Bernie Sanders and the beginning of the end for Social Security

Last night, I was fortunate enough to find myself on a conference call with Senator Bernie Sanders. From what I understand, over 2,000 people were on the call, which was organized by the Vermont-based progressive advocacy group Democracy for America. While I’m doubtful that Sanders, who self-identifies as a Socialist, will have much success in undoing what was set in motion yesterday, I took a great deal of comfort in hearing him speak. It was good to be reminded of the fact that there are still a few people in the government who are looking out for the interests of working class, and who aren’t afraid to fight for what they believe in. I’ve been scouring the internet for the past half hour, hoping to find audio the call, in hopes that it might cheer a few of you up as well, but, so far, I haven’t been able to find anything. I did, however, receive an email from Sanders today which some of you may find of interest. I found his comments on Social Security to be of particular interest… Here it is.

President Obama is right about one thing — Republicans in Congress are holding the middle class hostage.

We have a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and the most unequal distribution of wealth of any major country. With all this in mind, Republicans in Congress say they will block tax cuts to the middle class and block unemployment benefits to more than two million families unless the President gives huge tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.

Their behavior is morally bankrupt. It is reprehensible.

But instead of challenging the Republicans for their absurd demands and their outrageous tactics, the President gave them virtually everything they wanted.

I cannot and will not support this deal. I will do everything I can to uphold the promise made to the American people to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Join me and my friends at Democracy for America today and sign our pledge calling on Congress to reject this deal.

One of the most underreported parts of this deal is a cut to the Social Security payroll tax. In just one year, over $120 billion of revenue will be cut from Social Security under the President’s compromise plan, weakening the program and virtually guaranteeing benefit cuts in the future.

Make no mistake about it. Social Security has not added one dime to the national debt and this cut will only embolden Republican attempts to privatize the program and increase the age of retirement. Social Security is a vital safety net for all Americans and a cornerstone of our commitment to protect the middle class.

We are not alone in standing against this compromise. Republicans are holding the middle class hostage and the American people know it. I come from a small state and yesterday my office received more than 1,000 calls on this issue, with over 90% of them in opposition to this deal.

Last night, thousands of DFA members joined me on DFA Live where we had a lively discussion on this issue. One thing was clear to me during that call — DFA members nationwide want Democrats to stop this deal and fight for the middle class, working people, senior citizens and the unemployed while making sure that millionaires and billionaires are not given massive tax breaks.

Make sure Congress gets the message — Join the fight now and sign the petition opposing this so-called “compromise”.

Thank you,


Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senator

I know that signing a petition isn’t likely to do much… unless said petition is tightly wound around the shaft of a flaming arrow or hurled through a window on the front of a rock. I signed it, though, in order to show support for Bernie and what he was doing. I think it’s imperative that we encourage those Democrats who push the boundaries on the left. They’re a dying breed, and they need to know that they have our support. (We can’t afford to lose another leader like Russ Feingold.) Anyway, I signed the petition, and, at the end of the month, if I have any money left after Christmas, I’ll send him some cash. I imagine he’ll need it the next time he’s up for reelection. God only knows what the Republican have in store for him.

[Tonight’s post was brought to you by Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, Joe Scarborough, and Paul Krugman.]

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  1. Reader
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    The thing that bothered me most about our President’s explanation of his motives for compromise was that he talked about the hard decision to compromise to protect the middle class.

    What he didn’t say was that less federal dollars equals less funds to support the people in greatest need. State and federal programs for education, redevelopment, hunger, health, and on and on will be cut and underfunded as a result. Two million Americans facing losing their unemployment may have it extended. But it leaves millions of others with inadequate resources as federal funding for their programs is obliterated.

    This compromise was not without immense cost to the real people he said he was compromising to protect.

  2. MIke Lucas
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    why do we have 2 millon unenmploment ( LOOK IN THE MIRROR)Mr, Sander if it was up to you everyone would be on unemployment. unequal distribution of wealth ? If you don’t take a risk, work hard and long you will never have wealth. so if we all have the same? No one would work hard and long and take a risk. We would all be on unemployment. Have you ever ran a company?

  3. Knox
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    As you mentioned here, all the press I’ve seen on Sanders mentions first and foremost that he’s a Socialist. They’re clearly out to delegitimize him.

  4. Edward
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The Daily Kos agrees about supporting guys like Sanders.

    Here are latest updates on the tax cut deal:

    The deal will probably pass the Senate by the end of the week, and then pass the House early next week. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that the deal will be defeated entirely. However, it is pretty likely that the deal will be slightly adjusted to meet a couple of the demands of the Democrats angry with the outcome.

    Whether you oppose the deal entirely and want to see it defeated, or you support the deal but would like to see it improved, the only move we have as grassroots activists is to offer public support to the Democrats seeking to either strengthen or defeat the deal. The more support we show, the stronger their position becomes at the negotiating table.

    So please, take thirty seconds and sign our petition in support of the Democrats leading the opposition to the tax cut deal in its current form. We already have over 24,000 signatures supporting them, and I’m going to personally deliver the petition to their Capitol Hill offices tomorrow.

    Keep fighting–sign the petition.

    Don’t ever give up,
    Chris Bowers
    Campaign Director, Daily Kos

  5. Joe Biden
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Good morning,

    Earlier this week, President Obama laid out a framework for a compromise with Congress that ensures that middle-class families don’t get a tax increase, extends unemployment benefits for folks who are looking for work, and gives our economy a shot in the arm.

    Like anything in Washington these days, there are a lot of opinions about this flying around. But it’s always important to start with the facts. To help you understand exactly what is in this framework Austan Goolsbee, one of the President’s chief economic advisors, took some time to break it down. (See link below.)

    There are some things in this agreement you’ll like and some things in here you might not. There are things in here that the President and I don’t like – like the temporary extension of tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and a more generous treatment of the estate tax than is warranted.

    But what is at stake is the strength of our recovery and much needed relief for middle class families. The bottom line is that if Congress does not act to extend unemployment insurance, 2 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance this month alone. And if we don’t extend middle class tax cuts, millions of families will see a spike in their tax bill when they can least afford it.

    With that in mind, President Obama reached across the aisle to ensure that middle class families get a fair shake. Here are a few important points:

    No tax hike for middle class families. This proposal would prevent a tax increase of over $3,000 for the typical family.

    Money in your pocket through a reduction in the payroll tax. About 155 million workers will see a 2 percent reduction in their payroll taxes and American families can take advantage of the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

    Extension of unemployment benefits. Folks who have been looking for work in these tough times won’t lose their lifeline. This is also good news for local economies because unemployment insurance dollars are among the most likely to be spent quickly.

    That’s the deal, folks, and it’s a good one for America’s middle class. Take a moment to watch Austan break it down, and I think you’ll agree:

    Vice President Joe Biden

  6. Kim
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    All roads lead to Rome.

    Every move the make is to roll back the New Deal. It’s totally transparent.

  7. TeacherPatti
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I agree with Kim and I say FUCK IT. Let’s get rid of the New Deal…let’s get child labor laws off the books and start putting any kid who isn’t white and/or whose parents aren’t in the top 50% wealth-wise into a coal mine or mill or factor somewhere. They can work for 8 cents an hour, 60 hours per week so that the owners can be bazillionaires. Stop all welfare, social security for the elderly, get rid of the unions, all of that shit, too. Let’s see what happens.

    Okay I’m being an asshole but sometimes, I just want to throw it in the faces of the folks who are NOT in the top 2% but who resist taxing the wealthy and who, for some reason, are in denial that they are working class and will never be wealthy. I have a very good friend who is a police officer and I imagine he earns about what I do, maybe a little more. He is horrified at the idea of taxing the rich more and thinks that any attempt to do so is to “punish” the wealthy. Despite my careful explanations on how more $ in the public trough is actually good for us and despite my gentle reminder that neither of us will EVER be in the top 2%, he remains firm. I’m not sure if he is just parroting what he’s heard on Fox News? So anyway, my friend would likely say that he is not a fan of New Deal type stuff, but how would he feel when I grab his kid and throw him into a pitch black coal mine for 16 hours a day and break the police union, thus cutting salaries by half? See? I’m being an asshole again. God people piss me off sometimes.

  8. John Galt
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    It’s nothing against children. Their small hands and inability to fight back just make them perfect for jobs that older people with access to attorneys shouldn’t do. Anyway, it builds character. Show me a kid who worked in a coal mine who ever grew up to be a homicidal maniac. You can’t, because there aren’t any. Maybe if Hitler and Ted Bundy had worked in coal mines, they wouldn’t have grown up to be the men that they were. Or, better yet, maybe they would have died in the mines. The problem with you liberals is that you never look on the bright side.

  9. Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I think they should have put it up to a vote among the top 2% of earners. I bet it would have been pretty split. Mostly, this is just a publicity point to consolidate power. Republicans are good at rallying pseudo-conservative sheep around an easy to understand idea.

    I say let’s just get rid of all laws and public services for a year. Get rid of voting. Just let the free market work like they want it to.

    Then we can watch schools close, watch child and slave labor rise again, watch workplace safety fall apar, see environmental degradation to a degree humanity has never known, watch dissidents become jailed by the private police forces and security companies which pop-up and the ugly head of racial and religious segregation get even bigger.

    It’s already happening, though, so we just have to wait and see.

  10. Glen S.
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    There *may* be some hope after all:

    If you oppose this plan, NOW would be a really good time to call or e-mail Rep. Dingell (and Senators Levin and Stabenow), to let them know you’ll support them if they decide to oppose the President on this.

  11. bill
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    wait… aren’t democrats still in control of the house, senate, and the presidency until January? Why are you blaming the republicans for this? There not in charge yet, are they?

  12. mSS
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Can anybody here explain the difference between a Ponzi scheme and Social Security?

  13. mSS
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and raise your hand if the only thing keeping your kid out of a coal mine is the law.

  14. MoveOn by proxy
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Breaking News: A short while ago, House Democrats passed a resolution rejecting the Millionaire Tax Bailout as currently written. Speaker Pelosi says, “We will work to improve it before having a floor vote.”

    This is a huge breakthrough and a sign of real momentum for progressives. Progressive members of Congress have been saying the phones are ringing off the hook with calls opposing the deal, and a growing number of Democrats are voicing their opposition, calling the deal “grossly unfair” and “fiscally irresponsible.”

    The bottom line: This will give President Obama and congressional Democrats leverage in negotiating a better deal for middle class Americans, but it’s more important than ever that we keep the pressure on and build on the momentum we have.

    So we’re launching a final-push strategy to rally behind progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders who stand up and fight—and urge others to join them. We’ll run ads, organize press events, and make sure the phones keep ringing on Capitol Hill day and night.

  15. Elise Snozen
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a counterpoint.

    Someone at the Daily Kos making the case that it’s a pretty good deal.

  16. Tommy
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    mSS – nice talking point; I think Rick Perry beat you to it though. I guess the major difference is that Social Security is fully funded at this point and more like a collective annuity, not a fake investment mechanism. The rules are such that individuals cannot cash out like an ordinary investment. It is also a social contract to provide some level of stability to the elderly. You know, for the collective good of everyone; that might be hard to understand but I can help. Replace the ‘m’ in me with a ‘w’. Won’t run out of money for a few decades last time I checked. All that being said – a good hard look at this progra, like all government programs is needed and should be part of any conversation in terms of deficit reduction.

    Funny how running a huge deficit for 27 of the last 30 years was never an issue before, but now that the bankers and corporations are done fucking a good portion of the population and are afraid the fucking might stop, it becomes the biggest crisis in the history of the country.

  17. bill
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    @tommy, are you sure we’re fully funded? Someone told me we are pay as you go, and if workers now can’t pay what the retired people need, it won’t work. Or else you have to borrow more to pay for it.

  18. bill
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    one thing your right tho is that social security is not like a ponzi scheme because you have to invest in it weather you like it or not, unless your unemployed or a drug dealer.

  19. Meta
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Bernie just started the filibuster!

    Bernie is on the Senate floor right now filibustering the tax-cut deal! Check it out live on c-span.

    C-SPAN2 Live Stream – C-SPAN

  20. Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink


  21. Kim
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Go Bernie Go!

    A real Mr. Smith goes to Washington moment. Hopefully the press gets behind him.

  22. Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    This is amazing.

  23. Glen S.
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I just sent Senator Sanders a note, thanking him and expressing my support for his filibuster.

    If you agree, you can do the same by going here:

  24. Steph's Dad
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m writing too, Glen. Two hours and twenty minutes and counting.

  25. Steph's Dad
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the note I sent to Stabenow.

    Senator Stabenow, I loved hearing what you had to say on Rachel Maddow’s show a few days ago on why we couldn’t allow these tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. I felt proud for having voted for you. I would hope that you meant what you said about standing up and fighting for us. I’m watching Bernie Sanders on my computer now. He’s been talking for nearly three hours, and I’m wondering where you are, and why you aren’t joining with him. Please don’t make him fight the Republicans alone. I want to see you at his side.

    You can do the same here:

  26. Larry Seven Larry
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    They should stop schools to let our kids watch this. Businesses should close so their employees can watch. This is historic. Talk about speaking truth to power.

  27. Glen S.
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    If I heard correctly, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown took over the filibuster for a few minutes, to allow Sanders a brief break

    I just tried to call the offices of both Levin and Stabenow to urge them to join the filibuster — but both lines were busy (after several tries), and both voicemail boxes were full. I plan to keep trying, though.

    Senator Carl Levin:
    (202) 224-6221
    Web Form:

    Senator Debbie Stabenow
    (202) 224-4822
    Web Form:

  28. Andy C
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Bernie is awesome!!!!!! I call this a Infobuster. No filler here.

  29. Edward
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I called Stabenow and Levin and asked why the hell they weren’t standing up there with him.

  30. Glen S.
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    From the NYT: “The final tally was 83 to 15. Forty-five Democrats and 37 Republicans supported moving the measure ahead; opposing votes came from nine Democrats, five Republicans and one independent, Bernard Sanders of Vermont.”

    No official roll call is available yet, but indications are that Levin voted “No,” while Stabenow voted “Yes.”

  31. Glen S.
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    One clarification: The numbers above are only for this evening’s “cloture” vote to allow the bill to come up for an actual vote (which likely will be held tomorrow) — but based on these numbers, final passage seems all but assured.

  32. Posted December 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Yup. I’m working on something now, Glen.

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