By Sen. Bernie Sanders
I want to take this opportunity to thank the citizens of Vermont for allowing me to continue representing them in the U.S. Senate. These are tough times for our country, and I promise to continue working as hard as I can to address the very serious crises that we face.
Let me provide a brief overview of just a few of the areas that I will be focusing on.
The U.S. economy today is working very well—for millionaires and billionaires. Not so well for the disappearing middle class. While we have come a long way in the last four years since Wall Street greed drove us to the verge of a worldwide depression, much more has to be done to create the millions of jobs that we need.
In America today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth. The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns 2.3 percent. In the last study done on income distribution, we learned that 93 percent of all new income generated between 2009 and 2010 went to the top 1 percent, while the bottom 99 percent split the remaining 7 percent. This extraordinary unfairness is not only morally reprehensible, it is bad economics. It will be very difficult to create the jobs that our people need when so many Americans have little or no money to spend.
As Vermont’s senator, I will be pushing for a major jobs program to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. In Vermont and around the country, we need a massive effort to improve our roads, bridges, water and wastewater systems, airports, rail system, broadband and cell phone service. Rebuilding our infrastructure makes us more productive and internationally competitive—and creates a whole lot of jobs.
In 2001, when Bill Clinton left office, this country had a $236 billion surplus. As a result of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were unpaid for, huge tax breaks for the rich, a Medicare prescription drug program put on the credit card and a significant decline in federal revenues because of the recession, we now have a $1 trillion deficit and a $16 trillion national debt.
Congress must address the deficit situation, but we must do it in a way that is fair. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing extremely well and their effective tax rates are extremely low (think Mitt Romney), the people on top must pay their fair share of taxes to help us deal with the deficit. The idea that Republicans are united in wanting to extend Bush’s tax breaks for the top 2 percent is beyond comprehension. We must also end the outrageous loopholes that allow one out of four large profitable corporations to pay nothing in federal corporate taxes. We must also end the absurdity of allowing the wealthy and large corporations to avoid paying over $100 billion a year in federal taxes because they are able to stash their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and elsewhere.
We must also take a hard look at wasteful spending in the Defense Department, where we now spend almost as much money as the rest of the world combined. There are also other federal agencies where significant savings can be found.
What we must not do, however, is to move toward a balanced budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. That is what virtually all Republicans and some Democrats want to do, but as Vermont’s senator, I will do all that I can to prevent cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid education and other programs vitally important to the working families of America.
If the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Irene was not enough of a wake-up call for the country, then Hurricane Sandy surely should be. Virtually all the scientists who study this issue agree that global warming is real, that it is significantly caused by human activity and that it is already wreaking havoc on this planet in terms of floods, drought, wildfires and severe weather disturbances. The scientists also tell us that the destructive impact of global warming will only become more severe and more frequent if we do not dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As Vermont’s senator, I will do all that I can to move our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-mass. This is not only imperative for the future of our planet, but it will improve our economy by creating a significant number of green jobs.
These are only a few of the issues that my office will be working on. Needless to say, we have got to continue going forward to provide health care for all our people, protect women’s rights, do all that we can to make college affordable and fight for the well-being of family-based agriculture. As a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I will continue my efforts on behalf of those who have put their lives on the line defending our country.
If there are any problems my office can help you with, or opinions you wish to express, please call us at 1-800-339-9834 or go to my website at sanders.senate.gov.
Once again, thank you very much for allowing me to represent our great state in the U.S. Senate.
Bernie Sanders is one of Vermont’s U.S. senators.