Bernie Sanders went to the floor of the Senate last December to deliver the most important congressional address of 2010, a nine-hour long, filibuster-style condemnation of economic policies that favored the rich while burdening working Americans. The independent senator from Vermont electrified the nation with a call for economic justice that challenged Obama administration compromises with Republicans on issues of tax policy and declared: "There is a war going on in this country, and I am not referring to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. I am talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country."
Now, as Republicans pressure the president to embrace an approach to deficit reduction that will further widen the gap between rich and working Americans —with tax breaks for the wealthy and the slashing of benefits for the what remains of the middle class —Sanders is preparing to return to the Senate floor Monday for another epic challenge to the failed economic policies of Wall Street and its political amen corner.
The senator has scheduled a major Senate address for 4 p.m. EST Monday, when he plans to expound for at least an hour and a half on the urgency of rejecting"the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny." As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders has argued that at least half of any deficit-reduction package must rely on new revenue by eliminating tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations. This "shared sacrifice" agenda must be the bottom line for President Obama and Senate Democrats as they wrangle with congressional Republicans over when and how to extend the debt ceiling.
"This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come," argues Sanders says in a new letter to Obama that urges the president to hold firm for economic fairness.
The letter, which Sanders is asking Americans to sign, reads:
"Dear Mr. President,
"This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today - which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.
"Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit - a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.
"Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.
"Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good."
Sanders is featuring the details about Monday's speech, the letter the president and the fight for shared sacrifice —as opposed to more-of-the-same economics —on his Senate website and his campaign website, where he asks: "When Does the Greed Stop?