The Senate, working through the weekend, voted Saturday to end a ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. Sanders voted to rescind the law that came to be known as "don't ask, don't tell." He was an opponent of the policy when it was adopted in 1993. President Obama on Friday signed an $858 billion, two-year package extending tax cuts first enacted under President George W. Bush. Sanders was a leading congressional critic of the deal negotiated by the White House with congressional Republicans. "At a time when we have a record-breaking $13.8 trillion national debt and a growing gap between the wealthiest people in this country and everyone else, it is unconscionable to drive up that debt by giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don't need it and force our kids and grandchildren to pay it off," Sanders said.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Sanders voted Saturday for legislation that will end a ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. "I find it irresponsible that we deny thousands of honorable Americans the opportunity to serve our country, especially at a time when our military is stretched so thin. Discrimination of any kind is not what America is supposed to be about. As a nation, we owe those who desire to dedicate their lives to service an equal chance to do so." The House passed the repeal earlier in the week by a 250-to-174 vote.
Sanders Amendment The Senate on Wednesday considered an amendment by Sanders that would have let tax cuts expire for couples earning more than $250,000. The proposal also would have set a higher estate tax on heirs of the super-wealthy, and provide Social Security recipients with a $250 payment going into the second straight year without a cost-of-living adjustment. The amendment received 43 votes. Although it lost, the impressive showing signaled substantial discontent with the take-it-or-leave-it deal that the White House negotiated with congressional Republicans. To read more, click here.
Social Security "One of the more onerous provisions in this agreement was the so-called one-year payroll holiday, which will divert $112 billion from the Social Security trust fund," Sanders said on NPR's Talk of the Nation on Thursday. "In my view - I hope I'm wrong on this - next year it will be extended again and then again and then again, and then what you're talking about ... is really the beginning of the end for Social Security,"
More Tax Breaks for the Rich "Extending income tax breaks to the top 2 percent is not the only unfair tax proposal in this agreement. It continues the Bush-era 15 percent tax rate on capital gains and dividends, so people who make their living off of their investments will continue to pay a substantially lower tax rate than firefighters, teachers, nurses and most American workers," Sen. Sanders wrote in a column published by the Burlington Free Press and others. To read the column, click here.
Even More Tax Breaks for the Rich The agreement contains a horrendous proposal regarding the estate tax - a Teddy Roosevelt initiative enacted in 1916. Under the agreement between the president and the Republicans the estate tax rate, which was 55 percent under President Clinton, will decline to 35 percent with an exemption on the first $5 million for individuals. The tax applies only to the top 0.3 percent of families in this country, with 99.7 percent of families not gaining one nickel in benefits. In other words, we're not just providing here another $68 billion in tax breaks for the rich. This provision is for the very, very rich - the people who need it least.
Berniebuster That's what Keith Olbermann called the speech one week ago Friday in which Sanders detailed, for eight hours and 35 minutes, his objections to the president's proposal. "Bernie Sanders is on his way to folk hero status around the nation because of his ardent opposition to tax breaks for the wealthy," the Rutland Herald said in an editorial on Friday. On Vermont Public Radio, UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson looked at the attention Sanders attracted in the past week. To listen to VPR, click here. To watch coverage on Countdown on MSNBC, click here.
Bernie's Book Club A book publishing blog called GalleyCat reviewed all 124 pages of Sanders' speech to find references to books. The four he cited are "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas Stanley and William Danko ; "Third World America" by Arianna Huffington; "Rebooting the American Dream" by Tom Hartman, and "Richistan" by Robert Frank.
Media Monopoly Sanders called on the Justice Department to block the takeover of NBC by Comcast. He warned that the proposed media behemoth would drive up cable television prices and stifle the free flow of information. In a letter to Christine Varney, the assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division, Sanders said that "in an age of entrenched corporate power, it is easier to stop monopolistic forces before they start." To read more, click here.