In the Senate in the United States, 99 members belong to one or the other of the two political parties. One single senator stands alone as an independent. He is Bernie Sanders, one of the senators from Vermont. I have endeavored to follow Senator Sanders closely over the last few years and I am always impressed with his freedom and independence and his willingness to take on any issue. Currently, his prime concerns (and they should be the concerns of all of us) are:
First, the economy. Day after day, Sanders speaks of the need to return the country to full employment. Employed citizens pay taxes – not only pay taxes but also don’t require unemployment assistance. Every new job is a double whammy as far as the budget is concerned. Sanders urges the Congress to revitalize the middle class and that we need to create millions of good paying jobs in short order. A determined investment in our crumbling infrastructure would be a great first step in this direction – rebuilding our roads, bridges, water systems, schools, public transportation systems, etc.
Secondly, he points out that we could create millions of good paying jobs by transforming our energy system into sustainable energy. He also bemoans our disastrous trade policies which resulted in the loss of millions of jobs which have been moved overseas.
Third – deficit reduction. Bernie Sanders is as strong as any other official about the need for deficit reduction. However, he points out that the deficit has risen principally because of the Bush tax breaks for the rich, two wars, Medicare Part D drug program, and the Wall Street bailout. The senator rightly notes that the 2011 budget recently passed by the House would throw over 200,000 children off Headstart, reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for 9 million low-income college students, deny primary healthcare to 11 million patients who utilize community health centers, slash Social Security. In other words, the justifiable goal of reduction is to be secured and accomplished by taking necessary assistance away from the poor and the elderly while, at the same time, rewarding the wealthy.
Maybe the most important struggle being waged by Senator Sanders is his brave defense of Social Security which he accurately describes as having successfully lifted tens of millions of elderly people with disabilities, widows and orphans out of poverty over the last 75 years. He points out that under the guise of fighting for deficit reduction the Republicans are unleashing an unprecedented attack against Social Security. “Make no mistake about it. The attempt to destroy Social Security is an ideological struggle on the part of Republicans in Congress and the Wall Street backers…it has nothing to do with deficit reduction.”