WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 - Is the recession over? Not according to hundreds of Vermonters who wrote to Sen. Bernie Sanders about struggling for three long years through the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Sanders (I-Vt.) published a collection of the letters on the same day President Barack Obama unveiled a budget that gives tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans while taking help away from middle class and working families.
The poignant stories were assembled in a booklet called "Struggling Through the Recession." A mother, who is working two jobs and raising two children outside Burlington, Vt., wrote: "I cringe when my son's friends invite them to birthday parties, which means I have to come up with money for a gift." A woman from Windsor, Vt., whose business went bankrupt wrote, "We do not seem to be ‘recovering' at all. We just exist on the fringes of life."
Others told about how they can't find jobs or have been forced to work for lower wages. Seniors spoke of depleting their life savings. Students lucky enough to go to college worried about being buried under student loans. People wrote about their homes falling into foreclosure, about crushing credit card debt, about postponing marriage plans, and about tapping out savings accounts to keep businesses afloat or simply to keep gas in their car.
"Sharing difficult personal circumstances is not an easy thing to do, so I am very grateful to those who told us about their experiences," Sanders said. "The simple truth is that if we do not know the reality of what is going on in our country today, in terms of the struggles that people are facing, it will be impossible for us to develop - and generate public support for - policies which can enable us to go forward and address these horrific problems.
Sanders plans to read some of the letters to other senators and enter them in the Congressional Record.
"We must get our priorities right," Sanders wrote in the booklet. "At a time when the top 1 percent now earns more income than the bottom 50 percent, it is absurd that we continue to provide huge tax breaks for the very rich, while cutting back on programs desperately needed by working families.
"We must make certain," he added, "that Americans are not hungry, cold, homeless or without health care. We must vigorously protect those social programs which protect the lives and wellbeing of tens of millions of Americans - including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans programs."
Sanders outlined ways to create millions of decent-paying jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, transforming our nation's energy system, revamping our trade policies and supporting small businesses.
To read the booklet online, click here.