Join U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Daily Kos for a special conference call on Monday, January 27, 2014 at 8:00pm EST.
At a time of a lot of bad news, let me give you some very good news.
In November, a number of grass-roots organizations came together and presented Congress with a petition signed by more than 700,000 Americans. The petition was clear: Do not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Do not balance the budget on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in this country -- the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.
And guess what happened?
Earlier this year, it was announced that the Tribune Company was exploring the possible sale of some of its major newspapers including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and Hoy, amongst others.
More recently, it has been rumored that one of the strongest potential buyers is Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire Koch brothers.
As you no doubt know, Charles and David Koch are right-wing extremists who already exercise enormous economic and political power in our country. As a family worth some $50 billion dollars they have reportedly spent at least $400 million attempting to influence the 2012 national elections. They have also established and funded dozens of organizations that actively support the privatization of Social Security, massive cuts in programs for working families, attacks on workers' rights, more tax breaks for billionaires and large corporations and other causes benefitting the rich and powerful.
As I’m sure you are aware, there is currently a major effort being waged by Wall Street CEOs, Republicans and some Democrats to do deficit reduction on the backs of the middle class and working families.
This could mean, among other things, significant cuts to vital programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
President Obama and the Democrats won a decisive victory on Election Day. The people have spoken and the Democratic Leadership must make it very clear that they intend to stand with the middle class and working families of our country, and not the Big Money interests. This means that in the coming weeks and months the Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done in a way that is fair -- and not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.
We are in the midst of this terrible recession due largely to the greed, irresponsibility and illegal behavior on Wall Street. As a result of Wall Street recklessness, unemployment remains far too high, millions of older Americans have lost their life savings, and many young people just graduating from college are having a hard time finding work. We must never again allow this type of greed and irresponsibility to destroy our economy and the lives of millions of Americans.
The American people do not want to bail out Wall Street again. They want our financial institutions investing in the real productive economy -- creating jobs, goods and services. They want an end to Wall Street functioning as a huge gambling casino separated from the real world and the needs of ordinary people.
As part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, I wrote an amendment requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis period and to investigate potential conflicts of interest within the Federal Reserve System. As a result of these GAO reports (which came out in July and October of last year), we learned that the Federal Reserve provided a jaw-dropping $16 trillion in total financial assistance to every major financial institution in this country as well as a number of corporations, wealthy individuals and central banks throughout the world.
The trillions of dollars in near-zero interest loans that the Fed provided to Wall Street has been well documented. What has not been as well-known, up until recently, are the enormous conflicts of interest that currently exist at the Fed.
The United States faces a $15.6 trillion national debt -- a debt that was largely brought about over the last 10 years by Bush Administration policies which included two wars, huge tax breaks for the rich, and a prescription drug program written by the drug companies -- all unpaid for. The national debt also increased as a result of the declining federal tax revenues occurring during the current recession, a severe economic downturn caused by the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street.
The debate now happening in Washington over deficit reduction comes at an unusual moment in American economic history. While the middle class is in rapid decline and poverty is increasing, the wealthiest people in our country and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. Over the last several decades almost all new income created in this country has gone to the top 1 percent who now earn more income than the bottom 50 percent. Further, the United States now has the most unequal distribution of wealth of any major country, with the top 400 individuals owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million.
Given the reality of record-breaking corporate profits and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, it should surprise no one that every recently published poll suggests that the overwhelming majority of the American people want the deficit to be addressed through shared sacrifice. They believe that the richest people in this country should also contribute toward deficit reduction. They do not believe that the deficit should be reduced solely on the backs of working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor -- many of whom are already suffering as a result of the recession. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Republicans have proposed.
I know that many of you are deeply concerned about the economy, health care, education, global warming and the environment, Social Security and Medicare, civil liberties, war and peace and the national debt. But here’s an issue that’s even more important because it encompasses all of these issues – and much more.
Will the United States survive, in any significant way, as a democracy in which ordinary people can control their future? Or, will “democracy” simply become another commodity owned and controlled by billionaires and corporations in order to serve their own purposes?
I wanted to mention to you that I have recently introduced a constitutional amendment, the Saving American Democracy Act, to undo the damage being caused by the disastrous 5-4 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
In my view, this Supreme Court decision is one of the worst in the history of our country. Together, we have got to do everything we can to repeal it. A good place to start would be signing the attached petition and becoming a citizen co-sponsor of this resolution.
Click here to see Bernie discuss his Saving American Democracy Amendment with Rev. Al Sharpton, then sign on as a citizen co-sponsor!
I want to alert you to a very important issue which needs your immediate response.
As we speak, members of the so-called “Super Committee” are proposing a plan that would call for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Please join me in doing everything we can to defeat this terrible idea.
Republicans hate Social Security because it has been an extraordinary success and has done exactly what it was designed to do. It is the most successful government program in our nation's history and is enormously popular.