On March 29, 2015 Senator Bernie Sanders writes:
Thank you so much for the political and financial support you have given me over the years. It is much appreciated. As the longest serving independent in American congressional history, I am writing now to ask you, in these very difficult times, to stand with me again as we continue the struggle for social and economic justice and environmental sanity.
The good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.
Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth, and worse now then at any other time since the 1920s. Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
This is what a rigged economic system looks like. At a time when millions of American workers have seen declines in their incomes and are working longer hours for lower wages, the wealth of the billionaire class is soaring in a way that few can imagine. If you can believe it, between 2013 and 2015, the 14 wealthiest individuals in the country saw their net worth increase by over $157 billion dollars. Children go hungry, veterans sleep out on the streets, senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs — and 14 individuals saw a $157 billion dollar increase in their wealth over a two-year period.
The time to fight back is now.
The grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing is not just a moral and economic issue, it is a political issue as well. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend unlimited sums of money to buy the candidates they want. The Koch brothers, an extreme right-wing family, recently announced that they were prepared to spend some $900 million in the next election cycle. This is likely more money than either the Democratic or Republican parties will spend. If you think that it is an accident that the Republican Party has become a far-right party, think again. The Koch brothers’ agenda — ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and all campaign finance limitations — has become the agenda of the Republican candidates they fund.
And, by the way, if you think that the Republican Party’s refusal to acknowledge that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is a severe threat to our planet, is not related to how we finance campaigns, you would be sorely mistaken. With the Koch brothers (who make much of their money in the fossil fuel industry) and big energy companies pouring huge amounts into Republican campaigns, it should not surprise anyone that my Republican colleagues reject the views of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate issues.
With Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, let me briefly touch on some of the battles that I will be helping to lead in this extreme right-wing environment. In my view, with so many of our fellow citizens demoralized about the political process, it is absolutely imperative that we establish a strong progressive agenda that Americans can rally around. It must be an agenda that reflects the real needs of the working families of our country. It must be an agenda that engages people in a political struggle that they are prepared to fight for.
Join me now in the struggle for the progressive vision we share.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: The truth is that real unemployment in our country is not the “official” and widely-reported 5.5 percent. Counting those who are under-employed and those who have given up looking for work, real unemployment is 11 percent. Even more disturbingly, youth unemployment is close to 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that.
If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class and putting millions of people back to work, we need a major federal jobs program. There are a number of approaches which can be taken, but the fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure — roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, rail, water systems and wastewater plants.
In that regard, I have introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs. It would also make our country more productive, efficient and safe.
I will also continue my opposition to our current trade policies and vote against fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Simply put, our trade policies have failed. Permanent normal trade relations with China have led to the loss of more than 3.2 million American jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of nearly 1 million jobs. The Korean Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs.
We have got to fundamentally rewrite our trade rules so that American jobs are no longer our No.1 export. Corporate America must start investing in this country, not China.
As we struggle for decent-paying jobs, we must also rebuild the trade union movement. Throughout the country, millions of workers want to join unions but are meeting fierce opposition from their employers. We need legislation that makes it easier, not harder, for unions to flourish.
Raising Wages: Today millions of Americans are working for starvation wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is totally inadequate. In fact, the real value of today’s minimum wage has declined by one-third since 1968. By raising the minimum wage to a living wage we can provide an increase in income for those people who need it the most. Our goal must be that no full-time worker in this country lives in poverty.
We must also bring about pay equity. There is no rational reason why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work.
Further, we have got to expand overtime protections for millions of workers. It is absurd that “supervisors” who earn $25,000 a year are currently forced to work 50 or 60 hours a week with no overtime pay. Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 from the absurdly low level of $23,660 a year for overtime will mean increased income for many millions of salaried workers.
Addressing Wealth and Income Inequality: Today the richest 400 Americans own more than $2.3 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will be able to retire with dignity.
We need real tax reform which makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that in 1952 corporate income taxes provided 32 percent of federal revenue while in 2014 they provided 11 percent. It is scandalous that major profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, Citigroup and JP Morgan have, in a given recent year, paid nothing in federal income taxes. It is fiscally irresponsible that the U.S. Treasury loses about $100 billion a year because corporations and the rich stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens.
Warren Buffett is honest. He has pointed out the unfairness that he, a multi-billionaire, pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. It is disgraceful that millionaire hedge fund managers are able to pay lower tax rates than truck drivers or nurses because they take advantage of a variety of tax loopholes that their lobbyists wrote.
This must end. We need a tax system which is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities.
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 and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good-paying jobs.
Health Care for All: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable: Today the United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation, 35 million Americans still lack health insurance and millions of seniors and disabled people struggle to put food on the table because of insufficient Social Security benefits.
The Republican response to the economic pain of so many of our people was to make a bad situation much worse. The recently-passed Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off of health insurance, cuts Medicare, makes huge cuts to nutrition and makes it harder for working class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program.
In my view, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that no American goes hungry or sleeps out on the streets. We must also make certain that seniors and people with disabilities can live in dignity. Not only must we vigorously oppose Republican attacks on the social safety net, we must expand benefits for those in need. That is why I have recently introduced legislation which would increase the solvency of Social Security until 2065, while expanding benefits for those who need them the most.
Making College Affordable for All: We live in a highly competitive global economy. If this country is to do well economically, we need to have the best-educated workforce in the world. Yet today many Americans cannot get a higher education, not because they are unqualified, but because they simply cannot afford it. Millions of others who do graduate from college or graduate school are drowning in debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled in the last 10 years, and has now reached $1.2 trillion.
The United States must join many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people’s education is investing in the future of our nation. I will soon be introducing legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.
And these are just SOME of the issues we are dealing with.
Let me conclude this letter by stating the obvious. This country is in serious trouble. Our economic system benefits the rich and large corporations and leaves working families behind. Our political system is dominated by billionaire campaign contributors and their lobbyists and is moving us in the direction of oligarchy. Our media system, owned by the corporate world, spends enormous time and energy diverting our attention away from the most important issues facing us. Climate change threatens the planet and we have a major political party denying its reality.
Clearly, the struggle to create a nation and world of economic and social justice and environmental sanity is not an easy one. But this I know: despair is not an option if we care about our kids and grandchildren. Giving up is not an option if we want to prevent irreparable harm to our planet.
We must stand up and fight back. We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change. This country belongs to all of us, not just the billionaire class.
Please stand with me. Please join the grass-roots revolution that we desperately need.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders has accurately described the problems at the forefront facing the American people. But his solutions are REDISTRIBUTIVE and debt financed, which will expand the nation’s debt unless there is a significant reduction in military expenditures (which would cause enormous unemployment) or far greater taxation.
I am not opposed to either reduced military expenditures or to significantly greater taxation of corporate profits. But there should be a caveat to increased taxes corporate profits and that is the tax on a corporation would be eliminated if the corporation paid out fully its earnings as dividends taxed at the personal tax rate. This would eliminate double taxation and incentivize corporations to finance new growth by issuing and selling new stock to represent investment in new asset-backed projects that are expected to pay for themselves within a reasonable time period, and once paid for to continue to generate profits to the corporation, which would then be fully paid out to the stockholders as personal dividend earnings.
The fundamental challenge to be solved, and one that Senator Sanders does not address, is how do we reinvent and redesign our economic institutions to keep pace with job destroying and labor devaluing technological innovation and invention so not all of the benefits of owning FUTURE productive capacity accrues to today’s wealthy 1 percent ownership class, and ownership is broadened so that EVERY American earns income through full-payout stock ownership dividends so they can afford to purchase the products and services produced by the economy.
Even if Senator Sanders achieves the passage of a debt-finance $1 trillion to be spent on funding infrastructure project, both renewal and new infrastructure, he does not stipulate that the corporations bidding and award the actual construction contracts by 100 percent employee owned, so that the growth of those companies benefits its employees additionally as OWNERS as well as creating new job opportunities. Anyone who has observed modern-day infrastructure construction understands that “machines” are employed to do the “heavy” work. These “machines” and all the other physical capital assets of companies are OWNED by people.
None of this is new from a macro-economic viewpoint as productive capital is increasingly the source of the world’s economic growth. The role of physical productive capital is to do ever more of the work of producing more products and services, which produces income to its owners.
People invented tools to reduce toil, enable otherwise impossible production, create new highly automated industries, and significantly change the way in which products and services are produced from labor intensive to capital intensive––the core function of technological invention.
Furthermore, because productive capital is increasingly the source of the world’s economic growth it should become the source of added property ownership incomes for all. Put another way, if both labor and capital are interdependent factors of production, and if capital’s proportionate contributions are increasing relative to that of labor, then equality of opportunity and economic justice demands that the right to property (and access to the means of acquiring and possessing property) must in justice be extended to all. Yet, sadly, the American people and its leaders, such as Senator Sanders, still only see a job as the means to earn wage income, and ignore the structural reform necessary to ensure that we simultaneously create new owners with the growth of the economy and with ALL government spending.
Senator Sanders should introduce a National Right To Capital Ownership Bill that restores the American dream of property ownership. This should be advocated by both the progressive movement and the conservative movement, as such legislation would address solutions to the reality of Americans facing job opportunity deterioration and devaluation due to tectonic shifts in the technologies of production and the wage cost-saving pressure resulting from globalization.
The solution, which Senator Sanders should advocate, would result in double-digit economic growth and simultaneously broaden private, individual ownership so that EVERY American can benefit from significant income growth, providing the means to support themselves and their families with an affluent lifestyle. The Just Third Way Master Plan for America’s future is published at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=5797.
The solution is obvious but our leaders, academia, conventional economist and the media are oblivious to the necessity to broaden ownership in the new capital formation of the future simultaneously with the growth of the economy, which then becomes self-propelled as increasingly more Americans accumulate ownership shares and earn a new source of full-dividend income derived from their capital ownership in the “machines” that are replacing them or devaluing their labor value. This can be accomplished without taking from those who already own and can be the one-up solution to poverty wage competition on a global scale.
The solution will require the reform of the Federal Reserve Bank to create new owners of future productive capital investment in existing and new businesses simultaneously with the growth of the economy from financing viable projects. The solution to broadening private, individual ownership of America’s future capital wealth requires that the Federal Reserve stop monetizing unproductive debt, including bailouts of banks “too big to fail” and Wall Street derivative speculators, and begin creating an asset-backed currency that could enable every child, woman and man to establish a Capital Homestead Account or “CHA” (a super-IRA or asset tax-shelter for citizens) at their local bank to acquire a growing full-dividend-bearing stock portfolio to supplement or replace their incomes from work and all other sources of income. Policies need to insert American citizens, without the requirement of past savings, into the low or no-interest investment money loop to enable non- and undercapitalized Americans, including the working class and poor, to acquire capital with the earnings of capital and build wealth, and become “customers with money.” The proposed Capital Homestead Act would produce this result.
Over a relatively short period of time, the result would be to create jobs as every able body American would be needed to build a future economy that can support general affluence for every child, woman and man. Not only would wages raise but a new source of income would be created in the form of dividend earnings from every child, woman and man owning stock in America’s future. This approach would abate the further concentration of capital ownership, the cause of wealth and income inequality. We could heal the planet’s climate because people will become more affluent with the income to support the purchase of costlier products that are produced using sustainable resource technologies that do not pollute the planet and conserve resources as well as renew resources. As our nation’s tax base expands with an abundant tax revenue from individuals earning far greater incomes, we will be able to implement a national health care system that provides superior health services to every child, woman, and man. As EVERY child, woman, and man would become an owner, without the requirement of past savings or any reduction in wages or benefits, we would no longer have anyone living in poverty. As part of this solution, all tax loopholes and subsidies would be eliminated. There would also be provided a tax exemption of $100,000 for a family of four to meet their ordinary living needs. All promises for Social Security, Medicare, government pensions, health, education, rent and subsistence vouchers for the poor would be paid out general revenues until their new jobs and ownership accumulations provide new incomes to substitute for the taxpayer dollars to fill these needs. As for education, we would be able to return to a non-tution-based, fully taxpayer funded public higher education system to educate our young people how to think and inspire them to further invent and innovate to achieve a future affluent society where the productive capacity is OWNED by every child, woman, and man, as individual citizens.
Support the Capital Homestead Act at http://www.cesj.org/homestead/index.htm and http://www.cesj.org/homestead/summary-cha.htm
See the article “The Absent Conversation: Who Should Own America?” published by The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/who-should-own-america_b_2040592.html and by OpEd News at http://www.opednews.com/articles/THE-Absent-Conversation–by-Gary-Reber-130429-498.html
Also see “The Path To Eradicating Poverty In America” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/the-path-to-eradicating-p_b_3017072.html and “The Path To Sustainable Economic Growth” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/sustainable-economic-growth_b_3141721.html. And also “Second Income Plan” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-reber/second-income-plan_b_3625319.html
Also see the article entitled “The Solution To America’s Economic Decline” at http://www.nationofchange.org/solution-america-s-economic-decline-1367588690 and “Education Is Critical To Our Future Societal Development” at http://www.nationofchange.org/education-critical-our-future-societal-development-1373556479. And also “Achieving The Green Economy” at http://www.nationofchange.org/achieving-green-economy-1373980790. Also see it complete with the footnotes at http://foreconomicjustice.org/?p=9082.
Also see “Financing Economic Growth With ‘FUTURE SAVINGS’: Solutions To Protect America From Economic Decline” at NationOfChange.org http://www.nationofchange.org/financing-future-economic-growth-future-savings-solutions-protect-america-economic-decline-137450624 and “The Income Solution To Slow Private Sector Job Growth” at http://www.nationofchange.org/income-solution-slow-private-sector-job-growth-1378041490.