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"Should we continue being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave?" (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Now Is the Time, Finally, for Congress to Stand Up for Working Families

This reconciliation bill is being opposed by every Republican in Congress as well as the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, and the billionaire class. They want to maintain the status quo in which the very rich get richer while ordinary Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet. Well, I disagree.

Bernie Sanders

 by USA Today

We live in an unprecedented moment as our country faces enormous crises including Covid-19, climate change, attacks on democracy, income and wealth inequality, and the multi-decade decline of the American middle class.

Poll after poll, especially among working class people, shows overwhelming support for what we are trying to accomplish.

As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee I proposed a $6 trillion reconciliation bill which would begin addressing these long-neglected problems. A strong majority of the Democratic caucus supported that proposal, but not all. As a result, we made a major compromise to reduce that budget from $6 trillion down to $3.5 trillion. This entire package will not add to the deficit and be paid for by demanding that the very wealthiest people in our country and large, profitable corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. Poll after poll, especially among working class people, shows overwhelming support for what we are trying to accomplish.

Now, for whatever reason, there are pundits out there who say we should compromise even more and cut back on addressing the long-neglected problems facing working families as well as climate change. Really? Please tell me where we should cut.

Should we end the $300 direct payments to working class parents which have cut childhood poverty in our country by half?

Should we continue to ignore the dysfunctionality of our childcare system which forces millions of working families to spend 20-30% of their limited incomes on childcare and keeps over a million women out of the workforce?

Should we deny low and moderate income young people the opportunity to get the higher education and job skills they need by making community colleges tuition free?

Should we continue allowing the pharmaceutical industry to charge us, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?

Should we continue a situation where many millions of seniors are unable to afford to go to a dentist to get treatment for their rotting teeth, or buy the hearing aids and eyeglasses they need—or should we expand Medicare to cover those basic health care needs?

Should we continue being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave?

Should we, as an aging society, force older and disabled Americans into expensive nursing home care or should we expand home health care and allow them the opportunity to stay in their own homes?

Should we continue to have 600,000 Americans remain homeless, or should we finally begin building the millions of units of low income and affordable housing that we need?

And then there is the existential threat of climate change.

When the planet becomes warmer and warmer, with unprecedented forest fires, drought, floods, extreme weather disturbances and acidification of the oceans are causing mass destruction, and when scientists tell us that we only have a few years to avoid irreparable damage to our country and planet, should we really continue to ignore this global crisis?

This reconciliation bill is being opposed by every Republican in Congress as well as the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, and the billionaire class. They want to maintain the status quo in which the very rich get richer while ordinary Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet. Well, I disagree. I believe that now is the time, finally, for Congress to stand up for working families and have the courage to take on the big money interests and wealthy campaign contributors who have so much power over the economic and political life of our country.


© 2021 USA Today

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. Sanders ran to become the Democratic Party presidential nominee in both 2016 and 2020 and remains the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

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