Senator Bernie Sanders talks about Pope Francis

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont posted on Facebook, September 24, 2015

“If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.” – Pope Francis addressing Congress today, September 24, 2015

Brothers and Sisters: I am not a theologian, an expert on the Bible, or a Catholic. I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont.

But I am emailing you today to discuss Pope Francis in the hope that we can examine the very profound lessons that he is teaching people all over this world and some of the issues for which he is advocating.

Now, there are issues on which the pope and I disagree — like choice and marriage equality — but from the moment he was elected, Pope Francis immediately let it be known that he would be a different kind of pope, a different kind of religious leader. He forces us to address some of the major issues facing humanity: war, income and wealth inequality, poverty, unemployment, greed, the death penalty and other issues that too many prefer to ignore.

He is reaching out not just to the Catholic Church. He’s reaching out to people all over the world with an incredibly strong message of social justice talking about the grotesque levels of wealth and income inequality.

Pope Francis is looking in the eyes of the wealthiest people around the world who make billions of dollars, and he is saying we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the poor, the needs of the sick, the dispossessed, the elderly people who are living alone, the young people who can’t find jobs. He is saying that the accumulation of money, that the worship of money, is not what life should be about. We cannot turn our backs on our fellow human beings.

He is asking us to create a new society where the economy works for all, and not just the wealthy and the powerful. He is asking us to be the kind of people whose happiness and well-being comes from serving others and being part of a human community, not spending our lives accumulating more and more wealth and power while oppressing others. He is saying that as a planet and as a people we have got to do better.

That’s why I was so pleased that in his address to Congress today, Pope Francis spoke of Dorothy Day, who was a tireless advocate for the impoverished and working people in America. I think it was extraordinary that he cited her as one of the most important people in recent American history.

As the founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper, Dorothy Day organized workers to stand up against the wealthy and powerful. Pope Francis said of her today in Congress:

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

The fact that the pope singled out Dorothy Day — a fierce advocate in the fight for economic justice — as one of the leaders he admires most is quite remarkable. We are living in a nation which worships the acquisition of money and great wealth, but turns its back on those in need. We are admiring people with billions of dollars, while we ignore people who sleep out on the streets. That must end.

Dorothy Day fought this fight, and as Pope Francis says, we must continue it. We need to move toward an economy which works for all, and not just the few.

We have so much poverty in a land of plenty. Together, we can work to make our country more fair for everybody.

I am glad that you are with me in this fight.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

The Soul of America

by Bernie Sanders, Published on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

Despite such terminology as “fiscal cliff” and “debt ceiling,” the great debate taking place in Washington now has relatively little to do with financial issues. It is all about ideology. It is all about economic winners and losers in American society. It is all about the power of Big Money. It is all about the soul of America.

In America today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, and more inequality than at any time period since 1928. The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while, incredibly, the bottom 60 percent own only 2.3 percent. One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In terms of income distribution in 2010, the last study done on this issue, the top 1 percent earned 93 percent of all new income while the bottom 99 percent shared the remaining 7 percent.

Despite the reality that the rich are becoming much richer while the middle class collapses and the number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high, the Republicans and their billionaire backers want more, more, and more. The class warfare continues.

My Republican colleagues say that the deficits are a spending problem, not a revenue problem. What these deficit-hawk hypocrites won’t talk about is their spending. They won’t discuss what they did to dig the country into this $1 trillion deep deficit hole. They waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without paying for them. They gave away huge tax breaks for the rich. They squandered taxpayer dollars on the pharmaceutical industry by making it illegal to let Medicare bargain for lower drug prices. They also rescinded financial regulations that enabled Wall Street to operate like a gambling casino, leading to a severe recession that eroded tax revenue and left more than 14 percent of American workers unemployed or underemployed.

Now, despite the deficits their policies helped to create and despite the enormous suffering which exists in our society, the Republicans want to cut Social Security, veterans’ programs, Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition programs, and virtually every program which benefits low- and moderate-income Americans. They choose to turn their backs on the economic reality facing a significant part of our population: high unemployment, reduced wages, 50 million without health insurance, college graduates saddled with enormous student debt and elderly people living in desperation. And they have tried to slam the door on any further discussion about how to raise revenue by ending tax loopholes and unfair tax breaks.

Republicans like Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who say the revenue debate is over don’t want you to consider these facts:

• Federal revenue today, at 15.8 percent of GDP, is lower today than it was 60 years ago. During the last year of the Clinton administration, when we had a significant federal surplus, federal revenue was 20.6 percent of GDP.

• Today corporate profits are at an all-time high, while corporate income tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is near a record low.

• In 2011, corporate revenue as a percentage of GDP was just 1.2 percent — lower than any other major country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, including Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Norway, Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Ireland, Poland, and Iceland.

• In 2011, corporations paid just 12 percent of their profits in taxes, the lowest since 1972.

• In 2005, one out of four large corporations paid no income taxes at all while they collected $1.1 trillion in revenue over that one-year period.

We know where the Republicans are coming from. What about the Democrats? Will President Obama fulfill his campaign pledge to “protect the middle class” or will he surrender to right-wing blackmail? Will Democrats in the House and Senate stand with the vast majority of our citizens and such organizations as AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AFL-CIO, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and every other veterans’ organization in the fight against cuts to Social Security and veterans’ programs, or will they agree to a disastrous corporate-backed “chained CPI” concept which makes major benefit cuts to those programs and raises taxes on low-income workers?

The simple truth is there are relatively easy ways to deal with the deficit crisis — without attacking the elderly, the children the sick or the poor.

For example, we have got to eliminate loopholes in the tax code that allow large corporations and the wealthy to avoid more than $100 billion in taxes every year by setting up offshore tax shelters in places like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas. This situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.

Further, we must also end tax breaks for companies shipping American jobs overseas. Today, the United State government continues to reward companies that move American manufacturing jobs abroad, despite the fact that millions of American jobs have been outsourced to China, Mexico, and other low wage countries over the past decade. The Joint Committee on Taxation (the official revenue scorekeeper in Congress) has estimated that we could raise more than $582 billion in revenue over the next decade by eliminating these offshore tax loopholes.

We must also recognize that Wall Street recklessness caused the economic crisis, and it has a responsibility to reduce the deficit. Establishing a 0.03 percent Wall Street speculation fee, similar to what we had from 1914-1966, would dampen the dangerous level of speculation and gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy and reduce the deficit by more than $350 billion over 10 years.

We are entering a pivotal moment in the modern history of our country. Do the elected officials in Washington stand with ordinary Americans — working families, children, the elderly, the poor — or will the extraordinary power of billionaire campaign contributors and Big Money prevail? The American people, by the millions, must send Congress the answer to that question.

Follow Sen. Bernie Sanders on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenSanders

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont’s at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/0

Wall Street CEOs are the ‘Faces of Class Warfare’

- Common Dreams staff, Published on Friday, November 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Sen. Sanders: Wall Street CEOs are the ‘Faces of Class Warfare’

Incredulous that Wall Street investment bankers and billionaire CEOs have descended on Washington in the midst of ongoing budget talks to tell Americans that they should “lower their expectations” when it comes to the security of their retirement and future health care, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor Thursday to call out the audacity of corporate-minded millionaires and billionaires, calling them the new “face of class warfare” in the United States.

“I find it literally beyond comprehension, that we have folks from Wall Street who received huge bailouts from the people of our country—from working families in this country—because of the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior, which Wall Street did to drive us into this recession, and now these very same people are coming here to Congress to lecture us and the American people about how we have to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid while they enjoy huge salaries and retirement benefits.”

Sanders specifically called out CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who has recently been making both the media rounds and consulting with lawmakers regarding the ongoing tax and budget debate in Washington during the current lame duck session. Blankfein, one of the highest paid executives on Wall Street and worth hundred of millions personally, made the comments about ‘lowered expectations’ in a recent evening news interview with CBS and said that average Americans should understand that the US simply can’t “afford” to maintain programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The facts of such sentiments, as many economists repeatedly point out, are false, but Sanders said that Blankfein delivered the familiar rightwing trope “with all the sympathy for someone struggling to get by on $14,000-a-year retirement that you’d expect from a Wall Street banker paid $16 million last year.”

Blankfein is also a member of the CEO cabal that has come together under the banner ‘Fix The Debt’ to protect the historically low tax rates of the nation’s wealthy elite while simultaneously calling for the slashing of social programs. As the Huffington Post reports:

CEOs including Blankfein have been warning that the fiscal cliff could hurt business investment, hiring and the economy as a whole, and they have been calling for cuts to the social safety net to avert it. Dozens of major CEOs, including Blankfein, are members of the CEO council of the campaign Fix the Debt, which calls for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and vague Social Security reform to address the deficit. More than 80 CEOs, including Blankfein, also signed a recent letter calling for deficit reduction.

But as a recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies aimed to show, the ‘Fix the Debt’ campaign, which has raised $60 million to lobby for a debt deal that “would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly,” is really just a Trojan horse designed to use an invented debt crisis to achieve long-held agenda goals.

“Think about the arrogance of these guys on Wall Street who were bailed out by the middle class of this country when their greed and recklessness nearly destroyed the financial system and now they come to Capitol Hill to lecture Congress and the American people about the need to cut programs for working families.” — Sen. Bernie Sanders

The CEOs involved in the group, including Blankfein, are trying to “pass themselves off as noble leaders who are willing to compromise in order the save America from financial ruin,” explain co-authors of the report Scott Klinger and Sarah Anderson. But the reality is that these CEOs are “leveraging the ‘Fiscal Cliff’” in order to push age old attempts to avoid paying taxes at the expense of those in need, they say.

And, as Ezra Klein points out in a recent Bloomberg op-ed, the US has an ‘austerity crisis’ not a ‘debt crisis’. Klein argues that employing the much-used term “fiscal cliff” mistates the nature of the financial and policy realities. Worse, he says, the term “provides no hint of how to solve it.”

He says, “I prefer the term ‘austerity crisis,’ which at least describes the real issue — too much austerity, imposed too quickly.”

Called by its true name or not, the CEOs behind ‘Fix the Debt’—with Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell’s David Cote leading the charge— are using the generated panic around the talks as a way to impose their own interests and have proven unafraid to speak boldly and use their fast resources to make their case.

However, what Klinger and Anderson call ‘leverage’, Sanders simply called arrogance Thursday.

“Think about the arrogance of these guys on Wall Street who were bailed out by the middle class of this country when their greed and recklessness nearly destroyed the financial system and now they come to Capitol Hill to lecture Congress and the American people about the need to cut programs for working families,” he said.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/11/30

Republican Deficit-Hawk Hypocrites by Sen. Bernie Sanders

 

Reader Supported News, August 29, 2012

Miitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party are now mounting a massive attack against Social Security and other programs. Using “deficit reduction” as their rationale, they are attempting to dismantle every major piece of legislation passed since the 1930s that provides support and security to working families.

They are being aided by at least 23 billionaire families, led by the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this campaign as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Despite paying the lowest effective tax rate in decades, the billionaires want more tax breaks for the very rich. Despite the fact that the elimination of strong regulations caused the Wall Street meltdown and a terrible recession, the billionaires want more deregulation. Despite outsourcing of millions of good-paying American jobs to China and other low-wage countries, the billionaires want more unfettered free trade.

At this pivotal moment in American history, it’s important to note how we got into this deficit crisis, who was responsible and what is the fairest way to address it.

Let us never forget that when Bill Clinton left office in 2001, this country enjoyed a healthy $236 billion SURPLUS.

Under George W. Bush and his fellow “deficit hawks,” we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush and Congress “forgot” to pay for those wars that will end up adding some $3 trillion to our national debt. Where were Paul Ryan and the other “deficit hawks” when we spent trillions on wars and added to the deficit? They voted for those policies.

Under George W. Bush and his fellow “deficit hawks,” we gave huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country, which cost $1 trillion over a decade. Where were Paul Ryan and the other “deficit hawks” when Bush and Congress spent a trillion dollars on tax breaks for the very rich and added to our national debt? They voted for those policies.

Under George W. Bush and his fellow deficit hawks, Congress passed an overly expensive Medicare prescription drug program written by the insurance companies and drug industry. The government was barred from negotiating lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry under the program, which will end up adding $400 billion to our national debt over a 10-year period. Where were Paul Ryan and the other “deficit hawks” when Bush and Congress spent $400 billion for a much too expensive prescription drug program? They voted for those policies.

Now, having run up huge deficits, our born-again “deficit hawks” want to cut every program in sight to save money. In order to cover the costs they incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan, they want to cut Social Security. In order to cover the costs of the tax breaks for the rich, they want to cut Medicare and Medicaid. In order to cover the insurance-company-written Medicare prescription drug program, they want to cut education and food stamps.

This approach – balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor – is not only immoral, it is bad economic policy. It is something that must be vigorously opposed.

The $16 trillion national debt and the current $1 trillion deficit are serious problems, but they must be addressed in a fair way that will not cripple our economy, lead to the loss of jobs and punish people who are already hurting.

At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the richest people in this country have got to be asked to pay their fair share of taxes.

At a time when corporate profits are soaring and when about one in four major profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes, we must end corporate loopholes and demand that corporate America starts paying its fair share of taxes.

At a time when this country loses $100 billion every single year because wealthy people and corporations stash money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, we must crack down on abusive tax cheats.

The United States military budget has virtually tripled since 1997, and we now spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. It is time to take a hard look at military spending.

There are serious and responsible ways to move this country toward deficit reduction. Unfortunately, that’s not what Romney and Ryan are talking about. For them, it’s the same old Republican saga: more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, and more austerity and pain for the most vulnerable people in this country.
http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/13188-deficit-hawk-hypocrites