Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies Sunday after reports that General Electric and other giant corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.
According to The New York Times, General Electric made $14.2 billion in profit last year, $5.1 billion of which was made in the United States. The corporation received $3.2 billion in tax benefits, but did not pay any money in taxes.
"We have a deficit problem," said Sanders. "It has to be addressed, but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country. The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We've got to talk about shared sacrifice."
Oil giant Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009, but paid no federal income taxes, according to the senator. Instead, the corporation received a $156 million rebate from the IRS.
Sanders has introduced legislation that would establish a surtax on millionaires and strip tax deductions for oil companies -- a proposal he claims would cut the deficit by about $50 billion.
The Emergency Deficit Reduction Act would accomplish this by raising taxes by 5.4 percent on annual income over $1 million.
Sanders said it was grossly unfair for Republicans to propose massive cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the fact that many corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes.
Meanwhile, Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has said he hopes to cut the tax rate for the richest individuals and corporations to 25 percent and would like to see many popular deductions cut or completely eliminated.
Sage Eastman, deputy staff director for the Ways and Means Committee, claimed the plan would create the same level of revenue while making the tax code less complex.
"You're not getting a tax cut because those credits in the code are artificially altering those rates," Eastman told MLive. "The plan is to continue with that same level of revenue, but do it in a more efficient way."
A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found late February that 81 percent of Americans believe a surtax on millionaires is an acceptable way to close the budget shortfall.