Organizing Help Wanted

We must defend America’s middle class before millionaires and billionaires own the entire country.

Bernie Sanders

Are you entertained? Less than a week before the historic midterm elections, hundreds of thousands of citizens crowd the National Mall for the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear on Oct. 30, 2010. (Photo by: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

There is a war going on in this coun­try and I am not refer­ring to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. I am refer­ring to the war waged by the wealth­i­est peo­ple in Amer­i­ca on the dis­ap­pear­ing and shrink­ing mid­dle class of our coun­try. The nation’s bil­lion­aires are on the warpath. They want more, more, more. Their greed has no end and they are appar­ent­ly uncon­cerned for the future of this coun­try if it gets in the way of their accu­mu­la­tion of pow­er and wealth. 

If we act, we can win this fight. If we don't—if they roll over us now—there is no stopping them.

On the floor of the Sen­ate, we dis­cuss a lot of things. But one thing we fail to talk about is who is win­ning in this econ­o­my and who is los­ing, and what that means for par­ents strug­gling to sur­vive while work­ing longer hours with low­er wages, and wor­ry­ing about whether their chil­dren will have the same kind of stan­dard of liv­ing they have.

Right now, the top 1 per­cent con­trols more than 23 per­cent of all income earned in Amer­i­ca. The top 1 per­cent con­trols more than the bot­tom 50 per­cent. It’s not only that the rich are get­ting rich­er. The very, very rich are get­ting rich­er. In the last 25 years, we have seen 80 per­cent of all new income going to the top 1 percent.

On top of all this, while the mil­lion­aires get rich­er and there are more and more bil­lion­aires, as a result of the Cit­i­zens Unit­ed deci­sion, what we are begin­ning to see in elec­tions is unbe­liev­able – a group of bil­lion­aires get­ting togeth­er and decid­ing where they are going to spend their mon­ey. Bil­lion­aires are going to flood states with all kinds of neg­a­tive, dis­hon­est ads in an effort to defeat peo­ple defend­ing the mid­dle class and to elect peo­ple who will stand up for right-wing billionaires.

The Repub­li­cans’ goal – and to their cred­it, they have been pret­ty hon­est about it – is to bring this coun­try back to where we were in the 1920s. All of the pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion that start­ed with FDR is on the chop­ping block. Despite the great suc­cess­es of Social Secu­ri­ty over the last 75 years, despite the fact that Social Secu­ri­ty today has a $2.6 tril­lion sur­plus, they are tar­get­ing Social Secu­ri­ty. They are tar­get­ing Medicare. In Ari­zona today, peo­ple on Med­ic­aid who need trans­plants are no longer able to get them – that is a real death panel. 

Right now, accord­ing to a num­ber of stud­ies, we are los­ing about $100 bil­lion every year because cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca and the very wealthy are stash­ing their mon­ey in tax havens like the Cay­man Islands and Bermu­da. We should be aware that in 2009, Exxon­Mo­bil made $19 bil­lion in prof­its and not only did the com­pa­ny not pay any­thing in tax­es, it got a $106 mil­lion refund from the IRS. We should also be aware that since 1997, we have almost tripled fund­ing for the mil­i­tary. So if we are seri­ous about reduc­ing the deficit, those are things we need to look at – not at Social Secu­ri­ty, not pro­grams every­day Amer­i­cans need.

Our job now is to ral­ly Amer­i­cans to put pres­sure on a hand­ful of Repub­li­cans – to tell them, go into your hearts, talk to your con­stituents and tell me if it is appro­pri­ate to hold hostage the future of this coun­try for an agen­da that ben­e­fits only the very rich.

If we act, we can win this fight. It is cru­cial that we do, because if we don’t – if they roll over us now – there is no stop­ping them. It is time we organize. 

Your help is wanted. 

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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