News December 7

Senator Sanders

Deficit Deal “The American people do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and they do think that … the wealthiest people in this country are going to have to start paying their fair share,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a video interview with The New York Times. Sanders proposed reducing the deficit by making Medicare and Medicaid more efficient, changes that would not reduce benefits; by making cuts to defense; and by cracking down on fraud perpetrated against the government by large pharmaceutical companies and defense contractors. LINK

Obama and Boehner At House Speaker John Boehner's request, Senate leaders and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have been excluded from talks to avert a fiscal crisis. Sen. Sanders told The New York Times on Thursday that Senate Democrats needed to find a way to make themselves more relevant to the search for a resolution to the fiscal standoff. LINK

Jobless The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November one day after Senate Democrats held a news conference to call for an extension of emergency unemployment insurance programs through next year as part of any year-end deficit deal. “Sometimes, maybe especially here inside the Beltway, we forget that this terrible recession continues in many parts of the country,” Sen. Sanders said. “Real unemployment – counting those people who have given up looking for work and those people who are working 20 hours and they want to be working 40 hours – is closer to 15 percent,” NBC News reported online. LINK

‘Fiscal Cliff’ President Obama “is offering little incentive for the Republicans to compromise,” according to The Economist. The British news magazine said the president will not even discuss Social Security on the ground that it is not a big contributor to the deficit. As for Medicare, the president is willing to make relatively modest savings by passing more of the cost to drug companies (by haggling for lower prices). Such tough talk delights the left. Obama's stance, says the AFL-CIO, "keeps faith with the voters, and Sen. Sanders has commended the president for his refusal to touch Social Security. LINK

Progressive Backlash The deficit scolds, with all their hectoring about “entitlements” and their overreach on fiscal issues when our real problem is unemployment, may have unleashed forces they will not be able to control. Anybody who is missing the new confidence in statements by progressives like Sens. Sanders or Patty Murray isn't paying attention. At a briefing in the National Press Club on Wednesday, Sanders “called on his fellow lawmakers to reject all cuts to social network programs, a theme he has been hammering since the election,” according to MarketWatch. LINK

Deficit Reduction With the gap between rich and poor growing, Congress must adopt a plan for fixing federal deficits that won't hurt the middle class, Sen. Sanders told a group of reporters at The National Press Club. “The question is whether the President and the Democrats will finally stand firm and do what the American people want them to do,” Sanders said. According to national polls cited by Sanders 77 percent of Americans do not want to cut Social Security, 79 percent do not want to cut Medicare; and 63 percent do not want to cut Medicaid, The National Press Club reported. LINK

Media Monopolies Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch is pushing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to ease limits on what’s referred to as “media cross-ownership” in the nation’s largest cities, which would allow media conglomerates like Murdoch’s to dominate local and national media, John Nichols blogged in a post for The Nation and Current TV. Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted these proposed rule changes in a press conference saying, “We cannot live in a vibrant democracy unless people get divergent sources of information and have the opportunity to have serious debate about the major issues of the day,” The Hill, National Journal, Congressional Quarterly, The Washington Post and The Seattle Times reported. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK

Prize Bill Sen. Sanders has introduced a bill, support by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, that would replace the medical patent system with government-issued prizes for medical innovation, a change that would dramatically reduce drug prices. That would disproportionately help low-income people who have trouble affording new treatments, Dylan Matthews blogged for The Washington Post. LINK

Disabilities Treaty “The partisan politics that played out in front of my eyes was a hard pill to swallow,” said Sarah Launderville, executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living, as she watched the Senate vote down a ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Launderville commended Sens. Sanders and Leahy saying, “I was proud that our senators saw past the lies and understood the intent of the treaty and the opportunities it brought our country,” according to a press release from the VCIL posted by LINK

Senate Passes Russia Trade Deal The Senate voted 92-4 on Thursday to end cold war-era trade restrictions on Russia, but at the same time it condemned Moscow for human rights abuses. The bill passed the House last month and now goes to President Obama. Sen. Sanders vote no along with Sens. Carl Levin, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, The Hill and Congressional Quarterly reported. LINK, LINK

Fossil Fuels “Last year we saw a bill proposed in congress from Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ellison, all of which identify over $10 billion annually that are going to the fossil fuel industry in subsidies,” Steve Kretzmann, President of Oil Change International, told FOX News. LINK

F-35s Gov. Peter Shumlin will travel next week to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to listen to an F-35, the controversial military plane that could come to the Vermont Air National Guard base at Burlington International Airport. Sen. Sanders and the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation aren’t going. They support basing the F-35s in Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reported. A spokesman said Sanders was working with the Guard on noise concerns and is confident the Guard will be responsive. Burlington’s mayor will be on the trip. Noticeably absent, however, will be South Burlington officials who oppose basing F-35s in their city. LINK

State of the Union Sen. Sanders announced his third annual State of the Union essay contest to engage Vermont’s high school students on the major issues facing the country, the Times Argus and Bennington Banner reported. “It’s my hope that this essay contest will provide an opportunity for students to explore current issues in depth and will help develop their critical thinking about some of the problems we face as a nation,” Sanders wrote in a letter sent to Vermont’s educators. LINK

Budget Cuts “Throughout recent budget battles, congressional Democrats have accused Republicans of obstructing debt reform through their refusal to raise taxes,” the Caledonian Record said in an editorial “Even if Sanders cut 100 percent of the military budget (almost $700 billion) and forcibly confiscated all the income of rich people and corporations (around $6.5 trillion, annually), he would still not have enough money to pay for his entitlement programs.” LINK

Tops on Twitter Sen. Sanders ranked second behind Sen. John McCain in a list compiled by of the Top Ten senators on Twitter. Sanders topped a separate ranking that adjusted for state population, reported. LINK


Egypt Resignations rocked the government of President Mohamed Morsi as tanks from the special presidential guard took up positions around his palace and the state television headquarters after a night of street fighting between his Islamist supporters and their secular opponents that left at least 6 dead and 450 wounded, The New York Times reported. LINK

Typhoon Bopha Rescue teams are struggling to reach isolated villages in the southern Philippines after a powerful out-of-season typhoon tore through the region, leaving at least 325 people dead and several hundred more missing, officials said. Typhoon Bopha packed winds of up to 100 miles per hour when it struck Tuesday, bringing torrential rains that destroyed villages and left thousands homeless, The New York Times reported. LINK


Unemployment at 7.7% With a shrunken labor force, the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November, the lowest since December 2008, Bloomberg News reported. Real unemployment was 14.4 percent counting workers forced into part-time jobs and those who gave up looking for work. LINK, LINK

Sandy-Aid Request Looming in Capitol The White House was expected to ask Congress Friday for tens of billions of dollars to help Northeastern states clean up after superstorm Sandy, adding a new complication to the end-of-year debate over spending cuts and tax increases. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have requested more than $80 billion in federal funds to cover uninsured losses, infrastructure rebuilding and projects aimed at reducing the impact of future storms, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Anti-Union Bills Advance in Michigan As labor supporters crowded into the Capitol chanting their dismay, this state’s Republican leaders announced on Thursday their intent to swiftly pass limits on unions in Michigan, a state with deep ties to organized labor, The New York Times reported. LINK

Students Fall Flat in Vocabulary U.S. students knew only about half of what they were expected to on a new vocabulary section of a national exam, in the latest evidence of severe shortcomings in the nation's reading education. Eighth-graders scored an average of 265 out of 500 in vocabulary on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the results of which were made public Thursday. Fourth-graders averaged a score of 218 out of 500, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

DeMint Resigns Sen. Jim DeMint, the conservative Republican from South Carolina who helped ignite the Tea Party movement, will leave the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, The New York Times reported. LINK

Welch on Energy Efficiency Reps. Cory Gardner and Peter Welch are angling to make efficiency an area of compromise in a deeply divided Congress that has struggled to produce new energy laws. The freshman Colorado Republican — who has often been the face of the House GOP on energy strategy this Congress — and the liberal Vermont Democrat announced the creation of a bipartisan Energy Savings Performance Caucus on Wednesday, Politico reported. LINK


Global Warming Winter tourism, a major economic driver in Vermont – and much of the northern U.S. – faces increasingly more costly challenges in the face of global warming trends, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and The study concludes that current rates of carbon emission will wildly disrupt skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing and snowshoeing, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Fossil Fuel Divestment Middlebury College announced that it would take formal steps to consider divesting its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. The announcement comes after protests by students and activists who asked that the college move its $32 million invested in fossil fuel companies into other assets, the Addison County Independent reported. LINK

Irene Tax Next year's town budget in Bennington is expected to raise the tax rate by 2 to 3 percent because of cost of living increases and uncertainty around reimbursement for expenditures related to Tropical Storm Irene, the Bennington Banner reported. LINK

Irene Relief Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday he'll skip the traditional inaugural ball after he is sworn into his second term next month, opting instead for a combination open house at the Statehouse and fundraiser for people still suffering the effects of Tropical Storm Irene, The Associated Press reported. LINK

Shumlin Administration Gov. Shumlin appointed Louis Porter to be his point person in the Legislature. The former Statehouse reporter with the Vermont Press Bureau was most recently a lobbyist with the Conservation Law Foundation, AP reported. LINK

Kingdom Jobs AnC Bio, the  Korean company planning to build a bio-tech facility in Newport, is now likely to create 450 permanent and 50 seasonal jobs. That's double the number proposed in September, Vermont Public Radio reported. LINK

Whooping Cough Vermont Department of Health officials are urging schools, daycare centers, businesses and residents to be on guard for a wave of pertussis, popularly known as whooping cough, that is sweeping through Addison and Rutland counties. There have been 443 confirmed cases statewide, compared to only 37 at this same time last year, the Addison County Independent reported. LINK