By Bernie Sanders
Why am I running for re-election to the U.S. Senate? Why do I need your support? The answer is pretty simple. The United States now faces the most serious set of crises since the Great Depression. In fact, if you factor in the planetary challenge of global warming, one could argue that this moment is the most pivotal in the history of our country. A few of the issues that, together, we must boldly address are:
Economically, how do we reverse policies that are destroying the middle-class and increasing poverty? How do we end the immoral and unsustainable situation in which the United States continues to have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth – with 400 billionaires owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans?
In the short term, how do we put the 25 million Americans who are unemployed or under-employed back to work? How do we provide health care to the 50 million who have no insurance, thousands of whom die every year because they don’t get to a doctor on time? How do we provide affordable higher-education for our young people, rather than seeing millions of them struggle with oppressive and debilitating student loans?
Politically, how do we build the kind of grass-roots movement that we need in order to make government responsive to the needs of the ninety-nine percent, and not just the richest one percent and their lobbyists? How do we educate and organize working families around a progressive agenda, and effectively combat the right-wing efforts to divide working families around “wedge issues?”
During the last year we should be proud that we have won some very significant victories. The Occupy Wall Street movement has tapped a national nerve and expressed the degree to which working people are disgusted with the power and destructiveness of Wall Street and the income and wealth inequality which exists in our country today. In Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, against powerful opposition, we have won some major electoral victories. But we all know that much more needs to be done.
When Congress reconvenes in late January here are some of the fights that, together, we have got to wage.
At a time when the U.S. House of Representatives is now dominated by right-wing extremists who are intent on destroying virtually every program that benefits working families, we have got to oppose them every step of the way. We will not allow the Republicans to give huge tax breaks to the rich and large corporations, while they work to savage Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We will vigorously oppose their efforts to increase military spending, while they push to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and cut back on the ability of working families to receive primary health and dental care.
We must, in a very aggressive way, address the massive unemployment that we face. Today, real unemployment (counting those who have given up looking for work and those working part time when they want to work full time) is over 15 percent: 24 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed. In my view, the time is now to pass a major jobs bill which will put millions of our fellow Americans back to work. We must strongly oppose the view that what Washington must do is cut, cut, cut: we must remember that our work, together, must be to build a nation that supports all its inhabitants and not just the wealthy few.
In order to accomplish that goal we need to invest hundreds of billions in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure – our roads, bridges, airports, water systems, waste water plants and aging schools. Further, as we fight to reverse global warming, we need to transform our energy system away from foreign oil and fossil fuels to energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and bio-mass. We also need to make major revisions in our trade policies so that corporate America starts reinvesting in this country, and not in China and other low-wage countries.
As Vermont’s Senator, I am playing a leading role in fighting for the needs of working families and the middle class. I have stood up to Wall Street and the Fed, the insurance and drug companies, the oil and coal industry and the military-industrial complex. And I intend on continuing to do that.
Many of you were a big part of my successful campaign for the United States Senate in 2006, and I thank you very much for your help in getting me elected. Some of you are new supporters and I very much look forward to working with you. If we stand together, we can be successful in stopping right-wing extremism and moving this country forward in a way that works for all the people, not just the powerful few.
Senator Bernie Sanders