As, perhaps, the most progressive member of the U.S. Senate I want to thank you for the political and financial support you have given me as I seek re-election as Vermont’s senator. I also want to take this opportunity to ask for your continued help as, together, we take on right-wing extremism and fight to make government work for all the people and not just the super-rich and powerful.
The very good news is that our campaign is off and running — very successfully. It has always been my intention to run the strongest grass-roots campaign in Vermont history and, with your help, run a campaign which can become a model for progressives throughout the country. And that’s what we’re doing!
Last week our staff and volunteers were knocking on doors in Rutland, Bennington, St. Johnsbury and Brattleboro — some of the largest towns in Vermont. Door after door, block after block, our campaign workers were explaining our position on the issues, registering new voters and enlisting new volunteers. That’s what a grass-roots campaign is about.
On Saturday and Sunday, some 600 Vermonters came out to campaign organizational meetings in these same towns. I, and others, spoke at length about the major issues facing our country, how to defeat right-wing Republicans and how we can effectively organize and educate the working families of our state and nation. It was a lot of hard work, our staff did great and the results were very positive. Hundreds of Vermonters are fired up — and they are ready to go. And that’s just the very beginning of our campaign efforts. By Election Day, we’ll have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in virtually every community in the state, held dozens of rallies in our largest cities and smallest towns and involved thousands of Vermonters in the campaign process.
Let me share with you the very simple message that I am taking all over: If we do not organize and build a strong grass-roots movement, this country will become an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires will control the economic and political life of our country. And we must not allow that to happen.
In the United States today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income since the 1920s. Today, the wealthiest 400 individuals own more wealth than the bottom half of America — 150 million people. Unbelievable as it may seem, the six heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, the Walton family, own more wealth than the bottom 30 percent.
Today, the top one percent own 40 percent of all wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns less than two percent. Incredibly, the bottom 40 percent of all Americans own just 3/10 of one percent of the wealth of the country. According to a new study from the Federal Reserve, median net worth for middle class families dropped by nearly 40 percent from 2007-2010. That’s the equivalent of wiping out 18 years of savings for the average middle class family.
The distribution of income is even worse. If you can believe it, the last study on this subject showed that in 2010, 93 percent of all new income created in the previous year went to the top one percent, while the bottom 99 percent of people had the privilege of enjoying the remaining seven percent.
That is what is going on in our country economically. The very rich are getting much richer while the middle class disappears and poverty increases.
Politically, the trend is exactly the same. As a result of the horrendous Citizens United Supreme Court decision of two years ago, millionaires and billionaires are now allowed to spend as much money as they want on elections. And that’s what they are doing. With their unlimited resources they are now buying politicians and elections. In fact, in the same way that they buy coal mines and gambling casinos, they are about to buy the U.S. government.
The Koch brothers, a right-wing Republican family who are worth more than $50 billion, have announced their intention to spend at least $400 million to defeat Obama and elect Senate and House candidates sympathetic to the needs of the very rich. Sheldon Adelson, worth over $20 billion, is prepared to spend as much as it takes to achieve the same ends. Other billionaires are also lining up. These people are not content to control the economic life of the nation; they want to control our politics as well.
These are incredibly dangerous times. The billionaires are on the war path. They want it all. We have got to stop them, and that’s why I need your help.
Please contribute today to my re-election campaign and continue our fight for social and economic justice.
In order to be successful in a campaign, one has got to lay out an agenda. Here’s some of what I will be fighting for if I am re-elected:
First, we have got to address the outrageously high unemployment rate that we are experiencing. Unemployment today is not 8.2%. Real unemployment is closer to 14% if you include all those who have given up looking for work and those who are under-employed. We need to put the American people back to work.
The fastest way to create decent paying jobs is rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, rail, airports, water systems, wastewater plants, deteriorating schools, etc.) As a former mayor I can tell you that infrastructure does not get better if you ignore it. It gets worse. Virtually every major country in the world spends a higher percentage of its GDP on infrastructure than we do, and it’s time that we started addressing this crisis in a serious way. We also know that, in this era of global competition, it is absurd to be laying-off educators and making college unaffordable.
Further, we can create a significant number of good paying jobs by transforming our energy system by investing in energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Not only will we begin reversing global warming and cleaning up our environment, we can break our dependency on foreign fuel and involvement in wars for oil. The time is now for major investments in wind, solar, geo-thermal, bio-mass and other sustainable technologies.
Lastly, we need to reverse our disastrous trade policies. Trade is a good thing, but not when agreements are structured to simply benefit the CEOs of large corporations. In the last ten years this country has lost 60,000 factories and millions of good paying manufacturing jobs. We need trade policies which demand that corporate America invest in this country and create jobs here, and not in China and other low-wage countries.
One of the major issues of this election is deficit reduction. How do we address the problem of a $15.8 trillion dollar national debt and a $1.2 trillion deficit? Here’s what I think. When we talk about the national debt and the deficit, let us never forget that this crisis was primarily caused by Bush’s unpaid-for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and huge tax breaks for the rich. Even more importantly, the deficit is the result of a major decline in federal tax revenue because of the high unemployment and business losses that we are experiencing as a result of this recession — caused by the greed and recklessness of Wall Street.
If we are serious about dealing with the deficit and creating jobs in America, the wealthy are going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes. We also have to end the massive tax loopholes and subsidies that exist for major corporations. At a time when the United States now spends more money on defense than the rest of the world combined, we also have to cut back on military spending.
While we continue to do everything we can during the next six months to defeat Republican right-wing extremism, it is also important that we never lose sight of the progressive vision that we are fighting for. If we don’t know where we want to go, it will be impossible to get there. I look forward to working with you to advance a progressive agenda for America which includes the following:
Not only must we resist cuts in Social Security, we must lift the cap on taxing higher incomes so that Social Security will be strong for the next 75 years.
Not only must we oppose cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, we must see health care as a right of all and continue the fight for a Medicare for All Single Payer health care system.
Not only must we oppose placing the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of working families, we must demand a progressive tax system in which the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.
Not onlymust we oppose cuts in unemployment compensation, we must fight for a jobs program that creates the many millions of jobs our country desperately needs.
Not only must we fight to end disastrous unfettered free trade agreements with China, Mexico, and other low wage countries, we must fight to fundamentally re-write our trade agreements so that American products, not jobs, are our number one export.
Not only must we oppose those who deny the reality of global warming, we must demand the transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuels into energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and bio-mass.
Not only must we vigorously oppose the war against women, we must fight to end all forms of discrimination and prejudice in this country.
The struggle we are engaged in right now is of pivotal importance for this country. Whether we win or lose will determine the future of America. That struggle is not just for our lives, but more importantly it is for our children and our grandchildren.
Despair is not an option. I know you get angry, I know you get frustrated, I know you get disgusted. But we don’t have the right not to be involved.
Thank you very much for the support you have given me. Let’s go forward together.
Senator Bernie Sanders
P.S. June 30th marks a critical fundraising deadline for our campaign. Please contribute today to show the right-wing that we are prepared for any attacks they may throw our way.