WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today outlined a progressive economic agenda to reverse a 40-year decline of the American middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else in the United States.
In a Senate floor speech, Sanders detailed measures to create millions of new jobs, raise wages, protect the environment and provide health care for all. He said the most significant question facing the American people is: “Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy?”
The collapse of the middle class, accelerated by the Wall Street crash of 2008, has left the United States with more wealth and income inequality than any major country and the highest rate of childhood poverty. “Today, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages,” he said. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the median male worker earned $783 less last year than he made 41 years ago. The median female worker made $1,337 less last year than she earned in 2007. Since 1999, household income for the median middle-class family is less than it was a quarter century ago.
“We once led the world in terms of the percentage of our people who graduated college, but we are now in 12th place. Our infrastructure, once the envy of the world, is collapsing. Real unemployment today is not 5.8 percent, it is 11.5 percent if we include those who have given up looking for work or who are working part time when they want to work full time. Youth unemployment is 18.6 percent and African-American youth unemployment is 32.6 percent,” Sanders said.
Sanders detailed a 12-point economic program to:
* Invest in our crumbling infrastructure with a major program to create jobs by rebuilding roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools.
* Transform energy systems away from fossil fuels to create jobs while beginning to reverse global warming and make the planet habitable for future generations.
* Develop new economic models to support workers in the United States instead of giving tax breaks to corporations which ship jobs to low-wage countries overseas.
* Make it easier for workers to join unions and bargain for higher wages and benefits.
* Raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour so no one who works 40 hours a week will live in poverty.
* Provide equal pay for women workers who now make 78 percent of what male counterparts make.
* Reform trade policies that have shuttered more than 60,000 factories and cost more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs.
* Make college affordable and provide affordable child care to restore America’s competitive edge compared to other nations.
* Break up big banks. The six largest banks now have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product, over $9.8 trillion. They underwrite more than half the mortgages in the country and issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards.
* Join the rest of the industrialized world with a Medicare-for-all health care system that provides better care at less cost.
* Expand Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs.
* Reform the tax code based on wage earners’ ability to pay and eliminate loopholes that let profitable corporations stash profits overseas and pay no U.S. federal income taxes.