Bernie Sanders demands that Obama ‘Stand with the American people’‎

I don’t donate a lot of money to political candidates. While I put in quite a few hours working for the Kerry and Obama campaigns, I didn’t give either of them very much in the way of cash. The only people that I can think of that I gave more than ten or twenty dollars to are Ralph Nader, John Edwards and Howard Dean. And, in those cases, to be honest, it wasn’t very much. I mention this not because I want to discuss what a cheapskate I am, or how rarely I “put my money where my mouth is” when it comes to candidates that I support, but in hopes that it helps convey how serious I am when I say the following…

I don’t know if Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has any interest whatsoever in running against Barack Obama in a Democratic Presidential primary, but, if he does, I will start saving my money, and donate $250 to his campaign. (I figure that, if I say it publicly like this, I’ll have to follow through and actually do it.) And, not only that, but I will dedicate 5 hours per week of my time to his campaign between now and the primary election. I don’t have any illusions about him beating Obama in a head-to-head match-up, but I very much want for him to have the platform that comes with a credible Presidential campaign. In a world where everyone in power seems to be moving steadily to the right, Sanders is fast becoming the only man in Washington who I can count on to consistently speak for me and my family, and I want to do my part to help him get his message out.

Here, if you’re unfamiliar with Sanders, is the beginning of a speech that he delivered today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. I doubt it’s getting covered anywhere in the mainstream press.

Mr. President, this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. In the coming days and weeks, decisions will be made about our national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American in this country for decades to come. The time is now for the American people to become significantly involved in that debate and not leave it to a small number of people here in Washington.

At a time when the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well and in many cases have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that any deficit-reduction package that passes this Congress not include the horrendous cuts, the cruel cuts in programs that working people desperately need that are utilized every day by the elderly, by the sick, by our children, and by the lowest income people in our country, that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by their extreme rightwing, are demanding.

America is not about giving tax breaks to billionaires and attacking the most vulnerable people in our country. We must not allow that to happen.

In my view, the President of the United States needs to stand with the vast majority of the American people and say no to the Republican leadership and make it clear that enough is enough. No, we will not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country–on our children, on our seniors and the sick. No, we will not do that. Working families in this country have already sacrificed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost homes, lost pensions. The working families of this country are hurting right now. Enough is enough.

Now is the time to say to the millionaires and the billionaires in this country and to the largest corporations that in many ways have never had it so good that they must participate in deficit reduction, that there must be shared sacrifice, that deficit reduction cannot be based on cutting back on the needs of working families and the middle class but that the rich and large corporations have also got to participate in this process.

Furthermore, it is absolutely necessary, if we are talking about a sensible deficit-reduction package, that we take a hard look at unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

Let’s make it very clear that we will not be blackmailed again by the Republican leadership in Washington that is threatening to destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government so that, for the very first time in our Nation’s history, we might not pay the bills we owe. That is their threat. We will destroy the record of always paying our bills, never failing to do that, unless they get everything they want.

Instead of yielding to the incessant, extreme Republican demands, as the President in many respects did in last December’s tax cut agreement and this year’s spending negotiations, the President has to get out of the beltway. He has to connect with the needs of working families and ordinary Americans and rally the overwhelming majority of our people who believe that deficit reduction must be based on shared sacrifice, that the wealthy and the powerful and the large corporations cannot continue to get everything they want while we wage a cruel and unprecedented attack on the most vulnerable people in this country. It is time for President Obama to stand with the millions who have already lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, instead of the millionaires, who in many cases have never had it so good.

Unless the American people in huge numbers tell the President not to yield 1 inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and Medicaid while continuing to provide tax breaks to the wealthy and the powerful, unless the American people rise up and say enough is enough, I am afraid that what will happen is the President will yield once again and the wealthy and the powerful will laugh all the way to the bank, while working people will be devastated.

Today, I am asking the American people that if you believe deficit reduction should be about shared sacrifice; if you believe the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations should be asked to pay their fair share as part of deficit reduction; if you believe that, at a time when military spending has almost tripled since 1997, we must begin to take a hard look at our defense budget; and if you believe the middle-class and working families have already sacrificed enough, I urge you to make sure the President hears your voice, and he needs to hear it now. I urge the American people to go to my Web site, and sign a letter to the President letting him know that enough is enough. I also urge the American people to contact the White House directly through their Web sites and leave a message for the President there.

As you know, this country faces enormous challenges. In fact, we have not suffered through such a difficult moment since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We do not talk about it very much, but the reality is that the middle class in this country is disappearing while at the same time poverty is increasing.

When we talk about the state of our economy, it is important to talk about it within the context of deficit reduction because when you understand what is going on in the economy, you know you cannot get blood out of a stone. You cannot keep attacking people who have been devastated in the last few years in terms of unemployment, in terms of losses of pension, in terms of losses of health care.

When we talk about the economy, we have to understand that the situation is in many cases even worse than official statistics indicate. For example, we read in the papers that the official unemployment rate is now 9.1 percent. But the truth is–and no economist disagrees with this–that official statistic ignores the number of people who have given up looking for work and people who are working part time when they want to work full time. If you add all of that together, you are looking at a real unemployment rate in this country of about 16 percent. Are those really the people whom we should go to for deficit reduction? Are they not suffering enough right now? Young people graduating college who can’t find a job, let’s hit them hard. Older people who have lost their jobs and can’t find a new one or are working for half the wages they previously worked at, let’s go after those people. Fifty million people have no health insurance. Let’s attack them. Working mothers and fathers cannot find affordable childcare. Let’s go after them.

We must understand that when we look at the economy, the middle class is hurting and hurting badly. Over the last 10 years, on top of the high unemployment rates, the median family income in this country has declined by over $2,500. Do you know why working families are angry? That is why they are angry. They are working longer hours for lower wages. Are those really the people you want to ask to balance the budget? I don’t think so. I think any sense of fairness, any sense of morality that one might have suggests you do not beat up on people who are already suffering. You don’t try to get blood out of a stone.

As a result of the greed and the recklessness and the illegal behavior on Wall Street which caused this terrible recession, millions more Americans have lost their homes, they have lost their pensions, and they have lost their retirement savings. We hear it every day in calls that come to our offices.

Unless we reverse our current economic costs, our children will have, for the very first time in modern American history, a lower standard of living than their parents. It is the American dream in reverse. Kids are going to do worse than their parents unless we reverse current economic trends.

We can throw out a lot of numbers around here, a few hundred billion and a trillion. But the truth is that behind those numbers in my State of Vermont and all over this country, there are real people who are hurting terribly, and as Members of the Senate our job is to pay attention to those people and not just the well-paid lobbyists, representing the most powerful special interests in the world, who surround this Capitol every single day…

To read the rest of what Sanders had to say to the President, click here.

And please share this with your friends.

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  1. Edward
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    There was a fledgling Draft Bernie movement, but it fizzled when Bernie said that he would not be running in 2012.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    A Democrat from the 1940’s would be absolutely shocked to see what’s become of the party. We’ve moved so far to the right in this country that the only true Democrat is someone who identifies as a Socialist (Sanders).

  3. Posted June 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’d vote for Bernie, though I’d be sad to see him leave the Senate.

  4. Kim
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The conservative site Balloon Juice ran this story with the following tag:

    “Democratic Cowardice”

    Does anyone understand this? I can see hating what he has to say, but I don’t see how anyone could call this cowardice.

  5. Kim
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Since Tater went back into hiding, here’s the obligatory link to WeaselZipper. Lots of great comments about Bernie and his “fellow travelers”.

  6. dragon
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    You are seriously snark impaired.

  7. T Timmons
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Love the man. In this photo, he looks like he’s just thrown a paper airplane, though.

  8. Andy Cameron
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    With respect, regardless of what Sanders does (and I’m a fan), or what activists choose to do, there will be no credible primary challenge of Obama next year. I hope that everyone who considers this kind of action to be useful will be leading the charge against the GOP in 2012. Elections aren’t thought experiments.

  9. Glen S.
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I liked much of what President Obama had to say today at his press conference — especially about raising taxes on the super-rich, and eliminating special tax breaks for oil companies.

    However, you’ll have to forgive me if I remain somewhat skeptical.

    Time and again (Guantanamo Bay, domestic spying, healthcare reform, fair trade, “card check,” and the Bush tax tax breaks for the wealthiest 1%) we’ve seen Obama use soaring rhetoric in a speech or inspiring sound-bites in a press conference — only to relent to Republicans’ demands at the last minute when they inevitably dig in their heels. Ironically, he has, in effect, “trained” Republicans to expect that he will ultimately cave if the political stakes are high enough — undercutting his own power as President, and sewing doubt and distrust among many in the Democratic base.

    Given that the stakes this time (the possibility of a national “default”) are so high, I expect Republicans are expecting that Obama wouldn’t possibly call their bluff this time. As evidence, here is what Speaker John Boehner had to say in response to the President’s news conference earlier today:

    “The president is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House. The votes simply aren’t there – and they aren’t going to be there, because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs.”

    I’d love to believe that Obama will be willing to refuse major additional budget cuts without some concessions from oil companies and the super-rich in return — essentially saying to Republicans that “if you want to plunge the nation into bankruptcy in order to protect oil companies and the obscene wealth held by a handful of billionaires, go ahead and be my guest” — but I’m not counting on it.

  10. dragon
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    You are aware that the democrats control the Senate, yes?
    Sanders may be sincere. But his associates there in the Dem caucus are not. You can stomp your feet all you want, but you can’t make the White House save congress from its epic ineptitude.

  11. Glen S.
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    @ dragon.

    Yes, I agree. DINO’s (Democrats in name only) in the House and Senate have been a major obstacle. However, I believe that Obama’s repeated failure to take a strong stand against the Republicans has only made this situation worse.

    There is no “bully pulpit” quite so powerful as the President’s. If he demonstrated — not only through words, but deeds — that he is willing to stand up for core Democratic principals on occasion, I believe he would inspire (and give political cover) to at least a few of the Democratic wafflers/opportunists.

  12. dragon
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    With the exception of domestic spying, civil liberty issues I think all of your ‘failures’ follow a similar script as this.

    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    Under pressure from Republicans and concerned about the politics of relocating terrorism suspects to U.S. soil, Senate Democrats rejected President Obama’s request for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to withhold federal dollars until the president decides the fate of the facility’s 240 detainees.
    With few alternatives, some are even echoing the GOP assertion that the state-of-the-art facility should remain open. “We spent hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions on Guantanamo to try these cases,” Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) said Sunday on ABC News’s “This Week.” Webb added, “I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.”
    McConnell taunted Democrats yesterday for their rapid capitulation on Guantanamo. “I understand our friends on the other side of the aisle are — shall I say? — moving in our direction rapidly.”

  13. ChelseaL
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I love him, too, Mark. He reminds me of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But, like you, am not optimistic.

  14. TaterSalad
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Tater is back outta’ hiding!

    The 44th. President of the United States. The assault on the Constitution begins. How do you like him now?

  15. EOS
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    That was an awesome video.

  16. Kim
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s Tater’s parents that are in hiding actually.

  17. Posted June 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Wow, it’s like a bigot convention.

  18. EOS
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    You and who else Peter?

    When I wrote that you are safer in a locked personal vehicle than standing alone at night on a dark street corner waiting for a bus – you called it racist. Who linked the comment to race?

    Who is the writer that repeatedly resorts to name-calling and has written that they cannot tolerate different points of view?

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