Now Is the Time for Bold Action
13 July 17
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out into America during the Great Depression, he saw a third of our nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. And he acted.
He imposed the toughest banking regulations our nation has ever seen. He radically transformed our country by signing into law Social Security, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, programs that put millions of Americans back to work and a dramatic increase in taxes on the wealthy. The top 1 percent despised him for it. Instead of cowering, he took them on.
Three days before his first re-election, FDR stood on stage at Madison Square Garden and proudly proclaimed that the big money interests were unanimous in their hatred for him and he welcomed their hatred. He knew which side he was on.
When I look out into our country today, I see our great middle class, once the envy of the world, in a 40-year decline, with millions of Americans working longer hours for lower wages. I see 43 million people living in poverty, and the United States has, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country.
I see the United States experiencing more income and wealth inequality than at any time since 1928, with the top 0.1 percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and with 52 percent of all new income going to the top 1 percent.
I see a political system in which billionaires are able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to help elect candidates who represent the rich and the powerful while ignoring the needs of the working families of this country.
Despite the gains of the Affordable Care Act, I see 28 million Americans still without health insurance and millions more under-insured and unable to afford the outrageous price of prescription drugs.
I see hundreds of thousands of bright and qualified young Americans unable to go to college because their families lack the funds and millions of students overwhelmed with appalling levels of debt.
I see all of these problems and more.
The only way to confront these and the other very serious challenges we face as a country is to put forward a bold progressive agenda like FDR did in his day — one that represents the interests of all Americans, not just the wealthy and the powerful.
The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world in recognizing health care as a right of all people, not a privilege. Instead of throwing 22 million Americans off of health insurance, which is what the extreme right wing wants to do, we should establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system to make sure that all Americans have quality health care.
At a time when CEOs of the largest corporations in this country make over 345 times more than the average worker, we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour.
We must also ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. Today, women earn just 80 percent of what their male counterparts make. That is grossly unfair.
At a time when over half of older workers have no retirement savings, we need to expand Social Security benefits, not cut them as some of my Republican colleagues want.
In America, children born into wealthy families have a far better chance of getting a good education than those born poor and even middle class. We must provide high quality, affordable education for all Americans — from child care to higher education.
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system based on the ability to pay. It is unacceptable that one out of five large, profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs enjoy effective tax rates that are lower than that of their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose more than $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. That has got to end. The wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations must pay more, not less in taxes.
It is also unacceptable that financial institutions are allowed to engage in the same kind of risky behavior that tanked the economy during the financial crisis in 2008 and back in FDR’s day. Banks are supposed to facilitate productive and job-creating activities, not gamble with our economy. Right now, six huge financial institutions are underwriting more than 35 percent of the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. They are too powerful to be reformed. It is time to break them up.
A truly progressive agenda is not about Democrat vs. Republican, or progressive vs. conservative. It is about implementing an agenda for America’s future that’s both sound and fair. FDR’s courage helped the United States recover from one of the most devastating economic crises in our history, and it brought decades of good jobs and living wages. We must have the courage today to fight for a government and an economy that do the same.
U.S. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt., a presidential candidate in 2016, will be the keynote speaker at CCI Action’s statewide convention on Saturday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. For more information or to register, call (515) 255-0800 or go to cciaction.org/july15/.
Adapt and overcome.
Founder, Reader Supported News
Founder, Reader Supported News