Bernie Sanders – Agenda for America

Bernie Sanders - Agenda for America

1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure

We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.

2. Reversing Climate Change

The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.

3. Creating Worker Co-ops

We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.

4. Growing the Trade Union Movement

Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.

5. Raising the Minimum Wage

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.

6. Pay Equity for Women Workers

Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.

7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers

Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.

8. Making College Affordable for All

In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.

9. Taking on Wall Street

The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.

10. Health Care as a Right for All

The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.

11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans

Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.

12. Real Tax Reform

At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.

What more can you want from a candidate for President?  An agenda/platform based on the needs of common American people (99%); honest and sincere; not beholding to large corporations, Wall Street or special interest groups; and not one of the elite (1%).

He should make the debates with Hillary very interesting.

Join Bernie’s campaign and help him fend off the Big Money candidates.

https://berniesanders.com/

Benghazi – Another Republican Diversion From Truth and Reality

benghazi.facts_

Yes, Benghazi was a tragedy, and could have been avoided. But we all know this latest sham of an investigation by the House Republicans is strictly politically-driven and is meant to divert all thought and conversation away from America’s real problems. Their phony outrage and fabrication of a scandal is hypocritical and a shameful attempt to politicize this tragedy.

The truth is they want to point fingers and hold the White House accountable for Benghazi, but they won’t discuss the budget cuts that House Republicans made to security at our embassies, consulates and diplomatic posts around the world that led to the Benghazi tragedy. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged on CNN that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010. When asked if he had voted to cut the funding for embassy security, he replied “Absolutely, look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.

The House Republicans admit they cut the budget for additional security at our embassies because they had to make “difficult choices” and had to “prioritize things.” Yet, over the last 21 months, the facts and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2012, attacks have received unprecedented scrutiny:

  • 9 different House and Senate committees have already investigated the attacks
  • 17 hearings have been conducted
  • 50 briefings have taken place
  • 25 transcribed interviews have been conducted
  • 8 subpoenas have been issued
  • more than 25,000 pages of documents have been reviewed
  • 6 congressional reports have been released

However, that’s not enough for the crisis-hungry GOP. They need a controversial topic that will not only embarrass the President, but plant seeds of disgrace on the next potential president – Hillary Clinton. They need talking-points for their propaganda machine -Faux News – to exploit and cover 24×7.

But we know the real reason…divert attention away from what they are “not doing!”

What they are not doing is passing legislation to address jobs creation, unemployment benefits, immigration reform, climate change, food stamps for the needy, income inequality, water shortages, high energy costs, gun control, our decaying infrastructure, and how about taking care of our veterans after they return from our wars. Obviously this list is not all inclusive, but it does point out there is a lot of reality-based issues that needs to be addressed by our “unproductive and do-nothing” Congress.

However, the GOP would rather continue to play political games that might help them in the next election than to debate and pass legislation that may actually resolve real problems today. Let’s not forget that the House Republicans held 50 votes to repeal ObamaCare. That didn’t work, so now they are wasting more time focusing on Benghazi… Anything to keep our country stagnated under this President.

Where is our outrage at this waste of taxpayer dollars and time lost not addressing America’s real needs?

If you and I were as unproductive as our Congress, we would have lost our jobs a long time ago. But when you have a Congress that has absolute no accountability for getting anything done and consists of mostly millionaires, what do you expect. Like all slackers, they will continue to do as little as possible until they are called out for it…

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-barbara-boxer/the-gops-benghazi-witch-h_b_5315857.html

http://www.huntingtonnews.net/74502

http://posttrib.suntimes.com/opinions/24455727-474/do-nothing-congress-is-not-doing-its-job.html#.U4H1PyhKaes

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/01/millionaires-club-for-first-time-most-lawmakers-are-worth-1-million-plus/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/jason-chaffetz-embassy_n_1954912.html

 

 

Why the First Issue Is Money in Politics

Money and Politics

(AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

Constitutional scholar and activist Lawrence Lessig, whose march through New Hampshire to get money out of politics is featured on our broadcast this week, often says that his crusade is the most urgent in America because it impacts virtually every other issue. From achieving tax reform to fighting climate change to strengthening the social safety net, we will see no progress until the wealthy entities that benefit can no longer buy up politicians to prevent the status quo from changing.

“The people who want to stop reform will pay an enormous amount of money to be able to achieve that,” Lessig told us when we met during his march. “…What this system has done is made the politics of dysfunction incredibly profitable.” Some lobbyists, he noted, even advertise their ability to exploit the system and use legislators to “delay and obstruct” progress in Congress.

“We will never get your issue solved until we fix this issue first,” Lessig said in a TED talk last year. “So it’s not that mine is the most important issue. It’s not. Yours is the most important issue, but mine is the first issue, the issue we have to solve before we get to fix the issues you care about.”

Here are five examples of issues beaten into stasis by a barrage of big money.

Environment

One example Lessig cites — one that motivates many progressives — is climate change.

“If you are a coal company who’s against the idea of climate change legislation, this [political system] is a boon for you,” he said, “because it’s trivial and cheap to be able to leverage your money, to guarantee nothing ever happens to adjust climate change.”

It’s a scenario America has seen play out time and again, most recently in 2009-10, when cap and trade, an idea that originated with the Reagan administration and had Republican support, seemed to have a real chance of working its way through Congress.

But in 2009, thousands of lobbyists representing energy and natural resource extraction companies spent more than they ever had before — over $400 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That record was broken the very next year, when spending reached $450 million.

Is it coincidental that in 2010, cap and trade was declared dead? In proposing climate change legislation that year, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) refused to even discuss cap and trade as a realistic policy suggestion.

It wasn’t until last fall, when President Obama used an executive order to circumvent Congress and cap emissions from coal power plants, that the heaviest polluters faced across-the-board emission restrictions.

A similar story is unfolding right now with the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project that, once operational, would pump more than 800,000 barrels of crude from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast — every day. It has become a defining issue for both the oil industry and environmental activists.

The pipeline’s approval is a decision over which a legacy-conscious Obama has vacillated for five years. Following a year of record spending by the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, and in the face of growing frustration from red state Democratic senators, earlier this month, the State Department released an environmental impact statement claiming that the project would have little impact on global climate emissions. That statement brought the project one step closer to approval, but the Obama administration cautioned that it was still weighing the pros and cons. A 30-day comment period has begun, during which environmental advocates will continue to encourage the administration to stand up to the oil industry, an outcry the oil industry can be expected to counter with another wave of money.

Taxes

Tax reform is one key issue that especially inflames conservative activists. And as Lessig pointed out when we spoke, the problem of legislative paralysis knows no political alignment; it stumps would-be reformers on both the right and the left.

“It’s incredibly naïve to believe that this Congress will ever simplify the tax system, because the complexities in the tax system are fund-raising opportunities,” he told BillMoyers.com. “Every single special benefit is a reason and a target to raise more money.

“So the special Research & Development Tax Credit which Ronald Reagan created in 1981, and which was originally a temporary provision but has been temporary ever since, is temporary because each time it’s about to expire they have a long list of beneficiaries they can go to and say ‘Geez, we need to raise some money to support the idea of extending this temporary tax benefit.’”

In fact, as NPR reported, Congress annually rings in the New Year by letting dozens of tax breaks expire. There immediately follows a healthy round of campaign contributions, as lobbyists for a slew of industries — from overseas financial operators to rum retailers, from movie producers to racetrack operators — scramble to get those tax breaks reinstated.

Food Stamps

The recent farm bill cut food stamps even further than the already severe cuts implemented in 2013. But it preserves a different sort of safety net: subsidies for big agriculture.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in both 2008 and 2013, the two most recent years that the farm bill has come before Congress (it’s renewed every five years), agribusiness spent more than $145 million on lobbying.

Recipients of food stamps, of course, don’t have the same kind of lobbying muscle to advocate on their own behalf. In a Congress pushing austerity, the programs that help the poor continue to hit the chopping block while recipients of corporate welfare can afford a hearty defense to protect their benefits.

In fact, both in 2008 and in 2013, although legislation to roll back agricultural subsidies had bipartisan support, the effort to do so fell apart.

And even though subsidies were “reformed” this year, The New York Times reports that in practice, these reforms mean little.

“It’s a classic bait-and-switch proposal to protect farm subsidies,” Vincent H. Smith, an economist at Montana State University, told the Times. “They’ve eliminated the politically toxic direct payments program and added the money to a program that will provide farmers with even larger subsidies.”

The 2014 farm bill cuts direct payments to farmers, but puts that money into the farm insurance program. Writing in The New Republic, David Dayen explains why this helps big agriculture even more than previous farm bills:

That’s because the farm bill will expand subsidies for crop insurance, which looks like a private-sector program but which actually hands over virtually the same amount of taxpayer money to farmers, mostly wealthy ones, as the old direct payment program. What’s more, the shift from direct payments to crop insurance ensures that those handouts can be distributed in a hidden, more politically palatable way, making it more difficult to ever dislodge them.

Minimum Wage

The fight over raising the minimum wage is a war of information. Conservative opponents of a proposed increase commission academic studies for use by lobbyists and their front groups. A recent New York Times report illustrates how one of the most prominent think tanks opposing the raise, the Employment Policies Institute, “is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.”

Their strategy has proven effective, with business groups and the mainstream media continuing to cite research claiming that a raise in the minimum wage will hurt the economy.

Recently, the hotel industry, a major employer of low-wage workers, announced it will lead the fight to keep wages low. According to the congressional newspaper The Hill, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a group that includes such major hotel chains as Best Western, Hilton and Hyatt, has plans to “lead the charge to beat back the growing emergence of extreme minimum and living wage initiatives that are proven job-killers and ultimately hurt those who are building successful careers from the entry level.”

Simultaneously, as money continues to pour into Congress to keep a low minimum wage at the federal level, proponents of increasing it are turning to the states and cities, where they are finding some limited success.

Net Neutrality

Last month, a federal appeals court struck down Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers cannot give favorable treatment to some content over others (e.g., Verizon could not give a faster connection to their own video streaming service than to Netflix).

Tom Wheeler, the new head of the FCC, has not settled on a permanent fix to settle Net neutrality, but says he will announce one soon.

One very easy way for the FCC to reinstate Net neutrality would be to reclassify the Internet under the Federal Communications Act as a telecommunications service, not an information service, giving the agency broader regulatory powers. But if the FCC does that, lobbyists representing Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, and their Republican allies, will put up a huge fight.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats’ recent attempt to use legislation to preserve Net neutrality until the FCC has time to settle on a permanent fix looks likely to die in the House. It is strongly opposed by industry-backed Republicans. For one, Comcast is the second biggest campaign donor to Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — and he’s chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee. Instead, FCC Chairman Wheeler reportedly is leaning toward not reclassifying the Internet, but promising instead to take rigorous enforcement action against those Internet providers that attempt to use their considerable size and power to monopolize business or abuse consumers.

But Wheeler is a former lobbyist for the companies he’s now supposed to regulate. Add to that Comcast’s considerable lobbying clout and Washington connections, which soon may be magnified by its proposed merger with Time Warner. There’s reason for doubt that Wheeler’s plan would be effective.

[ Re-Post from www.BillMoyers.com | John Light ]