In a week with more political rhetoric than usual, Sen. Bernie Sanders offered facts to counter the fiction in Republican assaults on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. At the Republican National Convention, wealthy donors hobnobbed Wednesday on a yacht flying a flag of the Cayman Islands, the tax haven where Mitt Romney and other wealthy individuals shelter their fortunes to avoid paying U.S. taxes. President Obama weighed in on Wednesday for a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United. In the Senate, Sanders is the sponsor of an amendment to reverse the Supreme Court decision that let business and billionaires bankroll (mostly Republican) campaigns. Meanwhile, several states (with Republican governors) have put new laws on the books to discourage voting by young and old and poor people. A federal court on Thursday struck down one such an anti-democratic law in Texas. A Government Accountability Office investigation, which was requested by Sanders, is looking at similar laws in other states.
An alley dedicated Wednesday along Burlington's Church Street marketplace features an outdoor mural by artist Pierre Hardy depicting Sen. Bernie Sanders and other figures in Vermont history.
Social Security If you do not believe that the federal budget should be balanced on the backs of working families, then you should be forewarned about something called the "Comeback America Initiative" scheduled to begin Sept. 7 in Manchester, N.H. Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson is bankrolling the bus tour as part of his $1 billion campaign to cut Social Security and other vitally important programs while slashing tax rates for the wealthy and large corporations. "We do have a serious deficit," Sanders said, "but it is not because $1,200 a month Social Security checks earned by senior citizens are too generous. The problem is that we gave $1 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and profitable corporations who don't need them while ‘forgetting' to pay for more than $3.4 trillion on two wars and an overly expensive prescription drug program written by the pharmaceutical and insurance companies," Sanders wrote in USA Today on Wednesday.
Medicare and Medicaid Medicare is a highly successful program that provides health care for millions of seniors. The Republican presidential ticket and Republicans in Congress want to privatize Medicare. They want to give seniors a check for about $8,000 and then tell those seniors to go shopping for private insurance. "If a senior is dealing with cancer or heart disease or any other major health problem, you tell me how far an $8,000 policy will go," Sanders said on Monday. "What kind of policy do you think that insurance company is going to offer that senior? They are going to say, ‘"Hey, thank you, have a nice day, try some other place.' So I think what we have got to do is get the word out not only on the devastating transformation of Medicare that Republicans have in mind but also what they're going to do on Medicaid, what they're going to do on Social Security. The American people have to know that they are working with their billionaire friends and waging the most vicious attack against working families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor that we have seen in our lifetimes." Listen to the Ed Schultz interview.
Citizens United President Obama on Wednesday said a constitutional amendment should be considered to undo the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United that paved the way for a flood of campaign cash from corporations and wealthy special interests. Obama made the comment Wednesday in an online chat with the website Reddit. "I applaud President Obama for expressing support for a serious effort to restore the democratic foundations of our country that are under severe attack as a result of the disastrous Supreme Court ruling," Sanders said on Thursday. Sanders is the chief sponsor of the Saving American Democracy Amendment.
Voter ID A federal court on Thursday struck down a Texas voter identification law. It would have required tens of thousands of Texans who are registered voters but do not have drivers' licenses to travel up to 250 miles away to a state motor vehicle office to obtain a photo ID if they wanted to vote ever again. Since one-third of Texas counties do not have a Department of Public Safety office, "a 200- to 250-mile round trip - especially for would-be voters having no driver's license - constitutes a substantial burden on the right to vote," Judge David Tatel said in unanimous opinion for the federal court in Washington, D.C. At Sanders' request, the Governmental Accountability Office is conducting a review what Sanders called an "alarming number" of new state laws that will make it "significantly harder" for millions of eligible voters to cast ballots this November. New state identification laws, by one estimate, will have a direct impact on 21 million American citizens who do not have a government-issued photo ID. The majority of those people are young would-be voters, the elderly, African Americans, Hispanics, and those earning $35,000 per year or less. Read more.
Fuel Efficiency The Obama administration on Wednesday finalized stronger fuel economy rules for new cars and trucks to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce fuel consumption. The average fuel economy must reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That's almost double today's requirement for automakers' fleet-wide averages. The standard that Obama put in place by executive order is virtually identical to what Sanders proposed in a bill that he introduced in 2010. At the time, Sanders' measure attracted no cosponsors.