Earth to Bush

While the prez pats himself on the back, 5 million more Americans have slipped into poverty, hunger and homelessness

Bernie Sanders

Ground con­trol to Mr. Bush: What plan­et are you liv­ing on? Today, tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are expe­ri­enc­ing a declin­ing stan­dard of liv­ing and yet you con­tin­ue to insist that our econ­o­my is strong” and robust.” Rather than acknowl­edge the eco­nom­ic anx­i­eties of Amer­i­can work­ers, you insist that they don’t know how good they have it.

Since you have been pres­i­dent, 5 mil­lion more Amer­i­cans have slipped into pover­ty; hunger and home­less­ness have increased. Because you refused to raise the min­i­mum wage for six years, mil­lions of work­ers are con­tin­u­ing to work full time and live in des­per­a­tion. Low-wage work­ers are often unable to find qual­i­ty child­care and their kids enter school at a spe­cial dis­ad­van­tage – many of them nev­er to catch up. It is no coin­ci­dence, Mr. Pres­i­dent, that we have both the high­est rate of child­hood pover­ty in the indus­tri­al­ized world as well as the high­est rate of incarceration.

But it’s not only the poor who are suf­fer­ing under your thriv­ing” econ­o­my. The next gen­er­a­tion will be the first to have a low­er stan­dard of liv­ing than their par­ents. From 2001 to 2005, all of the income growth in our coun­try has accrued to the top 5 per­cent, while the bot­tom 90 per­cent of house­holds expe­ri­enced a 4.2 per­cent decline in their mar­ket-based incomes. Have your advis­ers told you, Mr. Pres­i­dent, that 3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have lost their pen­sions dur­ing your pres­i­den­cy, aging peo­ple ter­ri­fied about how they will cope in their gold­en years?”

Have your aides told you thatÊhome fore­clo­sures are now the high­est on record; and that the preda­to­ry lend­ing prac­tices that your admin­is­tra­tion encour­aged have led to an extra­or­di­nary lev­el of insta­bil­i­ty and volatil­i­ty on the stock mar­ket? Do you know that the per­son­al sav­ings rate is low­er than at any time since before the Great Depres­sion and that wages and salaries are at the low­est share of gross domes­tic prod­uct since 1929? Have you been informed that a two-income fam­i­ly today has less dis­pos­able income than a one-income fam­i­ly had 30 years ago, and that the stressed-out Amer­i­can peo­ple are now forced to work the longest hours of any peo­ple in the indus­tri­al­ized world? Mil­lions of work­ers in our coun­try don’t have any vaca­tion time at all. Does this real­ly sound like a strong economy?

The sor­ry state of Amer­i­can health­care is just anoth­er social injus­tice of the Bush era. Since you have been in office, near­ly sev­en mil­lion Amer­i­cans have lost their health insur­ance. Your home state of Texas has the high­est rate of unin­sured chil­dren in the coun­try, and yet you are threat­en­ing to veto the State Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram leg­is­la­tion that would pro­vide health care for 3 mil­lion kids.

I sus­pect, Mr. Pres­i­dent, when you look at the econ­o­my, you are sole­ly inter­est­ed in what’s hap­pen­ing with your wealthy friends. Since 2001, the rich­est 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans haven’t had it so good since the 1920s. Accord­ing to the lat­est data, from 2001 to 2005, the top 1 per­cent of house­holds gained $283 bil­lion of total income – $183,902 per house­hold. Yes, the econ­o­my is doing very well for them. On the oth­er hand, the bot­tom 90 per­cent lost $272 bil­lion or $2,071 per household.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, in the com­ing months some of us in Con­gress will be fight­ing for eco­nom­ic and health­care poli­cies which are des­per­ate­ly need­ed by Amer­i­can work­ing peo­ple. Based on your ide­ol­o­gy and your long track record of top-down class war­fare, I strong­ly sus­pect that you will oppose those ini­tia­tives. But what­ev­er else you do or don’t do, please show some under­stand­ing of the eco­nom­ic real­i­ties fac­ing the lives of ordi­nary Amer­i­cans. Stop telling them how good the econ­o­my is – it insults their intelligence.

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.
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