The Week in Review

The Week in Review

The Week in Review

In a major expansion of affordable primary care in America, community health centers on Thursday were awarded federal funding to bring primary care to 1.25 million more patients. Real unemployment was 13.8 percent in October, the Labor Department announced on Friday. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been leading the fight in a special budget committee to focus on creating jobs instead of cutting Social Security and other programs that help working families. A new report released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday found that Social Security did more than anything else to keep retirees out of poverty. Another way Sanders wants to create jobs is to transition from fossil fuels to green energy sources. He helped launch a new research center on Monday in Vermont that will work on ways to bring down the cost of solar power.

Dramatic Growth of Community Health Centers Thanks to a Sanders provision in the Affordable Care Act, $150 million in grants were awarded Thursday for 236 new community health centers around the country. In Vermont, the number of health centers will go from eight to 11. Altogether, 163,000 Vermont patients will be served. “This is a huge step forward for health care in Vermont in providing high-quality, affordable primary care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs and mental health counseling to people throughout Vermont,” said Sanders, chairman of a Senate subcommittee that oversees primary health care. The Sanders provision in the Affordable Care Act authorized $11 billion to build, expand, and operate community health centers throughout the United States. Read more

Crossfire Sens. Sanders and David Vitter hold different views on health care. Sanders supports a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system to provide better care for more people at less cost. Sanders also has been a champion of expanding community health centers in Vermont and across the country to provide affordable primary care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs and mental health counseling. On Wednesday, the two senators debated health care on CNN’s Crossfire. Watch

October Unemployment at 13.8% U.S. employers added 204,000 jobs in October but the Labor Department announced on Friday that the official unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent, probably because furloughed federal workers were considered unemployed during a 16-day government shutdown. The real unemployment rate, according to the Labor Department, was 13.8 percent, up from 13.6 percent in September. That number counts people forced to settle for part-time jobs and those who stopped looking for work. The percentage of Americans working or looking for work fell to a fresh 35-year low.  

Poverty in America The nation's poverty rate was 16 percent in 2012, according to Census Bureau data released on Wednesday. The supplemental poverty measure takes into account the impact on family resources of different benefits and expenses. Social Security, for example, kept 26.6 million Americans out of poverty last year. Food stamps provided by the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, or SNAP, kept another 5 million people above the poverty level. The main reason people fell into poverty last year was out-of-pocket health care expenses. That put 10.6 million people into poverty, the Census Bureau said. Instead of working to cut poverty, some in Congress are considering cuts to the very programs that have kept people out of poverty. A member of the special committee working on a budget for the coming year, Sanders is leading the fight to fend off attacks on programs that help working families. Read the Census Bureau report

Grotesque Inequality The median wage last year was $27,519. The median – half of all workers made more, half made less – was lower than any time 1998, according to an analysis of Social Security data by journalist David Cay Johnston. From its all-time peak in 2007, the median wage was down $980. At the top, however, wages soared. Income inequality in America, Sanders said, is “one of the great economic and moral issues for our country.” Watch Sanders on MSNBC, Read the article

Serious Evils “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old,” Pope Francis recently declared. “The old need care and companionship. The young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other,” the pontiff added in remarks cited by Sanders in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday. “I couldn't agree more,” the senator said. “We cannot turn our backs on the elderly. We cannot cut Social Security and Medicare. We cannot turn our backs on the young people.” Watch the senator’s speech

Here Comes the Sun Sanders was joined on Monday by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and representatives of IBM, Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Department of Energy to launch the Vermont Photovoltaic Regional Test Center. Located in Williston, Vt., the center will research ways to cut the cost of solar power and integrate solar energy into Vermont’s statewide smart grid. “We have a bold vision here in Vermont and across the country for an energy transformation phasing fossil fuels out as quickly as possible in favor of clean, renewable energy. Solar energy is a central part of that vision,” said Sanders, who serves on the Senate energy and environment committees. The $3 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative aims to reduce the cost of solar energy by 75 percent by 2020 and make solar power account for at least 15 percent of America’s electricity generation by 2030. One of five such facilities in the United States, the center will provide critical performance data on solar photovoltaic systems, including determining the effectiveness of operating in a climate with harsh winters, significant precipitation and dramatic weather changes. Read Sanders’ remarks

Senate Approves Ban on Gay Bias at Work The Senate passed legislation Thursday banning workplace discrimination against gay and transgender workers. The bill’s passage came nearly two decades after a push for such protection began in Congress. It would bar government agencies, labor unions and all but the smallest private employers from making decisions about hiring, firing, promotions or other matters based on a worker's sexual orientation or gender identity. “I am very pleased that the Senate has taken this important step toward making America the democratic and inclusive society it should be,” Sanders said. Read more

Veterans Day With Veterans Day approaching, Sanders on Thursday joined top veterans organizations to discuss priorities for aiding the nation's veterans. “Bottom line here is that we owe a debt of gratitude to the veterans’ community that can never be repaid,” Sanders said. “But we have the moral obligation to do everything that we can to make those lives as good as they possibly can be, and that’s what Veterans Day 2013 means to me.”