major stumbling block. While it is late in the game, the President must make it clear to the international community, and the Untied Nations, that we are prepared to share decision making power with them. We no longer intend to go it alone. Among other things this means that other countries will be able to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq, and not just companies like Dick Cheney's Halliburton who have gotten huge contracts without competitive bidding. In return, we have the right to ask for their financial assistance and military support. Obviously, the goal is to hand power over to a democratic Iraqi government as soon as possible while we bring our troops home.
4 - Lastly, I have serious concerns about many items within this $87 billion bill. Fore example President Bush's Iraq Reconstruction Package is prepared to spend $3.6 million for 400 handheld radios and 200 satellite phones at an average cost of $6,000 each. The cost of a cordless phone in the U.S. is $14.99 and a walkie-talkie radio costs $54.99. The Bush Administration is prepared to build a jail in Iraq for $50,000 per prison bed. In the U.S. we build them for $26,000. The Bush Administration has requested $10,000 per month in Iraq for a four week business course. Tuition at Harvard Business School is $4,000 per month."