Time to Commit

Bernie Sanders

As the only elect­ed Inde­pen­dent in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the longest-serv­ing con­gres­sion­al Inde­pen­dent in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, I want to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to share some thoughts with pro­gres­sives strug­gling over which can­di­date to sup­port for pres­i­dent on Elec­tion Day.

First, let me state as clear­ly as I can that George W. Bush’s reelec­tion would be a dis­as­ter. I write this as some­one who is not a Demo­c­rat and who, as a mem­ber of Con­gress, has dif­fered with John Ker­ry on a num­ber of impor­tant issues. In terms of eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy, among many oth­er issues, how­ev­er, the choice is clear. It is absolute­ly essen­tial that Ker­ry win Novem­ber 2

If Bush is reelect­ed the Unit­ed States increas­ing­ly will resem­ble an impov­er­ished Third World coun­try in which a few fam­i­lies have incred­i­ble wealth while the vast major­i­ty strug­gle to survive.

The mid­dle class is shrink­ing, the gap between the rich and poor is grow­ing and pover­ty is increas­ing: This is the Bush legacy.

He will be the first pres­i­dent since Her­bert Hoover and the Great Depres­sion to over­see a decline in employ­ment in a sin­gle term. Despite huge tax breaks to the rich and large cor­po­ra­tions, our coun­try has lost jobs under his reign. Equal­ly impor­tant, the jobs being cre­at­ed pay sub­stan­tial­ly less than those lost. Incred­i­bly, because of out­sourc­ing and dis­as­trous trade poli­cies with Chi­na and oth­er coun­tries, in the last three years alone we have lost 2.7 mil­lion good-pay­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs — 16 per­cent of that sec­tor. We are now on the verge of los­ing mil­lions of high-tech jobs to India and else­where. In the midst of all of this, Bush and Co. sup­port out­sourc­ing and the anti-Amer­i­can actions of their cor­po­rate allies.

While cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca throws Amer­i­can work­ers out on the street and move their jobs abroad, wages are no longer keep­ing up with infla­tion. They fell 1.1 per­cent in June — the steep­est decline in real hourly wages since 1991. In fact, real hourly wages declined in five of the six pre­vi­ous months. Because the mid­dle class is shrink­ing, the aver­age Amer­i­can employ­ee is work­ing the longest hours in the indus­tri­al­ized world — and 62 per­cent say their work­load has increased over the last six months, a sit­u­a­tion about to wors­en because of new Bush rules that cut over­time pay for 6 mil­lion employ­ees. Pover­ty also increased by 1.3 mil­lion in the last year alone; hunger and home­less­ness are on the rise.

Yet, the wealth­i­est peo­ple have nev­er had it so good. The gap between the rich and the poor is now wider than at any time since the 1920s, with the rich­est 1 per­cent own­ing more wealth than the bot­tom 90 per­cent. Cor­po­rate prof­its are soar­ing, and com­pen­sa­tion of CEOs of our largest cor­po­ra­tions is 500 times greater than their workers.

The Unit­ed States also remains the only major coun­try that does not guar­an­tee health­care for all its cit­i­zens, and this sit­u­a­tion only wors­ened in the last four years. Five mil­lion more Amer­i­cans lost their health insur­ance since Bush took office, and today we have a record 45 mil­lion with­out any cov­er­age. As health insur­ance pre­mi­ums soar, work­ers are being asked to con­tribute more in pre­mi­ums, deductibles and co-pay­ments. Mean­while, the admin­is­tra­tion attempts to pri­va­tize Medicare and, just last week, announced the largest pre­mi­um increase in the Medicare program’s his­to­ry, rais­ing the month­ly expense by $11.60 to $78.20. While the cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs soars Bush has defend­ed the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try, which heav­i­ly fund­ed his cam­paign, by try­ing to stop all efforts to end the nation­al dis­grace of Amer­i­cans pay­ing, by far, the high­est prices in the world for their medicine.

Pres­i­dent Bush and the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship have pro­vid­ed hun­dreds of bil­lions in tax breaks to the rich­est 1 per­cent, peo­ple with an aver­age income of more than $1 mil­lion a year. And in the process have cre­at­ed record-break­ing deficits and a $7 tril­lion nation­al debt — spurring Alan Greenspan and oth­er finan­cial lead­ers to advo­cate cuts in Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits. In fact, all pro­grams that ben­e­fit the mid­dle class are now at risk.

Bush has thrown 160,000 vet­er­ans off VA health­care, and his new Vet­er­ans bud­get will sub­stan­tial­ly raise fees for the men and women who have put their lives on the line defend­ing our nation. In the midst of a major cri­sis in afford­able hous­ing, the pres­i­dent also wants to dec­i­mate the Sec­tion 8 program.

This cam­paign isn’t about George Bush and John Ker­ry. (And it cer­tain­ly isn’t about Ralph Nad­er; a pro­gres­sive vote for Nad­er is in effect a vote for Bush.) It’s about a cor­po­rate class that has gained unprece­dent­ed ground in the last four years and, by exten­sion, the ter­ri­to­ry ced­ed by the rest of America.

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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