Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bernie Sanders Makes The Case For Bernie Sanders


Vermont's Independent senator, Bernie Sanders, told an audience at the Brookings Institute yesterday that he's seriously considering running for president and added, as he has before, that he doesn't want to run "futile campaign" and that he very much needs grassroots support. Since last year, Blue America has been asking progressives to show support for Bernie by contributing to his campaign efforts. Most other progressive outfits are still focused on persuading Elizabeth Warren to run. Elizabeth Warren has made it clear-- over and over and in several tenses-- that she will not run against Hillary Clinton.

The most recent convert to the Warren for President camp is one of the least trustworthy components of the progressive movement, New York's Working Families Party, last seen luring progressive Oliver Koppell into a race against corrupt reactionary Jeffrey Klein, only to buckle to pressure from Andrew Cuomo and withdraw their support for Koppell after he had committed to the campaign. A promise of backing from the WFP should be taken by the Warren camp with a grain of salt.

During his time Brookings yesterday, Sanders came off-- as he has for his entire career-- like the ideal progressive alternative to corporate-controlled governance. "I happen to believe," he told host E.J. Dionne, "that the business model of Wall Street is fraud and deception.” The headlines, unfortunately, may all be about how he's skipping Netanyahu's campaign speech, but the substance of what Senator Sanders had to say should be taken far more seriously by the America media. A serious look at Sanders' proposals makes it clear how similar mushy centrists like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are to each other. In his talk yesterday he made it clear how the dogged opposition he faced didn't just come from Republicans but from corporate shills within the Democratic Party as well. When he took office as Mayor of Burlington, 11 of the 13 members of the City Council were in complete opposition to his agenda. "If you think the Republicans have been obstructionist to President Obama during his time in office," he told his audience yesterday, "that was nothing compared to what my supporters and I experienced. But, one year later, in strong support of what I and my coalition had accomplished and wanted to do, a slate of candidates that I supported for the City Council defeated a number of the incumbent obstructionists. A year after that, in an election in which the voter turnout was almost double what it had been when I was first elected, I pretty easily defeated the Democratic and Republican candidates, and did so in two more elections... The lesson that I will never forget, and what I believe, is that when you stand up for people and you keep your promise, people will, in fact, get involved in politics."
In 1988, I ran for the U.S. Congress. I was told by my Democratic friends that I would be a spoiler-- and would help elect a Republican. In fact, the Republican did win with 41 percent of the vote. I received 38 percent and the Democrat received 19 percent. I was not the spoiler. Two years later, I was elected to Congress, defeating the incumbent by 16 percentage points.

In 2006, with the retirement of Senator Jim Jeffords, and with the support of Democrats, I won Vermont’s U.S. Senate seat against the wealthiest person in Vermont-- a candidate who spent three times more money than anyone had ever spent before in our state and who ran a very negative race. I won with 67 percent of the vote. In 2012, I won re-election with 71 percent of the vote.

As Mayor of Burlington, my administration took on virtually every powerful special interest in the city and the state. Against the wishes of developers and the railroad, we created a beautiful people-oriented waterfront and bike path on Lake Champlain. We developed the first municipal housing land trust in the country for affordable housing. We won national recognition for urban beautification by planting thousands of trees throughout the city, and we made major improvements of our streets and sidewalks. We implemented the largest environmental program in the state’s history by building a new waste-water facility to prevent untreated waste from going into the lake. We started a Youth Office which created a beautiful day care center, a little-league program, after-school programs and a teen center-- all of which still exist today. We were the first city in Vermont to break its dependence on the regressive property tax. We made major changes in the Burlington police department, moving in the direction of community policing. We started a very active and successful Arts Council and Women’s Council. The result: Burlington is now regarded as one of the most successful and livable small cities in America-- and I invite you all to visit Burlington and our beautiful state.

In 1990 I became the first Independent elected to the U.S. House in 40 years. During my first year there, along with 4 other House members, we formed the Congressional Progressive Caucus which stands today as one of the more important caucuses in Congress. One of my first votes there was against the first Gulf War. I believe that history will record that that was the right vote, as was the vote I cast years later against the war in Iraq-- a war which has cost us thousands of brave young men and women, untold suffering and has driven up our national debt by trillions of dollars. It has, also, in my opinion opened up the can of worms that we now see in that region of the world.

While a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I was one of those leading the fight against the de-regulation of Wall Street. I think that it’s fair to say that most people today do not believe that it was a great idea to end Glass-Steagall and allow the greed, recklessness and illegal activity on Wall Street to go unchecked. I also opposed NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and other trade agreements which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. While in the House, I took on the pharmaceutical industry and the outrageous prices they charge our people, and became the first member of Congress to take Americans across the Canadian border to purchase prescription drugs there-- where they purchased drugs for as little as one-tenth the price they were paying in the U.S. My understanding is that hundreds of thousands of Americans now buy their medicines in Canada.

As a U.S. Senator, and former chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I worked hard, in a bi-partisan way, to pass the most significant veterans’ legislation passed in recent history. I also helped lead the effort, with Rep. Jim Clyburn, to put some $12 billion new into Federally Qualified Community Health Centers-- which has resulted in some 4 million lower-income Americans gaining access to health care, dental care and low-cost prescription drugs. With Senator Bob Menendez, I helped pass the Energy Efficiency Block Grant program which put billions into weatherization and sustainable energy.

That’s my life and political history in five minutes. Let me now a few words about something somewhat more important-- and that is the future of our country.

...Today, the most serious problem we face is the grotesque and growing level of wealth and income inequality. This is a profound moral issue, this is an economic issue and this is a political issue.

Economically, for the last 40 years, the great middle class of our country-- once the envy of the world-- has been in decline. Despite exploding technology, despite increased productivity, despite the global economy millions of Americas today are working longer hours for lower wages, and we have more people living in poverty than at almost any time in American history.

Today, real unemployment is not the 5.7 percent you read in newspapers. It is 11.3 percent if you include those workers who have given up looking for jobs or who are working part time when they want to work full time. Youth unemployment is over 18 percent and African-American youth unemployment is near 30 percent. Shamefully we have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. Despite the modest success of the Affordable Care Act, some 40 million Americans continue to have no health insurance while even more are underinsured or have heavy co-payments or deductibles on their insurance. We remain the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.

There are a lot of angry people out there-- all across the country. Some are in the Occupy Wall Street movement and are progressives. Some are in the Tea Party movement and are conservatives. But let me give you a hint as to why they are angry.

Since 1999, the typical middle-class family has seen its income go down by almost $5,000 after adjusting for inflation. Incredibly, that family earned less income last year than it did 26 years ago-- back in 1989.

The median male worker made $783 less last year than he did 42 years ago, while the median female worker earned $1,337 less last year than she did in 2007.

Are we better off today economically than we were six years ago when President Bush left office? Yes, we are. But anyone who doesn’t understand the suffering, anxiety and fear that the middle class and working families of our country are experiencing today, has no idea as to what’s going on in this country.

Meanwhile, while the middle class continues to disappear, the wealthiest people and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well and the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider, and wider and wider. The top 1 percent now own about 41 percent of the entire wealth in the U.S., while the bottom 60 percent own less than 2 percent of our wealth. Today, incredibly, the top one-tenth of 1 percent-- the richest 16,000 families in the U.S.-- now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Today, The Walton family-- the owner of Wal-Mart and the wealthiest family in America-- is now worth $153 billion. That is more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans.

Over the past decade, the net worth of the top 400 billionaires in this country has doubled-- up by an astronomical $1 trillion in just 10 years.

In terms of income, as opposed to wealth, almost all of the new income generated in recent years has gone to the top one percent. In fact, the last information that we have shows that, in recent years, over 99 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent.

In other words, while millions and millions of Americans saw a decline in their family income, while we have seen an increase in senior poverty throughout this country and millions of elderly Americans are trying to live on Social Security checks of $10,000 or $12,000 a year, over 99 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent.

The top 25 hedge-fund managers made more than $24 billion in 2013, equivalent to the full salaries of more than 425,000 public school teachers.

But income inequality is not just the moral issue of whether we are content to live in a nation in which so few have so much, while so many have so little: a nation in which we have seen a proliferation of billionaires while, at the same time, millions of lower-income families struggle to put food on the table for their kids.

Income and wealth inequality is not just a moral or economic issue. It is also a political issue. As a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, billionaire families are now able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the candidates of their choice.These people own most of the economy. Now they want to own the U.S. government as well as state governments. According to media reports, it appears that one family, the right-wing extremist Koch brothers, are prepared to spend more money in the next election than either the Democratic or Republican parties. In other words one family, worth some $100 billion, may well have a stronger political presence than either of our major parties. That, my friends, is not democracy. That is oligarchy. That is why it is absolutely imperative that we pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and why we must move forward toward public funding of elections.

Given the economic crisis that we face, what should we do about it? How do we rebuild the disappearing middle class and create an economy that works for all of our people? Last month I introduced a 12-point program which I called “An Agenda for America.” It is available on my website-- sanders.senate.gov. Let me briefly summarize what’s in it.

We need a major federal jobs program to put millions of American back to work. The fastest way to do that is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could support 13 million decent-paying jobs and make this country more efficient, productive and safer. Along with Senator Barbara Mikulski I introduced that legislation two weeks ago.

We must understand that climate change is real, caused by human activity and is already causing devastating harm. We must listen to the scientific community and lead the world in reversing climate change so that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.

We not only need to create jobs, we need to raise wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15 an hour over the next few years. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty. We must also demand pay equity for women workers who today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make for doing the same job. We must also end the scandal regarding overtime pay. It is absurd that so-called “managers” making $25,000 a year do not earn time-and-a-half, even if they work 60 hours a week. Further, we need to make it easier for workers to join unions by passing card check legislation.

We need to take a hard look at our trade policies which have resulted in the outsourcing of millions of good paying jobs. Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.

In today's highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Some of our young people have given up the dream of going to college, while others are leaving school deeply in debt. Many of the countries we compete with understand that free public education should not end at high school. In Germany and many European countries, college and graduate school are tuition free. That should be the case here in our country.

We must finally address the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to about 60 percent of our gross domestic product-- over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. Their speculation and illegal behavior plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. In my view, Wall Street is too large and powerful to be reformed. The huge financial institutions must be broken up.

The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.

Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. The Republicans are moving forward to cut Social Security. They are also likely to try and cut Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs-- and virtually every program that protects the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. With regard to Social Security it is my view that not only should we not cut this enormously important program, we should be expanding it.

At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that a number of major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes in recent years, and that millionaire hedge fund managers  often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.

I have ticked off a number of very important issues, but let me suggest to you that the struggle that we are engaged in right now is much more than sum of all of these parts. The unprecedented struggle that we're engaged in now against the Billionaire Class is not just about preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or whether we create the millions of jobs our economy desperately needs. It's not merely about whether we raise the minimum wage, make college affordable, protect women's rights or take the bold initiatives we need to reverse climate change and save our planet. It's not just about creating a health care system which guarantees health care to all as a right, or addressing the abysmally high rate of childhood poverty.

The real struggle is whether we can prevent this country from moving to an oligarchic form of society in which virtually all economic and political power rests with a handful of billionaires. And that’s a struggle we must win.
Senator Sanders isn't going to run if progressive organizations keep squandering all their efforts on trying to persuade Elizabeth Warren to do something she has already decided she isn't going to do. Unless you want all of Hillary Clinton's primary opposition to come from the right, please think seriously about getting behind Bernie Sanders now.

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At 2:08 PM, Blogger Cirze said...

I just got an invite to a Bernie Boosting party in Greenville, NC, for next Tuesday!

The forces are gathering.

Against tyranny!

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a powerful and truthful document. We are so lucky to have Bernie in the Senate. I would vote for him in a minute. He makes Hilary look like a piker as far as character and integrity. I think I will send him some money tonight! Thanks for sharing this with us.

At 2:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be the Devil's Advocate.

Harry Truman was an amazing Senator. He spent his time busting up war profiteering and excessive charges for delivery of weapons and planes, the B-26 in particular. He took Martin to task for overcharges, threatening to end the entire project if Martin didn't cut the fraud and waste from their proposals. He was in his element, and his constant exposure of the criminality of the very people who attempted the 1934 Coup against FDR cost them millions if not billions.

So they pushed out the sitting VP Wallace for being too friendly to the Russian Communists to make room for Truman on the ticket in 1944. His relative ignorance of national politics set him up to lead America into the Cold War before WWII was even completed. The explosion of profiteering and governmental authoritarianism once he was no longer leading Senate investigations proves their motive, and his opposition was turned into support once they got the Red Scare into him.

Now Sanders is much smarter politically and more aware of international issues than Truman was. But he happens to now be in a place where We the People can be served effectively, despite his only real allies in this war against corporatism currently being Warren in the Senate and Grayson in the House.

If nothing else, Obama has demonstrated how little power the President has without strong support in the Congress. He also demonstrated how weakening a lower level of governance for "national" service plays into the hands of the opposition. How many Democratic governors taken out of office to be replaced by Tea Bagger GOP does it have to take before anyone sees this??? Would Kansas or Arizona be as messed up as they now are if Sebelius and Napolitano were left in their respective gubernatorial offices?

I say no. So as much as my emotions agree with pushing Sanders to run on a national platform, the bigger picture requires that a holding action needs to take place to keep open the chances to reverse corporatization of the Congress. There is a need for the likes of Sanders and Warren and Grayson to remain where they are, to be effective as possible in the defense of We the People, and that is what I will support.

At 3:06 AM, Anonymous northierthanthou said...

Damned happy to see him in the race.


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