"Class war demagogue" Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stood up on his hind legs yesterday afternoon and evening and, with Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) help, fake-filibustered the tax deal that, alarmingly, has gotten some broad consensus. It was a fake filibuster or ("fauxlibuster" as Mrs. JP called it) because no bills were up for vote yesterday. This relatively long 12 minute-long video posted by Senator Sanders' own Youtube account is but the mere prologue. The man was on his feet shaking the rafters until nearly 7 o'clock PM.
It was eight hours of something better than mere political theater, which is often entertaining, if you're a political junkie. It was not political theater. It was not convenient and calculating populism. It was not pandering to the liberal base. This was the real thing and those of us who "get" it know the real thing when we see it.
In case you haven't the time or the patience to watch the Youtube and C-Span videos, I can boil it down to 10 words: "Don't let the wealthy fuck up our country any more."
Sanders spoke my conscience, albeit in a more civil way than I would've. Whenever I noted that Sanders left out the smallest salient fact or figure, he always got around to it.
Here are the inconvenient figures:
Extending the Bush tax cuts another decade will add $700,000,000,000 to the deficit and we'll have to borrow to pay it off.
Eliminating the estate (or, Bach organ, please, maestro, deeeeeaaaaatttthhhh) tax for a decade will add another $1,000,000,000,000 to the deficit. It will benefit only the top .3% of our country's earners, if they can be called "earners." The estate tax does not affect 99.7% of the population and the poor and the battered middle class generally don't leave behind estates, anyway. Often they leave behind debt.
That's $1.7 trillion dollars added to a national debt that's already fast approaching $20 trillion.
The "tax holiday", a larger version of the gas tax holiday proposed by John McCain during the '08 election, on the Social Security fund is a transparently sleazy attempt by the Republicans to cripple and privatize Social Security. There is currently a $2.7 trillion surplus that guarantees all projected payouts will be met for nearly three decades. Reducing the tax from 6.2 to 4.2%, on the face of it, sounds like a pretty good deal if you listen to just the President talk about it.
Wow! $1000 dollars back in my pocket, even if it's incremental and accrued over 52 weeks, sounds awesome! And if Obama, Clinton and the GOP is all for it, how can they all be wrong!
Here's the problem: The only reason Social Security is still as functional as it is is because it depends upon payroll taxes paid faithfully every week and not Congressional allocation. It's almost like a massive savings account into which you kick in $10 or $20 a week and forget about for a few decades then only dip into once you need it. It's administered only by the Federal government. We, the people, fund it through our taxes.
Reducing the tax rate by 2% for just a year would not cripple Social Security but it would seriously erode at that $2.7 trillion surplus. Republicans traditionally hate surpluses just as they ignore deficits. Every time a Republican sees a rare surplus, such as Bill Clinton's record surplus in 2001, they interpret that as an invitation to plunder.
However, if the last 10 years and the Bush tax cuts are any indicator, it's a foregone conclusion that Republicans will fight tooth and nail to keep the tax holiday indefinite just as they're fighting tooth and nail to keep the disastrous Bush tax cuts in place for the top 2%. Any attempt to end the holiday, just as the current attempt to end the Bush tax cuts is now, will be propagandized as a "tax hike".
Once Social Security is crippled, the new Republican and moderate Democrat mantra will be, "In order to save Social Security, we have to privatize it on Wall Street! Look how much money Wall Street makes! How can we go wrong?"
Next scene: Two seniors fighting over half a can of Friskies beside a dumpster in an alley. Fade to black.
Yes, Wall Street made a lot of money but one can make a pretty persuasive case, as Senator Sanders did yesterday, that they hardly earned a penny of it. Through toxic, mortaged-backed securities, arcane derivatives and taxpayer bailouts totaling over $11 trillion when you include the newly-minted money from the Fed, Wall Street is enjoying record profits.
Executive pay had climbed and four such Wall St. banks and firms now own and control a combined $1.7 trillion in assets (that's enough to pay for the health care bill for the next 20 years). Wall Street also sits on cash reserves of $1,970,000,000,000 (or enough to fund the HCR bill for 20-25 years). That's almost two trillion dollars. If you can tell me what percentage of that fungible fortune is taxpayer bailout money, I'd sure love to hear the answer.
And these people want more. And Obama, the Great Capitulator and Clinton, the fucking genius who gave us NAFTA (with the support of every living Republican ex president), unite with the Republicans in saying they deserve it.
Meanwhile, unemployment benefits are being held hostage since the two are united in the same bill, conjoined twins who have no choice but to live or die together. Unemployment benefits are roughly 50% of a person's base pay and is still taxable. That's being held hostage by the GOP as they're set to expire for millions of unemployed workers at roughly the same time as the Bush tax cuts, which is something that even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two of the richest men in America, say they neither want nor need.
With few exceptions, Bernie Sanders stands alone, waging the loneliest fight while capitulating Democrats and EEG flatliners like Michelle Malkin sneer and call him a mere class war demagogue. For a radical, bomb-throwing, anarchic Socialist revolutionary, Sen. Sanders sounded pretty commonsensical and pragmatic to me. Having watched the last three hours of his magnificent performance on a C-SPAN2 live streaming feed, he did not say one thing or uttered one fact with which I disagreed.
The Republican Party is trying to destroy America and is using the federal government as Wall Street's wrecking ball. Then, when all but the Ivory Towers are knocked down, they'll all go in the private sector and make all the moolah they can stuff into their mouths as they take off on their private ocean liners and leaving behind a dinning, smoking shoreline.
Senator Sanders can see all this coming, just as he saw the disaster lurking when the Congress put the kibosh to Glass Steagall in 1999. I don't believe for a minute that 99.9% of the other lawmakers on Capitol Hill can't see the truth and wisdom of what Sanders is saying. They know what he's talking about. Bernie Sanders doesn't have a monopoly on the truth.
But in his impassioned fauxlibuster last night before the nation, he drew a line in the sand and dared others to cross it. The ones who won't, that 99.9%, are the ones who care more about their personal or political fortunes than that of the working men and women of America.